Ottawa Student Transportation Authority facing 'severe' school bus driver shortage
OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority is looking to hire 60 new school bus drivers, as it faces a "severe" driver shortage less than three weeks before the start of the school year.
The consortium that delivers student transportation to more than 60,000 students in Ottawa is looking at shifting some students to OC Transpo buses and merging low ridership routes to make sure kids can get to school starting September 7.
"There has been a school bus shortage for a long time, but, of course, it's been exacerbated now by the pandemic," said Vicky Kyriaco with the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority.
"So we did have a significant driver shortage last year, we were missing almost 100 drivers. This year we're at about 60 drivers short and still looking for ways to change the way that we've organized our routes so that we can take advantage of other types of modes of transportation and see how we can get kids to schools in other ways."
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority says local operators are searching for new drivers who are looking for part-time work, that includes morning and afternoon routes. Bus drivers earn $15 to 20 an hour, training is free and the ministry is offering bonuses.
Kyriaco says there is no mandatory COVID-19 vaccine policy for drivers.
"There's no mandatory vaccination for bus drivers right now. Although there is a policy in play that's going to be assisting us to collect information about who is actually vaccinated and who is going to require the rapid testing on a regular basis if they haven't been vaccinated yet," said Kyriaco.
SCHOOL BUS ROUTE CHANGES
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority says due to the driver shortage, additional planning is needed to adjust routes while ensuring all safety measures meet and/or exceed ministry guidelines.
Kyriaco says the authority is working with operators and OC Transpo on "creative solutions" to get as many students to school as possible.
"The first thing that we really looked at was which kids from Grades 7 to 12 could be switched over to public transit. So we did speak to OC Transpo just to see where they might have some capacity issues if we do transfer about 4,000 kids and that work is happening right now," said Kyriaco.
"We are adding some coaches and congregated stops for some high school students out in the rural areas. We're moving some low ridership buses together to create one long run."
The parent portal will open on Aug. 27 at 4 p.m.