The Ontario School Bus Association (OSBA) 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.  
October 27, 2016 - Issue 22

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Inside this Edition:
  1. School Bus Driver Shortages: The New Norm?
  2. W.V. School District Expands Use of School Bus Radar Sensors
  3. STI Recognizes Employees For School Bus Safety Week
  4. 2017 OSBA Webinar Dates
  5. Montreal School Board Recognizes First Electric School Bus
  6. First Student Safety Manager Wins National Safety Council Award
  7. 'Bus In the Classroom' Wins California School Boards Award
  8. Mark Your Calendar - 2017 P.R.I.D.E. Program Dates
  9. Magic School Bus To Mars
  10. 2017 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program Dates
  11. Upcoming 2016 Events
School Bus Driver Shortages: The New Norm?

Article By: The Record
Article Date: October 19, 2016

When picking up a grade two elementary student one cold and rainy November morning, our driver noticed a shivering young girl.  Her coat was too small (he remembered she’d worn it for three years now) her sneakers were split and as she climbed the three steps to board the bus, he could see that she had no socks and her feet were wet.  The next morning, he quietly handed her a small bag containing warm socks and a new pair of mittens as she climbed on the bus, no words were exchanged. The driver recalled the story with fondness, and moist eyes, saying her smile was brighter for a few days thereafter.

Much has been written and talked about recently in the media around the shortage of drivers in the GTHA, and the impact on families who lack reliable busing.  Armchair quarterbacks cast blame, each weighing in on an industry normally taken for granted until crisis strikes.  I can assure you that many parents can’t tell you anything about their school bus driver, their child’s bus route, or which company is responsible.  They just expect a yellow bus to show up, on time, twice a day.  School bus drivers are not the Kardashian’s, they’re not celebrated like pro athletes, or movie stars, or CEO’s.  No Zuckerberg’s here so move on. School bus drivers are not what we normally exalt in today's society, though they should be.  They are the salt of the earth. What school bus drivers do, day in and day out, is make a positive difference in children's lives.  The media, the education system, and the public in general consider school bus drivers as lowly service industry employees and largely undervalue them.  It benefits no one for people to bash the current roster of drivers, paint a negative picture of the industry, or simply point out the challenges of the profession.  Such bashing deters potential drivers, making matters worse. Instead, we need to recognize that school bus drivers are caring professionals who deserve our respect.  Many thousands of school bus drivers across Ontario love their jobs, and it is largely because they care about our children – your children.  There are huge non-monetary rewards from such a social environment in a world that is increasingly disconnected. 

It is interesting to watch from afar, as I’m now retired and living on Vancouver Island, and see school board spokespeople predict the duration and resolution of the driver shortage.  The dates are already slipping.  In my day, if you were five drivers short in September, you would still be five drivers short in June.  Turnover eclipses recruitment efforts. If your bus is late now - it (or some other family’s) will be so all year long. Only an operators ingenuity (and I won't give away their secrets) will keep you from noticing. As Tom Howe from Peel Region pointed out driver shortage has been plaguing areas like Mississauga for decades.  To suggest that the problem will be eradicated in a couple of weeks is naïve.  As the cost of living - particularly housing - increases in Toronto, the problem will worsen.  The recent school bus driver shortages in Toronto ultimately will lead to the "me too" phenomenon, as these shortages spread to Peel, York, Halton, Hamilton, and beyond. Any operator anywhere in Ontario will tell you that there is no over abundance of drivers, with the rural areas being compounded by continually increasing urbanization, so the problem really is province wide. 

What led to this? The government’s procurement process, while meeting guidelines, has resulted in ridiculous red tape.  Who needs a cadre of lawyers to define the word “Must”?  Red tape has confounded the fundamentals of safety, relegating industry safety experts to report writing and box-ticking.  The reports and boxes are then audited by numerous other entities, none of which serve to actively or proactively address safety.  One of the unintended consequences of these contracts is that the training process for new drivers has trebled to six weeks, often longer.  When a driver chooses to leave, we are lucky to get two weeks notice.  School boards, via transportation consortia, satisfy other stakeholders’ complaints by instantaneously requiring a driver be fired.  Operators can be fined for not meeting contract terms, so they increasingly play a kind of chess game, moving pieces around to put out a fire in one area, causing a fresh blaze in another. All of this impairs safety and reliability. 

