Thousands of students could be deprived of buses at the start of the school year, if the impasse is not resolved. Carriers refuse to renew their contract with the school network as long as Quebec does not considerably increase its financing in order to absorb the increase in costs.
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The funding of school transportation "risks hitting a wall", warns the Federation of Quebec School Service Centers in its brief on the budgetary rules for the year 2022-2023.
The majority of transport contracts are expiring and must be renewed by the end of June, for a period of four or five years.
However, the level of indexation proposed by Quebec is now around 8%, according to the latest discussions with the Ministry of Education, while the increases requested by the carriers vary from 20 to 35%, indicates the Federation.
Carriers intend not to renew their contract if the increase granted by Quebec is not considerably increased.
Rising costs and shortages
The discontent is particularly great in the greater Montreal area.
"I won't sign this, it doesn't make sense. My buses will stay in the yard, and it's the majority of my work colleagues who think like me," insists Martin Paquette, president of a school bus company that serves schools in Laval school service centers and Thousand Islands.
The latter is demanding a 35% increase to cover the rising costs.
The union is asking him for 25% more in salary, and the labor shortage is so great that he must regularly pay dispatchers and mechanics overtime to drive buses in order to avoid breakdowns in service.
Along with skyrocketing fuel prices in recent months, carriers must also absorb increased maintenance costs, with the cost of parts and tires jumping by more than 30%, adds Luc Lafrance, President of the Bus Carriers Federation.
“With what we are offered, my carriers tell me that it is not enough for them to be able to make their business profitable, they do not want to sign. It’s worrying for the start of the school year, ”he drops.
For his part, the Minister of Education, Jean-François Roberge, says he is "confident" that a solution will be found quickly.
Discussions are ongoing with the Ministry of Finance.
“We are very, very aware of the significant increase in transport costs, which is higher than the CPI (consumer price index). We will arrive with additional amounts to ensure that we transport the students, ”he told the Journal.
556,000 students transported every day
11,000 school bus drivers
944,000 kilometers traveled daily
11,000 school buses on the road
Increase in costs affecting school transportation
Diesel: increase of almost 100% for one year
Average maintenance cost: 50% increase over four years
Average hourly rate for drivers: 17% for five years
Sources: Natural Resources Canada and Bus Carriers Federation