BRACEBRIDGE, ON – Despite careful planning and recruitment processes, at least one Muskoka area school bus company is feeling the bus driver shortage reported in other areas of the province.

Hammond Transportation provides coverage of dozens of routes for the Trillium Lakeland District School Board as well as in Parry Sound.

Director of Operations for the company, Scott Hammond said his fleet needs more drivers, specifically in the Bracebridge area. He says shortages exist in Parry Sound and Haliburton as well, but it is most acute for the Muskoka area.

“We are facing the same driver shortage that the south is experiencing,” admitted Hammond.  “It is indeed an industry problem.  We are currently filling bus routes with qualified spare drivers who are technicians, office support or managers.”

That means kids are going to school, but long term drivers need to be found for those routes so workers can do their assigned tasks. He says if they can’t find drivers, they might be in uncharted territory as a company.

“If we get illnesses or drivers who need to be away from work for personal reasons we will suffer and perhaps not be able to cover all of our bus routes,” he stated frankly. “That would be a first for Hammonds.”

He points to incentives such as the provincial government-sponsored Driver Retention Program and the built-in flexibility of the job as reasons to be hopeful new drivers can be found.

The retention bonus would provide up to $2000 during the school year for drivers who stay the full term.

Hammond said his industry has a lot to offer to the right applicant.

“When its all said and done driving a school bus can be very rewarding,” he contends. “I think the job gets a bad rap sometimes.  It certainly fits the lifestyle of many of our drivers who are retired or semi-retired.”

Also, parents with young kids are a good fit because they can travel on the bus, thus eliminating a need for child-care. He also points out the hours can be favourable.

“School bus drivers don’t work nights, or holidays or weekends and they have summer off as well,” said Hammond. And for those looking to make extra money evening and weekend charters can be available at times.

MyMuskokaNow.com contacted Campbell Bus lines in Huntsville for comment but had not heard back at the time of this story’s publication.