Task force rolls out recruitment campaign to curb Peterborough area school bus driver shortages

·3 min read

Student Transportation Services of Central Ontario is partnering with the three local school boards and local school bus operators on a recruitment campaign aimed at getting new drivers on the road to curb the ongoing issue of school bus driver shortages across the Peterborough area.

Dubbed Drive Yellow STSCO, the campaign kicked off on Monday and is the product of a driver recruitment task Force formed earlier this spring by STSCO and operators First Student, Century Transportation, Student Transportation of Canada, Hamilton Bus Lines, Freeman Bus Lines, Ames Coach Lines, Martin’s Bus Service and Rutherflo Transportation.

STSCO co-ordinates school buses for the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, the Peterborough Victoria Northumberland and Clarington Catholic District School Board and Mont Avenir Conseil Scolaire Catholique.

“This task force demonstrates how consortia and operators can work together to reach a common goal, while reflecting the unique market conditions within a jurisdiction,” said Matt MacMaster, eastern division branch manager at First Student.

By launching the program, STSCO and the school boards are looking to find short-and long-term solutions to address driver recruiting shortages impacting the area by hiring 60 to 70 drivers to cover all school and charter routes, while ensuring there are enough drivers to cover spares throughout the system. The ultimate aim is to eliminate the risk of any bus cancellations due to driver shortages.

The Drive Yellow STSCO campaign will include the launch of a “microsite” web page geared towards attracting new drivers who want to contribute to their community in a meaningful way and getting people interested in the school bus industry in rural areas of Peterborough, Northumberland and Clarington.

Outgoing STSCO CAO Joel Sloggett, who led the consortium for 18 years, worked on the initiative as one of his final projects.

Roy Wierenga will take the reins as STSCO’s new CAO.

“The driver shortage across the province has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” Wierenga stated in a press release. “What we’ve all learned during this challenging time is we need to work together and lean on each other to make a change in a positive way. Our students need us.”

The microsite will highlight driver benefits, along with the requirements and steps needed to become a driver. A list of operator jobs will be posted with their service areas and a simple online application process. Testimonials from current drivers will also be featured on the site.

“Along with our partners in this campaign, we look forward to continuing to support bus driver recruitment efforts and seeing the impact of this work in helping address the ongoing shortage,” public school board chair Steve Russell.

“We are all striving for the same outcome — to ensure students are transported to and from school safely every day, and we truly appreciate the important role bus drivers play in supporting student safety and success.”

As Sloggett explained in a recent interview with The Examiner, the Drive Yellow STSCO campaign was modelled in part from the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority’s successful Drive Yellow driver recruitment program in the nation’s capital.

The driver recruitment task force took cues and strategies from Ottawa driver survey research data to create messaging meant to resonate with would-be school bus drivers looking to get on the road.

The campaign promotes positives that come with the job, including a stable work-life balance, time off on weekends and summers, and the satisfaction of working with kids and contributing to their educational experience.

The ultimate goal of the “ambitious” campaign is to raise public awareness about the need to bring new bus and van drivers onboard to safely get students to school as STSCO and the school boards look ahead to the next school year.

The school bus driver recruitment campaign website is at driveyellowstsco.ca

Brendan Burke is a staff reporter at the Examiner, based in Peterborough. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative.

Brendan Burke, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Peterborough Examiner