OSTA Board of Directors Statement – Further Details about the Ongoing Shortage of School Bus Drivers and Additional Solutions

Last Updated on: 6th October 2023, 09:14 am

Dear Parents,

Please see below a statement by the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) Board of Directors regarding further details about the ongoing shortage of school bus drivers and additional solutions. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at [email protected].

Ottawa, Ontario – The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority Board of Directors today released the following statement: 

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA) Board of Directors acknowledges the frustration of parents and students impacted by the on-going school bus driver shortage in Ottawa. We apologize for the hardship caused by the continued cancellations. 

Over the past 48 hours, the OSTA Board of Directors has been working to implement solutions quickly and effectively. We have also undertaken several internal exercises to ensure that we communicate more proactively with parents and students, and we would like to take this opportunity to provide further details about the on-going shortage of school bus drivers and additional solutions.

Currently, there is a shortage of 71 school bus drivers in Ottawa, down from approximately 130 earlier in September. This number can fluctuate based on driver retention, holidays, and medical absences. Since the beginning of September, the staff at OSTA has been working diligently to assist transportation operators in recruiting more drivers. As part of OSTA’s recruitment campaign, operators have received 332 applications. These applications were forwarded to operators for further processing, and 12 have been hired, and 20 are currently in training. The operator’s hiring process typically takes around four to six weeks. Additionally, OSTA is collaborating with the Ministry of Transportation to expedite the applications and get drivers on the road as soon as possible. In the coming days and weeks, we will amplify our DriveYellow recruitment campaign, which we relaunched in May 2023, to increase applications further and decrease the number of driver vacancies.

When OSTA signs a contract with a transportation provider, that provider is contractually obligated to provide enough drivers to meet the transportation needs of the school boards. Due to the driver shortage, the providers are penalized through withheld payments for services not provided. The OSTA Board of Directors is repurposing those withheld payments to fund other solutions that result in new, available drivers from other transportation operators in the Ottawa region. We will provide parents and students with an update once these solutions are finalized.

The OSTA Board of Directors has received reports of families facing significant financial difficulties. To address these situations, the Ottawa Catholic School Board and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board encourage families experiencing crisis situations to contact their school Principals. The Principals will work with these families to find solutions to help them address their individual situations.

Finally, the OSTA Board of Directors is announcing the formation of a Parent and Community Subcommittee to address the shortage of school bus drivers. The Subcommittee will comprise OSTA, OCDSB and OCSB representatives, parents, operators, retired bus drivers, and local political leaders. By creating this Subcommittee, the OSTA Board of Directors aims to foster a more direct connection with the community to understand parents’ issues better and hear their advice as we resolve this issue. In addition, it will serve as a platform for the Board of Directors to update the public on the solutions and commitments outlined previously by the Board of Directors and within this statement.

These updates follow the Board’s decision yesterday to appoint Cindy Owens as interim OSTA Operations Manager. Ms. Owens has significant education and leadership experience, previously serving her community as a Superintendent and Principal with the Ottawa Catholic School Board.