School bus drivers spend a day raising funds, having some fun and getting caught up - expecting to be back behind the wheel in September

News 100 blueBy Staff

June 15th, 2021



The person who is present with children in school, especially at the elementary and middle school levels is the teacher.

the drivers

First Student school bus drivers taking part in a fun day to get caught up and get a sense as to whether or not students will get taught in classrooms come September.

But there are two other people who interact with the children every day. The crossing guard for those who walk to school and the school bus drivers who pick the kids up and drive them home. Each of them steps into the bus where the driver gets a good look at them.

Most long term drivers have known the kids for years, have watched them grow and mature.

Getting the last of the condiment

Getting the last of the condiment out of the bottle.

Tuesday after noon some 165 drivers and 35 management people gathered in the bus parking lot to do the best they could in the way of an awards events – something they hold each year.

Covid19 has upset just about every event – the First Student Transportation group, that does a large portion of the student transportation, held an event that had managers taking a seat atop a dunk tank.

big guy in waiting at tank

Waiting for someone to decide they want to dunk

Drivers go to buy balls that they would throw at a target that loosens a bar that lets the person sitting in a seat drop into the water.

All of the dunking had taken place by the time the Gazette reporter arrived.

We did meet several of the people who took their turn in the tank who proudly said they were either the first second or third person to get dunked.

The dunking was set up as a Fund Raiser for the Halton Food 4 Kids program that feeds kids breakfast at schools throughout the Region.

They raised just over $800 and were delighted. The people who put their hands in their wallets aren’t paid all that much which makes the amount raised impressive.

First Student operates 180 buses under a contract from the Halton Student Transportation Services (HSTS) – which is a collaboration between the Public and the Catholic School Boards that ensures there are enough buses available.

A school bus has a ten year life cycle and is inspected every three months.

All the mechanical maintenance is done on site.

First Student has contract operations in Canada, including Quebec, the United States and Britain.

Dave Colloy runs HSTS and works closely with both school boards and the operations people at each of the two transportation companies who hold contracts.

Kevin Bergman at the wheel

Kevin Bergman at the wheel of the bus he trains people to use.

Kevin Bergman, who oversees safety and the training of the drivers. They end up with a B Class license which is the highest you can get, said Bergman who is an MTO (Minister of Transportation) certified instructor.

He gives the drivers 40 hours of instruction: 10 hours in skills training, 17  hours in class, 15-17 hours on the road.

The drivers are then tested on the classroom training and again in a bus on the road.

The classroom work is done in one-on-one settings.

Bergman was the last of the managers to sit on the seat waiting to be dunked. When we saw him he was standing in the water, literally shivering, waiting for someone to pony up a couple of bucks to dunk him again.

The drivers stood around in small groups getting caught up with who was doing what during the lockdown.

These are people who deal with change every day. Weather is what determines how their day is likely to go.

The day for the drivers starts as early as 4:00 am when they have to get the keys to the bus they drive, learn of any changes in the route they are driving, gas up and do the walk around of the bus to make sure everything is where it is supposed to be.

For the drivers – they see their colleagues as part of a group providing a vital service. They see the students they transport as part of a family.

You gotta’ like kids, is the way Kevin Bergman describes the job.

Transportation and transit are undergoing serious changes. While the drivers see diesel buses as real work horses with a ten year life span they can see electric buses on the horizon. The comment from all the drivers is about how quiet the electric buses are.

Kevin in the tank CLOSE up

Shivering in the tank Kevin Bergman waits for someone who wants to pay to dunk him.

The changes in class hours for high school students that are in pilot mode at a couple of school boards will mean big changes. It might mean additional hours for some of the drivers who would transport elementary students early in the morning and high school students in time to get them to class for 10:00am.

Should the pilot be made policy by the Ministry of Education there will be some significant changes.

It all comes back to the drivers who can usually spot a kid having a tough time.  “We see the bullying and we break up that stuff very quickly.”

Problems at home are always reflected on the faces of the students who clime on board.  When they are happy the drivers see it the moment they step into a bus.

“When my drivers are happy – I am very very happy.” said Bergman.

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