February 18, 2021
Today, our delayed and cancelled bus status on our website indicated 17 buses cancelled and I would like to explain clearly what that means.
STSTB currently contracts for 179 school buses to service our bus routes. Each school bus services multiple bus routes each day. Most buses will service a route for one or two early start schools, followed by one or possibly two more routes for late start schools. This is repeated in the afternoon to take students home and, with morning in-classroom only for most of the high school students, there are also additional midday/noon routes this year. We list each of these bus routes separately in our Bus Status delay reporting software and mobile app for a total of 587 routes being serviced by 179 buses each day.
When there is no bus driver available, it will affect multiple bus routes for multiple schools over multiple times a day. Thus the ‘17 buses cancelled’ today on our website is a result of 5 school buses not having drivers available to drive 17 bus routes (multiple schools totaling 9 AM and 8 PM).
Listing all bus routes separately rather than by the bus that services them allows users of our app to subscribe to receive notifications and updates for only the bus routes that affect them.
The number of cancellations we’ve had this year is unprecedented in the history of Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay. While the North American school bus transportation industry has been experiencing a driver shortage situation for number of years, the global pandemic has exasperated the situation causing frequent cancellations of school buses to critical levels in other areas. Our bus operators do have a pool of spare drivers for covering routes when drivers require time off, however, the severe shortage results in them often trying to cover more routes than they have drivers available to cover them. As it is cold and flu season and school bus drivers cannot work from home, we are currently witnessing more frequent cancelations then we saw prior to winter break, but still far better than what we saw at the beginning of the school year.
We are grateful for the exhaustive efforts put forward by our local school bus operators, Iron Range Bus Lines and First Student Canada, in recruiting, training and licensing new school bus drivers this year and encourage anyone interested in joining this profession to reach out to them.
We especially thank all the school bus drivers who continue to drive children to and from school safely every day during this pandemic. It takes a special kind of person to drive a school bus, and this year you have demonstrated that more so than ever.
Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay