Hats off to bus drivers everywhere as the school year begins. You are very valuable indeed.
A couple of years ago, when I was ‘between engagements’ and living in Regina, I spent exactly half a day training to drive a school bus. That was all it took to convince me that it was not something I was ready to do in the seventh decade of my life.
Those big yellow vehicles carry a very precious cargo, our future, but moving those kids around is not easy. In the winter, which never ends in our country, you have ice and snow on highways and city streets, and numbing cold.
Even in the best of weather, you have teenagers with raging hormones whose idea of whoopee is giving the driver a hard time. It’s no wonder that First Canadian and other outfits in the bus business are always having a difficult time finding drivers. They offer a variety of incentives, but the rewards are still barely worth the trouble and risks that are involved.
Driving public transit and intercity buses is even riskier it seems. The ultimate horror story was the beheading of Tim McLean on that Greyhound bus near Portage La Prairie five years ago, but there are lots of other scary tales we seldom ever hear about.
Liberal MP Ralph Goodale has sponsored a private member’s bill in parliament designed to give all drivers better protection. Every year more than two thousand of them are attacked in Canada and sometimes they are very seriously hurt.
In 2009, a transit driver in Edmonton was so badly beaten that he ended up in a coma. Goodale’s bill would include tougher penalties, but it has about as much chance of becoming law as the Leafs have of winning the Stanley Cup.
Such is the fate of private member’s bills. Too bad, because it’s a tough job, and the people behind those wheels deserve better.
I’m Roger Currie