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Despite short reserve of backup drivers, school buses roll on

Some routes may see delays, but ‘delays are preferable to cancellations’
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Although backup drivers are in short supply this term, school bus drivers are doing their best to get kids to school on time / File photo

School buses returned to duty this past Monday and some route cancellations have occurred, and some routes may continue to experience delays.

Spare drivers are at a low, but the fleets are doing their best to get students to and from school.

See: Spare school bus driver levels are at their lowest levels in years due to the pandemic says bus consortium

Chuck Seguin is the executive director of the Nipissing Parry Sound Student Transportation Service (NPSSTS). He noted that the driver list is shorter this year as “a lot of drivers didn’t return” this fall.

Drivers are often older, many are seniors, and the pandemic has made some wary about returning to the job due to health concerns.

Covid-19 has also posed other challenges. To become a bus driver, you must have a criminal record check, visit a doctor for a physical, and attain a Class B licence to handle the bus—and all of these processes were slowed down due to Covid.

Also, a working driver may have symptoms of an illness, take a rapid test, prove negative, but still be out of the game for 24 to 48 hours depending on the symptoms before a second test can be administered.

Seguin and the NPSSTS work with 12 fleet operators who “assess daily” the drivers’ situation, and if a person is sick, another driver will have to double up on routes.

It creates delays, “but we much prefer to see the students get to school a little bit late than not get to school at all.”

“Delays are preferable to cancellations,” Seguin said.

He also mentioned the operators have been invaluable in keeping everyone up to date on any delays.

Drivers upload information through a program called Bus Planner Web, which then shares that information via the NPSSTS website.

Seguin begins monitoring the route site before six every morning, and notes that drivers are already posting updates around that time.

“The parents are very understanding, and we’re grateful for that.”

Parents and students can keep an eye on any delays or cancellations by visiting the NPSSTS website.

David Briggs is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of BayToday, a publication of Village Media. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

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