Ottawa school bus authority ‘cautiously optimistic’ all routes will be covered this fall

There is cautious optimism within the student transportation industry about starting the new school year with a full slate of bus routes, after last school year brought numerous cancellations because of driver shortages.

With just over a month until the start of the new school year, however, some parents and drivers aren’t as confident about a smooth start.

“I definitely think that there will be shortages again this year,” said Shanice Leonard, a parent and school bus driver.

Leonard is worried the job just doesn’t have enough appeal.

“Having a job with low benefits and low wages definitely isn’t ideal. It’s been an ongoing problem and it’s just continuing to get worse.”

But it comes amid a push to hire more drivers.

“That’s the prudent thing to be doing. It’s the best time to be recruiting new drivers,” said Nancy Daigneault, Executive Director of School Bus Ontario.

The RoxBorough bus group, which serves the region, put out a public call last week to hire drivers saying they are “…searching for school bus and school van drivers who are willing to undertake part-time work,” and that “no previous experience is required.”

“The local consortium, the transportation planner in Ottawa did start a new program, they’re helping to try and recruit new drivers as well, and that could make a significant difference,” Daigneault said.

In a statement to CTV News, the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) said, “We are cautiously optimistic that all routes will be covered for the September start-up.”

And while the industry is optimistic about a smooth rollout this September…

“I definitely think there will be issues this year, and continue to be issues if they don’t change anything,” said Leonard.

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