Turning Deficit into Surplus: Zum Fixes Howard County Driver Shortage
HOWARD COUNTY, Md., Oct. 17, 2023 – Zūm today announced significant progress toward ending Howard County Public School System’s (HCPSS) longstanding bus driver shortage, hiring 251 school bus drivers in just 5 months. Zum quickly transformed a persistent local driver deficit of over 100 drivers into a surplus across all its routes, outperforming previous HCPSS transportation providers that struggled for years with staffing and recruitment.
“Zum has transformed Howard County’s chronic bus driver shortage into a surplus, which will bring future peace of mind to families and schools,” said Ritu Narayan, Founder and CEO of Zum. “Both our new hires and our incredible existing team of dedicated drivers have been pivotal in ensuring the safe and reliable transportation of students.”
Zum Inherited Howard County’s Longstanding Driver Shortage
Long before Zum entered the market, Howard County grappled with a multi-year bus driver shortage across all bus routes, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This systemic issue represented a localized version of a nationwide crisis in school bus staffing, and other local transportation vendors were not able to close this gap. When HCPSS awarded Zum 1,250 routes in early 2023, the company immediately inherited a significant 100 driver deficit.
Zum was tasked with providing 230 qualified bus drivers to adequately serve Howard County within just 5 months. While Zum did not completely eliminate the pre-existing driver deficit by the start of the school year, the company has rapidly accelerated hiring, now boasting 251 drivers, well above the initially required 230. This emerging driver surplus serves as an essential contingency to accommodate inevitable staffing changes, illnesses, and other fluctuations.
Zum’s ability to close this gap so quickly illustrates its robust strategy and unwavering commitment to resolving enduring local school transportation challenges in Howard County.
Industry-Leading Driver Recruitment and Retention
Immediately after being awarded the contract by HCPSS in early 2023, Zum unleashed its industry-leading digital and in-person bus driver recruiting initiative. Zum offers competitive pay, better benefits (full medical benefits, 401(k) plans, PTO), and reliable morning and afternoon schedules. Zum pays for drivers’ certification and training and provides new buses as well as a modern bus yard.
In addition, Zum built a team of over 20 local trainers and set up an extensive multilingual digital and off-line marketing campaign to educate and recruit candidates. This included social media and grassroots recruiting efforts at community centers, places of worship, malls, and community events. Zum continues to hire in Howard County; those interested can apply here.
Zum’s Nationwide Driver Network Provided Essential Relief
To tackle HCPSS’s immediate driver shortfall at the start of the school year, Zum temporarily deployed more than 70 trained drivers from other markets across its national network to Howard County. Every driver obtained the necessary certifications and training for the State of Maryland and Howard County, ensuring seamless service on crucial routes.
This innovative approach offered a temporary fix to Howard County’s longstanding driver shortage and also demonstrated the unique advantages of Zum’s national model, which promises to be a valuable asset for districts across the country in the future.
Nearing 100% On Time Pickup Performance In Howard County Maryland
In addition to closing Howard County’s historic driver gap, Zum recently announced a return to nearly 100% on-time local pickup performance. Several transportation vendors faced challenges from HCPSS’s new bell schedule at the start of the school year, which required completing 50% more routes in 33% less time. However, after HCPSS made modifications to the bell schedule on September 22, Zum has achieved nearly 100% on-time pickups on its 1,250 routes, serving around 20,000 students daily.
“Our launch in Howard County was a uniquely complex endeavor, and I know the start of the school year caused difficulties and stress for the community. We’re grateful for the patience and partnership of everyone involved, especially students, families, HCPSS and our drivers. I’m proud that we’re working together to transform and improve the local school transportation system and serve all elementary, middle school, and high school students,” continued Ritu Narayan, Founder and CEO of Zum.
Zum has reimagined student transportation, the nation’s largest mass transit system. Our robust operations and integrated end-to-end cloud-based platform provide a modern student transportation service for school districts purpose-built around the needs of kids and the expectations of their families.