Edmonton and surrounding areas are experiencing a shortage of school bus drivers, and the Edmonton Public (EPSB) and Edmonton Catholic (ECSD) school divisions see buses being delayed up to two hours.
“We continue to experience significant transportation delays as our contract carriers face a shortage of school bus drivers,” an ECSD spokesperson told Global News in a statement.
“We have not had to cancel a route to date, but we understand that the delays are extremely frustrating for our families.”
EPSB voiced the same issues, adding that “the division’s student transportation team is working closely with carriers to minimize disruptions as much as possible, report delays when they occur, and provide updated information to schools on affected routes. “.
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The Golden Arrow bus company said as of Friday that about 20 of its routes are driverless, but it is actively recruiting.
“We understand the pain people feel,” said Vice President Tom McGratton.
“There are a lot of people who work hard to try to find the people, but it’s just for the people who walk in the door to apply for the jobs.”
COVID-19 is part of the problem, but McGratton said the bus driver shortage is not new.
“It’s been the last few years, but I think it seems to be getting worse,” he said.
Companies like Cunningham Transport said the industry-wide driver shortage is affecting up to 25 percent of their trips and there are several reasons why.
“It’s difficult to attract people to come and drive,” general manager Laura Doroshenko said in an email to Global News.
“Training to drive a school bus involves 53.5 hours of a MELT 2S training course recently ordered by Alberta Transportation. Not many people are interested in doing this part-time three-week bus driving course. “
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Doroshenko said that wages should also be increased to “support a better workforce.”
“That means more money given to boards of directors to give to contractors who hire drivers.”
In an email, Southland Transportation said it is also not immune from the shortage.
“Multiple factors are affecting the driver shortage, including the availability and extent of CERB benefits, drivers moving to a full-time job, continued concern about rising COVID-19 numbers and related anxieties. with the health risks associated with exposures to COVID-19 variants, “said Edmonton General Manager Cory Sandstra.
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“We have implemented various measures to cover routes and we are grateful to have a dedicated team of drivers who help fill the gaps to the best of our ability. Every day, we are successfully recruiting and training qualified drivers, however the time to complete this valuable training for a new candidate limits the time in which recovery will occur. “
The delays are expected to continue for the next several weeks, so school divisions and carriers are asking for patience.
“Everybody is trying,” McGratton said.
“Whether it’s us or other carriers, everyone is working hard trying to do it.”
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