School Bus Ontario (SBO) is a non-profit association providing advocacy, education, and legislative consultation services to the owners of school bus fleets, school boards/transportation consortia and supplier/manufacturer companies across Ontario.  
March 19, 2020 - Issue 6

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Inside this Edition:
  1. Ontario Extending Validity of Drivers Licences and Other Products
  2. OTE 2020 Cancellation Notice
  3. SBO Efforts Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)
  4. NSTA Calls for School Transportation Funding During COVID-19 Shutdown
  5. Changes to Emission Standards and Compliance Continue...Are You Ready?
  6. First Student Parent Starts Process for Sale of North American Transportation Companies
  7. Zonar Partners with BusPatrol, Launches Fleet Health Solution Suite
  8. Should Video Cameras Be Required for Non Yellow School Bus Vehicles?
  9. 'Favourite' School Bus Driver Gets Kidney Donation From Former Passenger
  10. Order Your Safety and Regulatory Publications Now!
  11. Upcoming Events
Ontario Extending Validity of Drivers Licences and Other Products
News Release: Ontario Government Newsroom
Article Date: March 19, 2020 

As School Bus Ontario (SBO) highlighted in our Tuesday March 17th e-blast, many of the measures being taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 are having an unintended impact on a school bus drivers’ ability to obtain driver medicals and vulnerable sector searches, as well as complete the School Bus Driver Improvement Course (SBDIC).  SBO engaged with the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) to highlight these concerns and determine what measures could be taken to avoid these challenges.
Today, the Ontario government
announced they are “extending the validity of government driver, vehicle, carrier products and services as well as health cards”.  This move will extend drivers licence expiry dates for both permanent and temporary licences until such a time as it is safe to commence renewals as determined by the chief medical officer of health.  This announcement will also extend the due date for submitting medical or vision reports to the MTO by 60 days or more.
Accordingly, until further notice drivers will not need to renew their class B or E licences in accordance with the expiry date on their cards and temporary class B or E licences will continue to be valid beyond the expiry date shown.  At this time, drivers will not be downgraded for failing to complete the SBDIC within 6-months of upgrade nor failing to file a medical unless 60 days have elapsed from the due date.  SBO will continue to monitor the requirement to file medicals and if it becomes evident that driver medicals will not be readily available within the 60-day timeline, SBO will reach out again to the MTO to determine what further measures can be taken.
In addition, SBO is also aware that certain DriveTest centres have been temporarily closing in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.  Members can see which centres are operating in real-time and which services are being offered on the DriveTest service disruptions page found
Furthermore, the requirement for the on-board diagnostic emissions test for some heavy diesel commercial vehicles is being postponed from July 1, 2020 to October 1, 2020.
The full details of the Ontario government announcement can be seen
As more information becomes available, SBO will ensure members are updated.  SBO will continue to work and advocate diligently on behalf of all members and will keep everyone informed as things progress.  Please feel free to reach out to the Safety and Legislation Team at 416.695.9965 Ext. 4 or
OTE 2020 Cancellation Notice

This note is to inform all School Bus Ontario (SBO) members that the Ontario Transportation Expo (OTE) conference and trade show (April 19-22, 2020) has been cancelled as per the OTE notice distributed to attendees and exhibitors outlined below.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, however, in light of these unprecedented times, your health and well-being is our number one priority. 

PLEASE ALSO NOTE that the SBO members meeting and celebration originally scheduled for Sunday, April 19, 2020 (3:00-5:00 pm) in conjunction with the OTE, has been postponed at this time.  We will continue to monitor Coronavirus (COVID-19) developments and keep you posted of rescheduling plans/information.

Our hearts and thoughts go out to all SBO members and individuals who have been affected by this unprecedented event. We sincerely appreciate your ongoing efforts to safeguard student transportation and extend our gratitude to all industry employees, healthcare workers, local communities, and governments around the world who are on the front line working to contain this virus.