So what's the fix? In a word – funding!  While transparent, once nearly one billion passes from the Ministry of Education, opacity reigns. That’s a lot of money, albeit only 4% of the education budget. Is it enough?  Who knows?   We don't even know what school boards are paying consortia, what consortia are spending, and what is left to operators who do everything to actually provide the service.  Rates paid to operators are not public. They should be. That would be transparent.  Every operator values safety, we have a huge public trust which we hold dear.  We also applaud efficiency; the maximum utilization of our assets makes sense.  Busing allows students to congregate at a location to deliver effective curriculum, without it we’d be going back to the one room school house.  The demands on busing are many and complex, ride time limits, supervision time at school, and bell time adjustments to maximize route efficiency are outside the purview of the operator.  There are multitudes of ways to ensure that drivers are compensated appropriately for the vast responsibility they assume.  They all tie back to funding, and acknowledging that appropriate compensation for drivers is essential for safety and reliability.  Even if the bus was autonomous, we’d want an adult on board to ensure rider safety, student management and proper communication. Today, that all falls to the driver.  No one expects a transit driver to know your name, your stop location, if you are supposed to be met by a guardian, if you have allergies, and the list goes on.  School bus drivers do all this and more, plus drive the bus safely through rush hour traffic.

Rest assured, the problem will be solved in just a couple of weeks!   I have my doubts.

Angus McKay worked in school transportation for years.  He is now retired and lives in British Columbia. 
W.V. School District Expands Use of School Bus Radar Sensors

Article By: School Transportation News (Charleston, VA)
Article Date: October 14, 2016

Kanawha County Schools in Charleston, West Virginia, is adding radar sensors to more school buses in the fleet to assist with ensuring student safety in the so-called “Danger Zone” at bus stops.

The Student Detection System, or SDS, from Rostra Precision Controls was installed on the district’s Safety Bus, which launched last year as a pilot program to debut and test different safety equipment and train drivers.

A control box installed next to the bus driver illuminates a red signal and sounds an audible beep when the system detects a person within the danger zone. SDS is used in conjunction with an external video camera that provides the driver an actual view of blind spots.

Kanawha Director of Transportation Brette Fraley, speaking with School Transportation News, said that the SDS was originally an educational tool to teach students how to safely get on and off the school bus so that the driver could see where they were located.

The district successfully petitioned the West Virginia Department of Education for additional detection systems in order to learn how the technology performs in the real world and receive bus driver feedback. Recently, Kanawha added a 10-sensor system to two school buses.

“There is no substitute for safety, and incorporating technology into the bus makes sense,” Fraley said. “We are looking forward to reviewing the outcome of the system to see how it works for our drivers, how it responds to the weather in West Virginia and how we feel the technology is best used.”

These detection systems are slowly making headway in other states.For example, a new law in New Jersey passed earlier this year requires the sensors on all school buses.
STI Recognizes Employees For School Bus Safety Week

Article By: School Transportation News (U.S. & Canada)
Article Date: October 18, 2016

National school bus contractor Student Transportation Inc. recognized 15 employees for their outstanding commitment as part of the company’s School Bus Safety Week celebrations.
Aptly named the Safety Wall of Fame, the honour is bestowed on employees who have gone “above and beyond the regular scope of their duties” with their efforts to reduce risk in local operations. Employees were nominated companywide from across the U.S. and Canada. Criteria included accident-free service within their role, exceptional performance of their duties, knowledge of company safety policies and procedures, reliability, and community involvement.

STI spokesman Doug Coupe told STN that the Wall of Fame was started to provide managers with employee recognition tools, systems and strategies. It includes newsletters, employee spotlights and recognition pins and other items available in the company’s store, STI Market.

“The Safety Wall of Fame was developed to serve as our most prestigious recognition for our very best, safest employees, with various recognition opportunities for our locations and regional leadership teams to recognize our special employees during a multi-stage selection process,” he added.

The employees were to have received their awards at a company ceremony in Charleston, South Carolina, but it was postponed because of Hurricane Matthew, Coupe said.

Additionally, more than 150 STI locations are holding safety meetings with school district customers, safety demonstrations with local officials including law enforcement and online safety training through the company’s Learning Management System, ST University.

The theme of National School Bus Safety Week 2016 was “Bully Free Zone!” STI also is running its 6th annual Anti-Bullying Awareness initiative all month. Coupe added that the program was started by Nick Pizzo, STI’s director of organizational development, after he logged numerous requests from location managers for anti-bullying training to be added to ST University. The result was the development of two modules that created awareness and provided strategies to help bus drivers.
2017 OSBA Webinar Dates

The 2017 OSBA webinars have been announced, and will be offered on the following dates:
  1. January 25
  2. March 2
  3. May 17
  4. October 25
The goal of these webinars is to provide attendees with essential operational and safety data not frequently published or easily resourced.  Significant, day-to-day performance information is provided that could contribute to changing the way you do business!  Stay tuned for details.

Your ideas and suggestions are always welcome for webinar topics.  Please send to
Montreal School Board Receives First Electric School Bus

Article By: School Transportation News (Montreal, QC)
Article Date: October 12, 2016

Commission scolaire de Montreal (CSDM) received the city's first all-electric school bus, signaling the school board's intent to eventually transition towards zero emissions for its student transportation services.

The Type C conventional eLion from Quebec-based Lion Bus will transport 50 students to and from St. Lucia school in the city's St. Michel district, said the Montreal School Board, which provides educational services to more than 112,000 students at 119 campuses.

The eLion is powered by a TM4 electric motor that has a range of up to 100 miles and reaches a full charge after 6.5 hours.

"We know how environmental issues are important for our students," said Board President Catherine Harel-Bourdon in a statement. "To board a bus that does not emit greenhouse gases is a positive message to the school community. This is a great initiative on the part of our transport partner. Let us hope that this bus is the first of a long series." 

The school board contracts its school bus service with Autobus Ideal. Company owner and GM Nancy Trudeau told STN that the company purchased the eLion electric bus for approximately $305,000 Canadian dollars ($230,000 USD). Autobus Ideal then uitlized a grant of CA$125,000 from the Quebec provincial government to offset the purchase price.

Last week, the provincial government announced a CA$8.6 million investment in electric vehicles. The government added that it eventually wants to see all 8,000 provincial school buses go electric.
First Student Safety Manager Wins National Safety Council Award

Article By: School Transportation News (U.S.)
Article Date: October 12, 2016

First Student has recognized a member of its safety team for her dedication to workplace safety, naming Suzanne Caldeira a 2016 Rising Star of Safety.

Presented by the National Safety Council, the Rising Stars of Safety program honours future leaders like Caldeira for promoting a culture of continuous safety improvement within their companies and creating safety initiatives focused on measurable outcomes. 

Caldeira is one of 43 safety advocates under the age of 40 to be recognized by this award.

“Suzanne is passionate about improving the safety of her colleagues and the students we transport every school day,” said Gary Catapano, senior vice president of safety for FirstGroup America, which includes the company’s First Student division.

Originally from Hicksville, New York, a hamlet on Long Island, Caldeira began her career in 2006 as a driver with First Student. She currently serves as a multi-site safety coordinator responsible for overseeing safety operations at 19 First Student locations in southern New York.

She recently helped implement a company-wide safety initiative that has reduced the number of preventable collisions and workplace injuries at her locations.   

“Her efforts to further engage others in this core value have helped us build upon our industry-leading safety processes,” Catapano said.

Caldeira and other awardees were recognized at the NSC Congress and Expo, held in Anaheim, California, on Oct. 15-21.
'Bus In the Classroom’ Wins California School Boards Award

Article By: School Transportation News (California, U.S.)
Article Date: October 14, 2016

Newport-Mesa Unified School District won Golden Bell Award from the California School Boards Association (CSBA) for the “Bus in the Classroom” program that utilizes transportation employees to teach school bus safety and life skills to students with disabilities.

The program was designed by Newport-Mesa Director of Transportation Pete Meslin, alongside the district’s special education administrators, teachers and nationally recognized experts in lesson design. Meslin presented the program at the TSD Conference in Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this year as well as at the most recent STN EXPO in Reno, Nevada. Meslin is also expected to present Bus in the Classroom at the 2017 TSD Conference in March in Frisco, Texas.

Newport Mesa will receive Golden Bell Awards for Bus in the Classroom as well as for the district's psychological support services and an education "data dashboard" program on Dec. 3 during the CSBA Annual Conference in San Francisco.

"Winning this CSBA award is a wonderful honour and it is very gratifying. It is also validating of all the hard work our Bus in the Classroom team has put into innovatively developing a curriculum to both improve student safety and help develop independence skills for students with special needs," Meslin told School Transportation News.

Actual school bus professionals teach the program to the students in conjunction with the classroom teacher. Meslin said this enables student transporters to become true educational partners in the district. Lessons include how to buckle seat belts, approach the bus at the stop, board the bus, ask for help and more.

