One continuous problem remains at the forefront for managers of the South East Cornerstone Public School Division’s transportation portfolio.
“The issue, is still, finding substitute (school bus) drivers,” said Andy Dobson, manager of facilities and transportation for the division that deploys approximately 120 of those buses over 155 routes, carrying 4,158 young students to their respective schools each and every school day.
In spite of the ongoing problem of finding and training bus drivers, Dobson noted in his semi-annual report to the Cornerstone board members, only one route, an urban Moosomin route went unfilled for any period of time, due to a temporary medical leave in the area. No substitute driver could be found, he said.
In total, there were 48 instances when a daily route could not be undertaken due to the fact there was no substitute driver available.
Dobson appeared before the board on January15 during their regular monthly business session in the head office conference room to present his semi-annual information on the transportation system and facilities.
A new transportation garage being built adjacent to the board’s head office complex in Weyburn was still on a solid construction schedule he said, although recent extremely cold conditions leading to some equipment failures, had put a temporary halt to the project. “We still expect it to be completed and ready to move in on June 17,” Dobson said. “It’s the same size as the garage in Estevan at 100 x 120 feet.”
The transportation manager went on to say nine new school buses had been ordered according to schedule and budget allocations with the buses being amortized over a 12-year period. He also noted three engines had been installed in replacement buses that are used for some charter/field trips or for regular buses under repair.
On the topic of the spare drivers though, Dobson said the division extensively advertised the position and even offered bonuses, but the issue remains the same.
In response to a question regarding qualifications for drivers, Dobson said as long as the drivers pass certification and medical/physical requirements age is not an issue. He noted they have one 81-year-old driver who has been performing the tasks for about 60 years and has maintained an excellent performance record.
From the beginning of classes this fall to mid-January, Dobson said there had been 17.5 route cancellations due to weather conditions and another 19.5 cancellations for mechanical reasons. The average one-way ride time for students, is 48 minutes.
Split into three sectors, Dobson reported there are 42 regular route buses in the Weyburn fleet along with 20 other vehicles in the fleet; 10 for maintenance operations, four for division office personnel and four for transportation personnel.
The Estevan fleet has 48 buses plus 12 fleet vehicles; five for maintenance, two for transportation and four for division office personnel.
Moosomin’s fleet has 22 buses and 15 fleet vehicles; seven for maintenance, two for transportation and four for division office use.
Cornerstone has an administration staff of three for transportation issues along with five technicians and 155 drivers plus 32 substitute drivers. The division covers 113 of their regular routes while another 42 routes are covered by contract with the First Student transportation company.