If you have any questions, comments, ideas or suggestions, SBO would appreciate hearing from you 416.695.9965 Ext. 6 

SBO Efforts Regarding Coronavirus (COVID-19)

SBO is continuing to advocate and work very hard on behalf of all members regarding discussions and measures that are being taken in light of the Coronavirus, particularly in relation to the school closures for  two weeks following March break.  Conversations are ongoing with the Ministry of Education (EDU) - a teleconference with SBO and EDU was conducted on March 17th and another was held today, March 19th.  As noted previously, SBO is continuing to encourage full funding to operators (less fuel, plus unreimbursed cleaning costs/labour) to:
  • Safeguard the health and well being of students and families,
  • Ensure the safety and viability of all Ontario businesses involved with student transportation, and
  • Act as a responsible citizen group to help stop the spread of the virus.
Operators are encouraged to have open and direct dialogue with their local consortia in an effort to ensure that all parties understand the varied factors related to student transportation during these unprecedented times.

We hope to have a further update tomorrow (March 20).  For feedback/questions, please contact SBO Executive Director Michele O’Bright at  416.695.9965 Ext. 3.
NSTA Calls for School Transportation Funding During COVID-19 Shutdown
Full Article: School Bus Fleet
Article Date: March 17, 2020 

The National School Transportation Association (NSTA) is urging federal and state government officials to mandate action that requires school districts to fund transportation systems through the conclusion of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis.

In response to a growing list of school closures for the safety of the students, faculty, families, and support staff, NSTA Executive Director Curt Macysyn sent letters on Monday to 50 state governors, the Mayor’s Office of the District of Columbia, and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos calling for the support, according to a news release from the association.

“These are extraordinary times, and we urge you to take immediate action that directs state Departments of Education to require their school districts to continue to pay for pupil transportation funding for a 180-day school year — in the event of any reduction in transportation days,” Macysyn stated in the letter. He added that these funds are already allocated in state budgets and a mechanism is currently in place to distribute them.

Macysyn noted in the letter that the NSTA represents private school bus contractors who transport more than one-third of the 26 million children in the U.S. transported by a school bus each day. He highlighted the association’s desire to maintain a sound student transportation infrastructure that can immediately restart after the unprecedented interruption to the school year due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“It will not serve the schoolchildren of this country to have 38% of available student transportation options eliminated after this crisis subsides,” Macysyn added in the letter.

He also pointed out that the school closures, cancelations of almost all field trips, sporting events, and charters have threatened the livelihood of thousands of workers, potentially exacerbating the industry’s driver shortage. “Maintaining consistent pupil transportation funding through this crisis will enable our members [to] provide a regular paycheck on an ongoing basis,” Macysyn wrote. “In addition, a regular paycheck may ensure that drivers will not seek other employment, and will instead be available when school resumes.”

He added that increased maintenance costs as a result of stringent bus disinfecting measures have adversely impacted private school bus contractors across the U.S. and that to provide continuity, contractors need to maintain their fleet staffs and operations.

In addition, Macysyn noted that, with their in-depth knowledge of bus routes and stops, school bus contractors can assist districts with the distribution of meals to students during school closures. Macysyn also emphasized that emergency stimulus monies would not be necessary to support the industry if districts continue payments to school bus contractors.

Read the NSTA’s letter to DeVos here.
Changes to Emission Standards and Compliance Continue….Are You Ready?

In the last School Bus Ontario (SBO) newsletter of January 8th, an overview was provided regarding the on-going changes to the vehicle emission standards, started in 2018, with a focus on the changes implemented January 1, 2020.

The January changes primarily related to clarification of on-road standards, laws prohibiting modification and tampering of emission systems, and changes regarding visible emissions.

Starting April 1, 2020, specific to the Heavy Diesel Commercial Motor Vehicle Emissions Program, there will no longer be an exemption for the testing requirement of diesel hybrid vehicles.

As members may be aware, heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles are those diesel vehicles with a registered gross weight of more than 4,500 kg. It is these vehicles with a registered gross weight up to 6,350 kg that, starting on July 1, 2020, that will be required to pass a mandatory computer-based electronic emissions diagnostic test to ensure emission control systems are operating as intended.

While the above changes are taking place, there is on-going work being done to develop key aspects for the July 2021 implementation of a new integrated safety and emissions inspection program for heavy diesel commercial motor vehicles.

