Despite the availability of millions of jobs across the U.S., there remains a massive labor shortage as otherwise able-bodied adults stay home amid concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and associated mandates.
One sector particularly hard hit by this trend involves school bus drivers — and Republican Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker implemented a temporary solution by activating the state’s National Guard troops to fill in.
“It wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue”
According to Axios, the decision was announced on Monday as reports nationwide show roughly 80% of school districts are shorthanded when it comes to bus drivers.
At least 250 National Guard members were made available by the governor’s order to serve as interim bus drivers in communities statewide.
At least 90 troops were immediately dispatched to four different Boston-area suburbs.
“Once it became pretty clear that there were going to be some communities shorthanded — it wasn’t going to be a vehicle issue, it was going to be people with CDLs — we started talking to the Guard,” Baker said of his order.
Many members of the Guard already had the requisite commercial driver’s license necessary to provide transportation for school children.
“Well-suited for a variety of missions”
“There are a bunch of communities who have said they’re interested in this and we’re glad to be able to help because it’s important,” the governor added.
Of course, they will not be driving the big, yellow buses commonly seen dropping kids off and picking them up. Instead, troops will be operating smaller transport vans after receiving additional training to ensure their capabilities.
It is unclear how long National Guard members will be performing substitute driving duties or how many districts will require such assistance.
“The Guard has a proven track record of success supporting civilian authorities,” the governor said. “Their frequent side-by-side training with state and local first responders makes them well-suited for a variety of missions.”
This is a novel approach to an emergency caused by a severe shortage of school bus drivers. Given that the same problem is impacting states across America, it will be interesting to see whether other leaders in either party will follow suit.