I'm a school-bus driver. I love my job, but nationwide driver shortages mean I've never been more exhausted.

I'm a school-bus driver. I love my job, but nationwide driver shortages mean I've never been more exhausted.
Ms. Andie, a California bus driver. Courtesy of Ms. Andie (front), Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images (back)
  • The US has a shortage of school-bus drivers, putting even more pressure on the ones already working.
  • One driver, who goes by Ms. Andie, described how expectations have gone up and driver numbers down.
  • But Ms. Andie still loves the job. This is their story, as told to freelance writer Lu Gonzalez.

Ms. Andie is a California school-bus driver who has worked through the COVID-19 pandemic and the United States' bus-driver shortage. This is their story, as told to freelance writer Lu Gonzalez.

My students call me Ms. Andie. I am a special-needs bus driver.

My dad was a school bus driver in California for about 15 years. He kept begging me to come drive and I kept telling him, "No, I cannot drive and park that big thing. I just can't do it." Finally, I gave in and came to train, and now I'm kicking myself that I didn't do it sooner.

I really love my job. I put my heart and soul into these kids. We have them for just a few minutes every day, but sometimes we're the first or last smile they get. Sometimes, some of these kids have it a little rough. We get to help them start their day right.

My runs are almost entirely Pre-K this year. I know each one of their caregivers. I greet them by name and build a relationship with them so they know that their babies are my babies when they're on the bus.


I build relationships with the teachers as well, because it's a team. If Johnny or Susie's caregivers say they didn't sleep well that night, I make sure their teacher knows when I drop them off. Or if the teachers tell me something that needs to be relayed to the caregivers, I make sure they get that message.

Nationwide, there's always been a bus driver shortage. We've always had a sign out in front of our bus yard looking for drivers. I think people just pass by it and don't even notice that it's there. Then, the COVID-19 pandemic happened.

On a normal basis, the buses are kind of a petri dish. You've got small children, and they bring all their little sniffles and whatnots. We're always one of the first to get it.

With COVID-19, you've got to be so much more careful. A lot of drivers are retired older folks, and they're in the top category of getting ill, so many of them didn't come back to work.

Plus, the pandemic introduced a lot more challenges to our job: A lot of our normal restroom spots were closed, and there are only so many places that can fit a bus. Truckers had a similar problem.


We've had to social-distance the kids, take their temperatures, enforce mask rules, and clean and disinfect buses after every run. It's a lot of extra work, but our job is to protect those babies no matter what, so we do it.

Bus drivers also go out into traffic to make sure that the kids are safe, hoping people will stop. Some people don't. We're literally putting our life on the line to make sure kids can get across the street.

When we started out this year, we were in a big deficit. We usually had about nine routes that still needed to be covered. This year, we were down another 25 drivers due to early retirement or just regular retirement and people moving out of state.

We're so overloaded in our workday. The radio is going all day with kids that need to be picked up, and we're trying to get there as quickly as possible.

I clock in at 6:15 a.m. and clock out a little bit after 4 p.m. each day. I don't think I've ever felt this exhausted at the end of the day, every day. And I'm one of the ones who is always up and cheering everybody else on. I'm tired. It's a lot.


Some students are getting to school up to an hour late because there's just not enough drivers to get them at their regular time. As far as I know, right now, there's a waitlist to get on the bus.

Part of the problem is pay. We're getting up at oh-dark-30, trying to make sure all the brakes work, all the lug nuts are on, and everything's in its place on the bus. We have to go through licensing and training processes. We deal with parents who will get up in our faces and call us things.

There are so many things and yet, in some states, the drivers are getting paid $14 or $15 an hour. Some of that has to change.

Then everybody's nerves are raw. They're short with each other. You're trying to be happy and bring these kids to school and give them to their teachers, and you see the teachers are stressed and they're trying to hurry up and get them in.

Tensions are high all over, and it wasn't like that before.


At my bus yard in California, we've always been like a family. We have potlucks and we sit in the ready room and talk about our children and our spouses. We got together all the time.

Then the pandemic happened, and everything shut down. No longer could we be in the ready room. Everyone's masked, looking down, and people are missing.

We're missing that camaraderie that we used to have. People are afraid. Some want to get the shot, some don't want to get the shot, and many of the kids can't get the shot because they're under 12. So you've got that in the mix, where people are kind of at odds with each other. We see that nationwide.

People are angry because you're not getting the shot or angry because you are getting the shot. It's an extra added burden, and we do it because we love those kids. But it is hard around the job site.

All the negativity was getting to me, so I took it upon myself to do something positive. I've started making Merry Monday videos, so every Monday, you have something to look forward to get you through the week.


It's helped people come together again.

I put my videos out there so that the general public will know more about what bus drivers do, how dedicated we are, and how they can help out. I try to make it fun and light, but I try to get a message across as well. Sometimes it's about how bus drivers and teachers work together for the benefit of the children, and other times it's about stopping when our red lights are on..

There are so many people who think, "Oh, they just drive a bus." No, no, no. We sacrifice a lot to drive a school bus, and we do it because we care about these kids.

As one of my videos shows: We're not just bus drivers, we're superheroes.