The new inspection program will combine the new enhanced emissions program with the existing MTO annual and semi-annual safety inspection program. In order to establish this new integrated inspection program with input from industry, the Ministry of Environment Conservation and Parks and the Ministry of Transportation will jointly conduct a series of consultation meetings over the next several months. The consultation meetings will include representation from key industry members including School Bus Ontario. The work will include the design of appropriate incentives and burden reduction measures for businesses and industry groups who consistently demonstrate cleaner vehicle fleets, and a strategy to reduce emissions from older diesel vehicles that were manufactured without emissions control equipment or on-board diagnostic systems.

For all the details you can check the Environmental Registry of Ontario posting ERO 019-0416 by clicking on the following link ERO 19-0416.

For further information, or to provide any comments, please contact SBO Safety and Legislation Consultant Robert Monster at or 416-695-9965 Ext. 4.

First Student Parent Starts Process for Sale of North American Transportation Companies
Full Article: School Bus Fleet
Article Date: March 13, 2020 

FirstGroup PLC of Aberdeen (UK) announced that it has begun the sale process of its North American school bus and public transportation companies, after considering selling the businesses since last year.

As School Bus Fleet (SBF) previously reported, FirstGroup, which is the parent company of First Student, announced in December 2019 that its board of directors appointed advisors to “explore all options in respect of our North American contract businesses, First Student and First Transit, including a potential disposal.” The company was in the process of selling Greyhound, which it had announced in May, and was creating an efficiency program for First Bus, its U.K.-based intercity bus service.

Matthew Gregory, FirstGroup’s chief executive, told Financial Times that there had been “significant interest” in First Student and First Transit, which the company is planning to sell by the second half of the year. Gregory added that selling the businesses “is the best way to unlock value in FirstGroup,” that there were not any synergies between the U.S. and U.K. arms of FirstGroup, and that the “inherent value in the group is not really coming through in the share price,” according to the news source.

As SBF previously reported, FirstGroup made the move to sell Greyhound and First Bus in an effort to focus on its pupil transportation and public transit brands. The company noted in a statement announcing that sale, that in 2019 First Student and First Transit had collectively generated 60% of its operating profits and “share increasingly similar attributes and opportunities to grow and create value.”

Coast Capital, a majority shareholder in FirstGroup, increased its efforts on Monday to make the company sell the businesses, according to Financial Times. Bloomberg reported in December that the investor had been calling for a breakup of FirstGroup’s companies since it turned down a takeover bid from American private equity firm Apollo Global Management last year, and that FirstGroup recently revealed it suffered a loss in the first half of the year.

First Student confirmed to SBF that its parent company has begun the process to sell the school bus company and that it will continue its focus on safe, reliable student transportation.

“As FirstGroup initiates a formal process to sell First Student, this news only reinforces that the strategies we’re deploying to develop and grow our business are working,” the statement read. “This is a great business that has established a strong and profitable platform, which positions us for sustainable growth over time.

First Student added in the statement that it “will continue to invest in new opportunities and technologies that set us apart from our competitors. Through it all, our communities and customers will remain at the heart of everything we do.”
Zonar Partners with BusPatrol, Launches Fleet Health Solution Suite
Full Article: School Bus Fleet
Article Date: March 12, 2020 

Fleet management technology supplier Zonar of Seattle (WA) has partnered with BusPatrol, a provider of stop-arm cameras, to equip school districts in the United States with the latest school bus safety solutions. BusPatrol’s mission is to reduce stop-arm violations and make the journey to and from school safer. The company deploys school bus stop-arm cameras and safety technology and manages all aspects of automated stop-arm violation reduction programs.

Through the partnership, school districts in US states with approved stop-arm camera legislation will be able to equip their bus fleets with safety technologies from both companies at no cost, according to a news release from Zonar.

"Despite the fact that students are safer riding to and from school on a bus, we are still at the mercy of drivers who violate the law. That's why BusPatrol's partnership is so important to Zonar, school districts, and communities," said H. Kevin Mest, Zonar’s Senior Vice President of passenger services. "Together, we provide a full suite of solutions that includes smart fleet management, fleet health, student visibility, and full stop-arm enforcement to reduce illegal passing, better ensure student safety, and give parents and school officials peace of mind."

