My view ...

The private blog of Andy Prevost. My experiences, my words. On any topic ...

Here's one job to pass on

I hold a commercial driver's license. I also hold a motorcycle driver license. Combined that works out to a designation of BM, and quite frankly fitting for the school bus industry.

Being semi-retired, I wanted something to do with my time. Give back to the world, I figured. Where best but to devote your time towards children and helping ensure their safety going between home and school.

I had to overcome some health obstacles. It took four medical reports. One from my GP, and three from specialists. That alone took over three months to coordinate between the Ministry of Transportation (MOT) requests for additional forms, the forms MOT sent, and getting the doctors to fill in and comply with the time lines required by the MOT. For most drivers, this is a mere formality that requires only one single medical form from their GP. 

Like other "new" school bus drivers, I also had to get a Vulnerable Sector Screening report from the Regional Police. Mine had a twist, though – and so do many others. If you are fortunate enough to have the same birthday as someone who committed a major crime, you require an additional step: fingerprinting. And, an extra one week turnaround for the report to clear you of not being the individual that commiitted the major crime.

The process took over four frustrating months. Waiting, standing in line at the MOT, waiting, standing in line at the MOT, and more waiting. Calling the special 800 number to try to speed up the process ...

Then you get your driver's license that qualifies you to drive 70+ kids back and forth between home and school. All for near-minimum wage. What a treasure. The benefits are endless: you get to bring your pre-school toddlers with you on the drive. You get to sweep out your bus daily for free – and clean it regularly also for free. If you do the full pre-trip requirements in checking your bus the way documented, you are doing a fair chunk of it for free.

The school bus companies and their senior managers can't seem to get the formula right. They only know deep discounting to get more routes. The middle managers and support staff are poor trained, overworked, and under qualified to handle their tasks. The drivers are pushed through a training system that rewards volume over quality.

Bus parking in the bus yard works fine during ideal weather. Throw in a bit of rain, sleet and snow and you have a mud bog greeting you each time you park your bus or get it ready to pick up students. Repairs are minimal and trivial. Safety related items are done, extras that any other industry would consider a necessity are often overlooked.

Yard middle management are the bottom of the barrel. The last yard where I was assigned a bus is a clique-fest where currying favour gets rewards. New drivers are not part of the clique. Unless you ask, no one tells. There's a hose sticking out the wall of the building that I suspect dispenses windshield washer – but I don't know because no one every took me around to introduce me to any aspect of the yard, the building, or its service department and staff. The gas tanks are for drivers to fill their own buses, but no instructions. We're not talking about gas station type tanks, these are industrial truck yard type tanks that should take a bit of an introduction to work properly. 

I made the mistake of parking in the "service" area. My bad, I didn't know it was a service area. Next time I came in to get my bus, it had been moved to the mud-bog. My shoes sunk two inches into the mud while getting into the bus. You just know you are getting the penalty. Get it wrong, there's a penalty – but no one to explain what is right, what is wrong, what is expected. 

The senior management of this company don't seem to get it. They keep increasing the sign up bonuses to attract new drivers. But as they attract new drivers, they can't keep them. Down their line of senior management, the mice are gnawing away at them. The drivers that keep on driving have my respect and my empathy. Most have little choice other than driving school bus. Many are moms that save a ton of money on day care costs by bringing their kids with them on the bus. That's a big benefit. But I also hear these drivers call their yard a "toxic" environment. They look at the clique, the assignment of buses and perks like paid extras (picking up other drivers, an extra route "leg", etc.) and get looked over for not currying to favour or being part of the clique. 

My message: save some of that bonus money. Cut it in half (actually, I would be more than pleased with a quarter of what I was promised) and spend the rest on upgrading down line support staff. Drain the swamp.

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