School Bus Drivers In Ontario

Being a safe and responsible driver takes a combination of knowledge, skill and attitude.

Information, Knowledge and Traffic Laws

To begin, a driver must know the traffic laws and driving practices that help traffic move safely. Breaking these “rules of the road” is the major cause of collisions.

Traffic laws are made by federal, provincial and municipal governments, and police from each level can enforce them. If you break a traffic law, you may be fined, sent to jail or lose your driver’s licence. If a driver gets caught driving while your licence is suspended, your vehicle may be impounded.

A driver needs to do more than just obey the rules. He/She must care about the safety of others on the road. Everyone is responsible for avoiding collisions. Even if someone else does something wrong, driver may be found responsible for a collision if the driver could have done something to avoid it.

Because drivers have to co-operate to keep traffic moving safely, he/she must also be predictable, doing what other people using the road expect him/her to do. A driver must be courteous. Courteous driving means giving other drivers space to change lanes, not cutting them off and signalling your turns and lane changes properly.

School bus drivers must be able to see dangerous situations before they happen and to respond quickly and effectively to prevent them. This is called defensive or strategic driving. There are collision avoidance courses available where you can practice these techniques.

Hiring and Training Professional Drivers

When your family name is on the side of the school bus, you take safety VERY seriously.  Safety is core business for family-owned school bus operators, and drivers are the most important safety feature on any bus.  The lower the driver turn-over rate, the safer the service.  School bus drivers are trained to handle the extensive responsibilities they undertake with a combination of classroom and on-road training. Safe driving techniques, defensive driving skills and student management are all part of school bus driver training.

Each driver must demonstrate knowledge of policies, traffic laws, and equipment standards as part of their training.  Every driver is also thoroughly trained on how to complete daily pre-trip and post-trip vehicle safety inspections.   Drivers are also trained in accident and emergency response protocols including evacuation, First Aid/CPR and use of the fire extinguisher.  Drivers make sure that the steps and aisles are clear, that luggage is properly stowed and that children remain properly seated, in order to minimize the risk of injury.  

Statistically speaking, children are most vulnerable to serious injury when they are outside of the bus - before boarding or after leaving the bus - rather than when they are actually riding the bus.  For this reason, company policies and driver training emphasize loading and unloading of passengers. 

The driver must focus on every step of the process, every single time.   The following safety tips are practiced by drivers to prevent incidents:

  •  knowledge and enforcement of safe crossing procedures
  • accounting for all students before moving the bus
  • checking outside the bus, utilizing a bus attendant
  • watching the actions of motorists closely 
  • staying alert for special dangers (e.g. driveways)
  • dealing with behaviour issues before the stop, awareness of stragglers or students with special needs
  • responding to weather-related conditions
  • educating students about the school bus safety rules
  • and to ALWAYS expect the unexpected.          

The responsibilities of school bus drivers are endless.  But there can never be enough knowledge and experience when child safety is involved.  For this reason, the class of license required to drive a school bus has the highest standards.  In addition to regular driving record and criminal background checks, and regular medical exams, drivers are subject to periodic re-examinations.

Below is a list of MTO requirements school bus driver applicants must possess to be considered:

  • be at least 21 years of age
  • meet stringent medical and vision standards
  • not be classed as a probationary or novice driver
  • have successfully completed a driver improvement course approved by the Minister of Transportation
  • have knowledge of bus equipment maintenance, passenger control and safety
  • pass a Ministry of Transportation road test, vision screening, and knowledge test
  • not have accumulated more than six demerit points on his/her driving record
  • not have had a driver's license under suspension at any time within the preceding 12 months as a result of having been convicted or found guilty of:
    1.  driving under suspension;
    2.   speeding over 50 km above the limit;
    3.   careless driving;
    4.   racing on a highway;
    5.   leaving the scene of a collision;
    6.   an offence under the Criminal Code of Canada committed by means of a motor vehicle;
    7.   flight from police;

Applicants must not have:

  • been convicted or found guilty within the preceding five years of two or more offences under the Criminal Code of Canada, committed on different dates by means of a motor vehicle, or while driving or having care and control of a motor vehicle;
  • been convicted or found guilty within the preceding five years under section 4 or 5 of The Narcotic Control Act of Canada;
  • been convicted or found guilty within the preceding five years of certain sexual or morals offences under the Criminal Code of Canada; been convicted or found guilty of any offence for conduct that affords reasonable grounds for believing that he/she will not properly perform his/her duties, or is not a proper person to have custody of children; 
  • accumulated more than 8 demerit points while holding a class "B" or "E" driver's license. 

Drivers – The Most Important Safety Feature

The school day begins when parents put their child on the bus.  Parents and guardians should be able to trust the school bus driver that takes their child(ren) to school and home.  Therefore, it is very important to develop a relationship with your driver.  When a driver knows the child and the parent or guardian, it is easier for the driver to recognize the stop location of each student.

Drivers also monitor the behaviour of students and maintain a calm atmosphere on the bus.  Those  who transport special needs students must have specialized training of mobility and securement devices and the operation of ramps and lifts.