With no capital outlay, school districts can benefit from Zonar’s telematics and smart fleet technology — made possible by BusPatrol’s stop-arm enforcement program, which reinvests fines paid by stop-arm violators to cover equipment, installation, service, and management costs, according to Zonar.

"BusPatrol's stop-arm enforcement program enables fines issued to motorists who illegally pass school buses to fund the costs of the technology,” said Jean Souliere, CEO of BusPatrol. “This offsets any costs to schools, school boards, bus operators, or municipalities and extra funds can be used for additional safety initiatives.”

To get started, school districts can choose from two custom, turnkey packages: SafeTech Student and SafeTech Complete. While the SafeTech Complete package includes four additional products for school bus safety — the Samsung Galaxy Tab Active 2 tablet, Zonar Coach, Zonar Verify, and Advanced Diagnostics — both packages outfit school bus fleets with safety and efficiency technology from BusPatrol and Zonar. For more information on the partnership, go here.

In other recent news, Zonar has launched its Fleet Health Solution Suite, which includes Zonar FaultIQ.

FaultIQ, powered by vehicle data solutions provider Noregon, is designed to give customers a real-time overview of issues affecting the health, safety, and performance status of fleet vehicles and assets, according to Zonar. With FaultIQ, anyone — from dispatchers to technicians — can access data for each vehicle and asset to take specific action and make adjustments in real time.

Along with FaultIQ, Zonar’s Fleet Health Solution Suite includes additional monitoring and diagnostics offerings:

• Cummins Connected Diagnostics with Connected Advisor
• Zonar OTAir
• Detroit Connect Virtual Technician
• Zonar Ground Traffic Control (GTC) Diagnostic Report

Should Video Cameras Be Required for Non Yellow School Bus Vehicles?

Full Article: School Transportation News
Article Date: March 3, 2020

The arrest of a contracted driver in Las Vegas for alleged unlawful conduct with a student in his passenger vehicle has sparked renewed discussions about how to keep students safe in an evolving landscape of alternative transportation options, which are used when the yellow school bus is not available or feasible. Recently, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department announced the Feb. 21 arrest of Ranier Braga, a “CareDriver” contracted by HopSkipDrive, a transportation network company that operates similarly to an Uber or Lyft rideshare service. Braga is charged with unlawful contact with a minor and luring a child.

HopSkipDrive, headquartered in Los Angeles (CA), began operating a $250,000 contract in January for the Clark County Department of Child and Family Services to transport students who are in foster care to and from school. That contract was temporarily suspended, pending an investigation. “As soon as we learned about these terrible allegations, we contacted the police to have the driver arrested,” said Clark County in a statement on Feb. 26. “ Prior to hiring HopSkipDrive, county officials contacted school districts and child welfare agencies that also use the company in other jurisdictions. During that review, we did not hear about any problems with the drivers. In addition, all of the drivers are given thorough criminal background checks before being allowed to drive any passengers. HopSkipDrive has been cooperating fully with us and the police during this investigation.”

In a separate statement released on Feb. 26, HopSkipDrive said it upholds and enforces stringent safety standards. For example, the company’s CareDrivers are required to pass a 15-point background check, including fingerprint-based background checks against FBI and state records as well as county-level checks. It also requires drivers to possess at least five years of previous childcare experience. “We strongly believe that no rider should ever be made to feel uncomfortable during a ride,” HopSkipDrive added. “HopSkipDrive maintains a strict zero-tolerance policy against any inappropriate conduct of any user on the platform,” a HopSkipDrive representative told STN last week. “Through our safety practices and incident response protocols, HopSkipDrive was able to terminate this driver’s account within minutes of learning of the allegations, and we are cooperating fully with law enforcement.”

