Rochester Public Schools continues to see transportation issues amid bus driver shortage

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 4:17 PM CDT
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Rochester Public Schools continues to feel the effects of a bus driver shortage and it’s affecting the way it transports students to and from school.

In an email recently sent to parents, RPS acknowledged the frustration of the situation and assured families its working to address the problem.

Dear RPS Transportation families,

We know there has been frustration over the last few days about delays with student transportation. We thank you for the respectful ways you have been conveying your message and want to let you know that we share your frustration.

The school bus industry is still experiencing a driver shortage across the nation, and unfortunately, Rochester is no exception. The start of the 2023-24 school year has seen several drivers not return from last year, and applicants are few in number. This shortage has a great impact on our daily routes. We are piecing together routes and often calling on drivers from other Minnesota locations to help cover routes. Please know that we are working with our partners at First Student to address these problems, and thank you for your continued patience.

First Student is hiring bus drivers and is offering great sign-on incentives and bonuses. If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more and applying, visit or text “bus” to 52345.

Thank you,

Rochester Public Schools Transportation

Rochester Public Schools

First Student Manager Mike Pierce said the shortage is worse than last year. According to Pierce, its looking to hire nearly 20 drivers. Currently, First Student has between 140-150 drivers, and there 136 daily routes.

“The shortage is substantial,” he said. “It’s one of the most we’ve seen. And, but it’s challenging employment market here in Rochester. Unemployment is very low, and it always affects our competition when it comes to hiring drivers.”

Pierce said the driver shortage has caused them to either bring students to school earlier or end school day earlier in order to accommodate all the routes. He said First Student is in constant, daily contact with RPS.

“I try to minimize the lateness, probably once a week, we may pull a couple middle schools 20 minutes early. I don’t rely on that. I don’t want elementary schools getting out an hour late either. It’s a juggling act every day,” he said.

Pierce said despite the current struggle, they have hired some new drivers.

“We have numerous people in training. We licensed a driver last week, we’re have two more hopefully licensing next week, and hopefully there’s about 5 or 6 more in the pipeline,” Pierce said.

First Student recently increased its starting wage from $22/hour to $24 an hour. It’s also offering a $3,000 sign-on bonus with training onsite.

According to Pierce, anyone can learn how to drive a bus.

“It seems intimidating, the size of the vehicle, but once you get in there, we have a lot of good trainers on staff,” he said. “We’ll get you calmed down.”

To apply, click here.