“If we don’t start learning to act like educators, we are destined to continue to be treated as non-educators,” Meslin wrote last October in School Transportation News. “That means we won’t be paid comparable to other services. We’ll continue to be denied access to necessary student information and, most importantly, we’ll continue to have to fight to do the great things for students we all know we’re capable of.”
Mark Your Calendar - 2017 P.R.I.D.E. Program Dates

With the last Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program of 2016 just ended, you may wish to mark your calendar with the 2017 dates.  For 27 years, the P.R.I.D.E. Program has been providing fleet driver instructors with powerful non-lecture adult training techniques and philosophies.

2017 Dates:
  1. January 15-20 - SOLD OUT
  2. March 12-17 (March break) - SOLD OUT
  3. May 7 - 12
  4. July 9-14
  5. August 13-18
  6. October 15-20
For more information - please visit or contact
Magic School Bus To Mars

Article By: School Transportation News (U.S.)
Article Date: October 20, 2016

“Earth to Mars, Earth to Mars.” This may sound like a radio transmission from NASA, but it is actually the brainchild of Lockheed Martin, whose “Mars Experience Bus” has revolutionized field trips by transporting students out of this world. Virtually, that is.

The Mars Bus recently took its virtual-reality show on the road, kicking off its national tour in Denver. It is scheduled to make stops in Florida, Texas, Alabama, California and New Mexico.

Long considered an extension of the classroom, the school bus is the perfect vehicle for delivering the “first-ever group VR experience,” according to the aerospace company. The Mars Bus debuted in April at the USA Science and Engineering Festival held in D.C. as part of Lockheed Martin’s “Generation Beyond” educational program, which aims to bring the science of space into schools. 

The virtual bus ride is just one component of the company’s new STEM program, which includes an online curriculum about deep space and the smartphone app Hello Mars. With this app, students can map Mars’ location and receive real-time weather reports.

The first group of students to climb aboard the Mars Bus thought they were going on a regular field trip—until the lights went out. When they came back on, the kids found themselves surrounded by the craggy terrain of the red planet. 

No goggles or headsets are required for this virtual field trip, which is powered by the same software used in the most advanced video games today. The windows of the renovated IC Bus CE Series conventional have been switched out for high-definition screens, and the steering wheel doubles as a video game controller.

To make this project fully immersive, developers invented a way for transparent windows to become high-def. displays, and mapped every street in Washington, D.C. on the surface of Mars, so wherever the experiment starts, riders would start off on the exact same road on the Red Planet.

To develop the Mars Experience Bus, Lockheed Martin teamed up with its advertising agency, McCann New York, and Framestore, the VR and special effects studio that worked on the 2015 feature film “The Martian.”

The end result is a virtual bus ride that has taken the tech world by storm. In August, Adweek announced the Mars Bus had won the Gravity Award, the highest honour in its Project Isaac Awards competition. It also swept this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, taking home 19 awards in 11 categories, including cyber, PR, entertainment and innovation.

The team used a system associated with video games to reenact the twists and turns of a yellow bus, according to Adweek. They created a 200-square-mile Martian landscape for the bus after viewing photos and video from the Curiosity Rover that has explored Mars for four years. To create realistic sound effects, the team simply visited a junkyard, where they threw sand and rocks against buses and recorded the audio.

“With VR, you always think it’s goggles and glasses,” McCann senior producer Chance Bassett told Adweek. “But there’s nothing in the definition that says goggles and glasses … This just opens up a whole new world. It’s VR without being isolated, which just is amazing because as humans we experience things together.”
2017 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program Dates

With the last Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Recertification Program of 2016 just around the corner Nov. 23, you may wish to mark your calendar with the 2017 dates:  
  1. Thursday, February 2
  2. Thursday, April 27
  3. Wednesday, June 21
  4. Saturday, August 12
  5. Thursday, October 26
  6. Wednesday, December 6
For more information - please visit or contact
Upcoming 2016 Events
Oct. 27-28 2016 OASBO Annual Pupil Transportation Conference
Nov. 23 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
Jan. 15-20 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program - SOLD OUT
Jan. 25 OSBA Webinar
Feb. 2 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
Mar. 2 OSBA Webinar
Mar. 12-17 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program - SOLD OUT
Apr. 9-12 2017 Ontario Transportation Expo – Conference and Trade Show
Apr. 27 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
May 1-5 Alberta Student Transportation Advisory Council (ASTAC)
May 7-12 Professional Instructor in Driver Education (P.R.I.D.E.) Program
May 17 OSBA Webinar
June 21 P.R.I.D.E. Recertification Program
July-Dec. See OSBA website for future events/dates:
Copyright © 2016 Ontario School Bus Association
All rights reserved.  This publication is intended for the exclusive use of OSBA Members.  Reproduction without prior permission is prohibited.

Contact OSBA:
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