Miriam Ravkin, Senior Vice President of Marketing for HopSkipDrive, said the company offers Safe Ride Support, which monitors trips in real-time and alerts officials to safety-related anomalies, in which they can intervene. In addition, the school district and/or parent of a rider can track the ride as it is happening. Ravkin added that HopSkipDrive is continuously evaluating new features and technologies. “We are continuously evaluating new features and technologies and weigh[ing] both the positives and negatives of any new technology, including privacy issues and whether school districts maintain a data policy around the technology,” Ravkin said. “No one technology, like video, is a comprehensive solution. There needs to be a holistic approach to safety through operational protocols, procedures, technology, and tools rather than an over-reliance on any one point solution.”

Other transportation network companies (TNCs), that STN spoke to said they are also considering video surveillance, and some have already added the technology at the request of clients. For further information on what other TNC's are doing, read the full article by clicking here.

'Favourite' School Bus Driver Gets Kidney Donation From Former Passenger

Full Article: CBC News
Article Date: March 9, 2020

After waiting almost two years, Miramichi (NB) school bus driver Pat Jepson is counting the hours until he receives a new kidney. The woman donating her kidney to him is Natalie Woods, also from Miramichi, a former passenger on his bus. Woods says Jepson was her favourite school bus driver. "He was the nicest one there and I remember him because one day he came to pick us up and he was wearing a big clown wig and I never forgot it," said Woods. 

Jepson was diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease at the age of  20. The hereditary disease was passed to him and his brother from their mother, and it's a disease he has passed on to his two sons. Polycystic kidney disease causes a person's kidneys to enlarge and lose function over time. After living with the disease for years, Jepson's condition worsened. His family doctor put him under the care of a nephrologist in Moncton. 

"About five years ago it just got to the level that my kidneys [function] were dropping down to about 12 per cent left," Jepson said. That's when Jepson began doing home dialysis, which worked until he had a number of surgeries that caused complications. Despite trying, he could no longer do that and began travelling to Moncton three times a week for hemodialysis. Eventually, a bed opened in the hemodialysis clinic in Miramichi. He was still able to drive bus, a job he's been doing for 32 years. Jepson has no plan to retire even though he's nearing 65. "I hope to continue my job healthier and [more] vibrant than before." 

Woods and Jepson have been waiting two years for the call telling them the transplant could go ahead. "I just thought it was the most amazing thing to be able to give someone a quality of life back," Woods said. "It's the best gift you could possibly ever give someone."

The donor, a single mother of two sons, said she saw a shared post on Facebook created by Adeline Jepson as a plea for a donor. No one in the family was able to donate, including his wife, and Jepson's situation was further complicated because his blood type is O positive. "That is initially what triggered me because I thought I'm O negative so I'm universal, so I can give to anyone," said Woods, who also gives blood every four months."  After the initial cross-match testing of their blood, Woods was told she was a perfect match to donate a kidney to Jepson.

Jepson is hopeful that once his recovery is over he won't have to have dialysis. The long wait for the transplant was caused by a shortage of doctors. "It's dragged out and it's mostly frustrating when you know you have a donor and then all of a sudden you have to wait and you wait," Jepson said. Now both donor and patient say they can barely contain their excitement about the transplant. "Nothing is going to stop us," said Woods.
Order Your Safety and Regulatory Publications Now!

Visit the website at and click on the "STORE" tab from the home page to order the following publications. Or click on the links below and go directly to each order form: Once you have completed the necessary order form, please scan/email it to or fax it to 416-695-9977.
Upcoming Events
Mar. 25 SBO Webinar
Apr. 15 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
Apr. 19-22 Ontario Transportation Expo (OTE) - CANCELLED
Apr. 27-May 1 Canadian Pupil Transportation Conference (CPTC)
May 3-8 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program
May 27 SBO Webinar
June 6 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
July 12-17 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program
Aug. 9-14 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program
Aug. 15 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
Oct. 7 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
Oct. 7 SBO Webinar
Oct. 14-15 OASBO Pupil Transportation Conference
Oct. 18-23 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program
Nov. 22-27 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program
Dec. 6-11 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program
Copyright © 2020 School Bus Ontario (SBO)
All rights reserved.  This publication is intended for the exclusive use of SBO Members.  Reproduction without prior permission is prohibited.

Contact School Bus Ontario (SBO):
3075 Lenworth Drive, Mississauga, ON, L4X 2G3
Tel.416.695.9965 Fax 416.695.9977 |
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