Nearly 200 school bus delays reported in York Region amid driver shortage

School buses can be seen in this undated photo. (CTV Barrie)

A school bus driver shortage is being blamed for hundreds of delays as kids head back to classes for the first time since last April.

School Bus Ontario says that were 199 delays reported in York Region on Thursday with some of them resulting in waits of 60 to 90 minutes.

The association says that there were also dozens of delays in Hamilton.

It says that the delays are the result of a contract bidding system “which supresses driver wages” and has been leading to increased “driver turnover” for years now.

“What happens is that drivers are comfortable with the current company they have, they (the ministry) do a requests for proposals and then a new company comes in and the drivers don’t want to continue to work for that new company. Maybe their seniority is going to change, maybe their wage is going to change, maybe they will have a different route. So the drivers don’t like that and we are seeing significant turnover, especially in York Region,” School Bus Ontario Executive Director Nancy Daigneault told CP24 on Thursday morning. “If you don't like having to wait 60 to 90 minutes for your bus you need to call your MPP.”

Daigneault said that school bus driver shortages resulting from the provincial contract bidding system have been an issue for years, though she said that they appear to be particularly pronounced in York Region, Ottawa, Hamilton and Peterborough this September.

She said that some of the lengthy delays faced by parents in York Region this morning were because drivers had to “double up” and complete a second route.

“We’ve been warning the province for over 10 years that what they have come up with in this bidding system is really, really creating a problem with driver retention,” she said. “The driver retention is the lowest it's ever been and that's because they keep switching the companies in different regions and there's this race to the bottom for the wages. The province has the power to fix this and they can.”