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Driver shortage cancelled bus rides for students at two Thunder Bay schools

There weren't enough trained backup drivers to fill in Monday morning.
School bus

THUNDER BAY — When three school bus drivers all called in sick Monday morning, it left the families of some students attending two city schools scrambling to find another way to get them to class.

"Today was not anticipated. Everything (Monday's routes) was covered going into the weekend. There were no red flags" said Craig Murphy, manager of Student Transportation Services of Thunder Bay.

Murphy explained that several drivers for one of the bus companies had booked Monday off in advance, and arrangements were made to replace them with trained backup drivers.

But when a trio of drivers fell ill at the same time, it created a shortage in the pool.

Consequently, a bus for students attending Ecole Gron Morgan and Algonquin elementary schools was not available for the morning run.

It's the first time this year a route has been cancelled outright for the lack of a driver.

There have been two instances this fall in which students have had to be placed on other buses serving their school, resulting in minor delays.

Murphy said the two bus companies contracted by the consortium are working aggressively to recruit more drivers.

"They both have several candidates that they're putting through to get their paperwork done. They also have several candidates they are actually training. Within the next one or two weeks they will be fully licensed," he said.

According to Murphy, bus operators across Canada and the U.S. have struggled to find enough drivers in recent years.

He wouldn't rule out a driver shortage impacting local bus routes again.

"It's just a matter of trying to stay on top of the situation.  We do closely monitor them. We get regular reports from our operators as far as the number of drivers."