School Bus Task Force Launches Drive Yellow Campaign to Recruit Drivers

Last Updated on: 10th January 2023, 03:51 pm

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Ottawa – OSTA and a core group of operators have joined forces to work on solutions to address the school bus driver shortage and prepare for the upcoming school year.

This spring, OSTA and operators Roxborough, Voyago, M.L. Bradley, First Student and Premier formed a Driver Recruitment Task Force to recruit new professional school bus drivers into the industry. This new task force is the first of its kind in Ontario, whose members will work together to reach the ultimate goal of getting our kids safely and reliably to and from school every day.

“Drive Yellow,” a multipronged campaign, aims to turn around the ongoing driver shortage in the Ottawa area by enticing people who are interested in work-life balance, who love kids and who want to contribute to their community in a meaningful way to consider driving a school bus or a van over other types of jobs.

“The driver shortage predates COVID-19, and it has been exacerbated by the pandemic,” said Vicky Kyriaco, General Manager/CAO of Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA). “What we’ve all learned during this challenging time is we need to work together and lean on each other to make a change in a positive way. Kids need us.”

Screenshot from the DriveYellow.ca microsite
Screenshot from the DriveYellow.ca microsite

The Drive Yellow school bus driver recruitment campaign launches on June 23rd with the goal of raising public awareness and profile of the school bus driver position and recruiting new school bus and van drivers to the industry.

“This is a welcome and refreshing initiative being spearheaded by the consortium and backed by local operators. The Ottawa region has been heavily impacted by a school bus driver shortage and this Task Force is welcome and timely.  School Bus Ontario (SBO) is pleased that the consortium is working with its operators to find and recruit safety-driven and professional drivers.  SBO looks forward to the outcome of this project.” Said Nick McRae, Vice President of School Bus Ontario and Roxborough Bus Lines CEO.

“This Ottawa-centric Driver Recruitment Task Force is truly pioneering in our industry. It demonstrates how consortia and operators can work together to reach a common goal while reflecting the unique market conditions within a jurisdiction,” said Troy Phinney, Senior Vice President, Eastern Division, First Student.

The campaign consists of the “Drive Yellow” microsite designed to get people excited about the school bus industry in Ottawa. It includes the many benefits of becoming a school bus driver, the requirements and steps to becoming a driver, a list of operator job posts, their service areas and an easy online application process. The microsite also includes testimonials from current drivers about why they love to drive a school bus.

To promote the microsite, an ambitious multi-media campaign including digital advertising, print, radio, television, community outreach and partnership is underway. Also, Ottawa operators can download marketing resources from the microsite, and tweak and brand them for their own marketing initiatives.

“We’re tackling this from multiple different directions to get us ready for the fall school start-up,” said Kyriaco.  “To get a campaign like this off the ground, it is so important to have the alignment and input of the operators and their drivers. This is a group of caring and dedicated people, all striving for the same outcome, to get our kids to and from school safely every day.”

The OC Transpo Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 is also helping with school bus driver recruitment efforts by promoting the driveyellow.ca campaign to its local members, specifically targeting members thinking of retirement.

“Many ATU members may have started out as yellow bus drivers before joining OC Transpo.  We support OSTA’s efforts to provide transportation services for kids throughout the city, while giving our retired members an opportunity to continue providing a valued service in our community” said Clint Crabtree, President of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279. 

Before OSTA launched the campaign, they surveyed current and past school bus drivers to find out what they like most and least about being a driver. OSTA took key insights from the feedback to create messaging that resonates with potential candidates. For example, drivers enjoy a great work-life balance, have weekends and summers off and the satisfaction of working with kids.  

For more information on the school bus driver recruitment campaign, go to driveyellow.ca.