‘Starting all over again’: School bus companies train new drivers as first day of school nears

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With just a few days left until the start of the new school year, school bus contractors are still looking for drivers.

Laura Doroshenko, chief executive of Cunningham Transport, says it’s an annual scramble. His parents started the company 50 years ago.

“Over the summer, you have people coming and going and saying, ‘Hey, you know what, I don’t think I’ll be back in September,’ and you start over with a new intern,” she said. declared. CTV News Edmonton.

“When it comes back to school, we have coaches driving, we have management driving, including myself, just to make sure all the races are covered,” she said.

Despite this, Doroshenko says the driver shortage has eased somewhat this year. It was worse during the height of the pandemic.

“Our primary demographics are retired and semi-retired drivers and stay-at-home moms with kids, and during the pandemic that demographic just disappeared.”

“They were scared for health reasons.”

Doroshenko says she has four drivers currently in training.

Christopher Phoenix is ​​one of them. He is learning to drive a bus after 25 years as a tractor-trailer driver.

“It’s definitely different,” he said. “The safety factors are 15 or 20 times what they are in semis. Their pre-trip inspections alone are much longer than what you would ever do in a semi.”

While Phoenix is ​​used to driving a large vehicle, most new drivers are not.

Brad Miller has been training drivers at Cunningham for four years. He says new trainees start driving the big buses from day one.

“The biggest intimidation is the size. Forty feet from your vehicle, whatever it is. It’s totally different,” he said.

“The whole bus is a blind spot. It’s all about mirrors.

But once they get used to driving the bus, Miller says driving a school bus is a lifestyle that suits many retirees or semi-retirees.

“You come in, you do your two or three in the morning, you have the rest of the day to do your business, you come back, do your afternoon run, that gives them more than one free day,” he said.

The schedule was a definite draw for Phoenix.

“It’s the right number of hours, it’s perfect for me,” he said.

And as a father himself, he says he can’t wait to drive another kind of precious cargo.

“I love kids. I love working with kids. I’m going to have fun.”


With files from David Ewasuk of CTV News Edmonton.

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