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Bus operators give ultimatum to government

['Two of the new style school buses that will be on the roads in the Lewisporte area this school year. One of them is wheelchair accessible.']
['Two of the new style school buses that will be on the roads in the Lewisporte area this school year. One of them is wheelchair accessible.']

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. — The province's bus operators association says it's warned government if they don't get a meeting on Monday with the Department of Education they're yanking their buses off the road.

Dave Callahan, president of the group told The Telegram he'll be in St. John's on Sunday for an emergency meeting with bus operators.

"In the name of God we don't want to park the buses," Callahan said. He said the group will give notice to parents to make alternate arrangements if that happens.

The group wants an immediate negotiated contract for school busing in the province and says it has demanded by letter to Education Minister Dale Kirby, Premier Dwight Ball and others the Monday morning meeting.

"I'm not staying in St. John's forever," said Callahan, a west coast school bus operator.

The operators also are seeking an independent review of school busing.

This comes in the wake of a blowup over failed school bus inspections.

Bus operators are upset about tendered contracts they say is ends in government awarding low-balled bids that leave them not able to properly operate. They contend that while they have been arguing with government for years, they are now in a state where they can't operate properly and blame is being deflected to them by government for safety problems.

Callahan said there may be some problem operators, but the entire industry is broke.

On Thursday, it was revealed some more school buses owned by Executive Taxi have been removed from service.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Service NL inspected 37 buses owned by Executive Taxi, a spokeswoman for the department said.

Nine of those buses were removed from service and six were placed on restricted service.

On Monday, the department had indicated six of 11 buses belonging to Executive Taxi were removed from service at that time. But the inspections have been ongoing this week.

Monday Service NL said it inspected 11 buses that belong to Executive Taxi at two locations — Goulds and Octagon Pond. Three passed inspection, two were placed on restricted service and six were taken out of service. Defects included problems with stop arms, window buzzers, brakes and fuel leaks.

Related stories:

School bus company, mechanic face 100 charges in total under Highway Traffic Act

Citizen’s rep nearing completion of investigation into school busing

Too early in school year for buses to be plagued with problems: Peter Whittle

Half of company’s school buses fail inspections

Service NL said in a statement it is currently finishing annual, mandatory inspections of 100 per cent of the school buses in the province. Those should be done by Nov. 18.

Meanwhile Independent MHA Paul Lane said he still has not heard any reply from Premier Dwight Ball on his request for an all-party committee.

He's also still perplexed why Service NL doesn't do its bus inspections in the summer, rather than rely on the official inspection stations, some of which are operated by bus companies.

"Why would you put children at risk for one or two months?" he asked.

All school buses are required to be thoroughly inspected at least three times a year, the department noted.

During the course of these routine inspections, buses may be placed on restricted service — not permitted to carry passengers — or removed from service, depending on what's required for the bus to meet national and provincial safety standards. These buses may be permitted to return to service after they have been fixed and passed an additional inspection.

Last week, Island Bus Service of Portugal Cove-St. Phillips and a unnamed mechanic were charged with a combined 100 counts under the Highway Traffic Act after half of its buses were pulled off the road. The first appearance in provincial court is Nov. 30.

Dave Callahan, president of the group told The Telegram he'll be in St. John's on Sunday for an emergency meeting with bus operators.

"In the name of God we don't want to park the buses," Callahan said. He said the group will give notice to parents to make alternate arrangements if that happens.

The group wants an immediate negotiated contract for school busing in the province and says it has demanded by letter to Education Minister Dale Kirby, Premier Dwight Ball and others the Monday morning meeting.

"I'm not staying in St. John's forever," said Callahan, a west coast school bus operator.

The operators also are seeking an independent review of school busing.

This comes in the wake of a blowup over failed school bus inspections.

Bus operators are upset about tendered contracts they say is ends in government awarding low-balled bids that leave them not able to properly operate. They contend that while they have been arguing with government for years, they are now in a state where they can't operate properly and blame is being deflected to them by government for safety problems.

Callahan said there may be some problem operators, but the entire industry is broke.

On Thursday, it was revealed some more school buses owned by Executive Taxi have been removed from service.

On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Service NL inspected 37 buses owned by Executive Taxi, a spokeswoman for the department said.

Nine of those buses were removed from service and six were placed on restricted service.

On Monday, the department had indicated six of 11 buses belonging to Executive Taxi were removed from service at that time. But the inspections have been ongoing this week.

Monday Service NL said it inspected 11 buses that belong to Executive Taxi at two locations — Goulds and Octagon Pond. Three passed inspection, two were placed on restricted service and six were taken out of service. Defects included problems with stop arms, window buzzers, brakes and fuel leaks.

Related stories:

School bus company, mechanic face 100 charges in total under Highway Traffic Act

Citizen’s rep nearing completion of investigation into school busing

Too early in school year for buses to be plagued with problems: Peter Whittle

Half of company’s school buses fail inspections

Service NL said in a statement it is currently finishing annual, mandatory inspections of 100 per cent of the school buses in the province. Those should be done by Nov. 18.

Meanwhile Independent MHA Paul Lane said he still has not heard any reply from Premier Dwight Ball on his request for an all-party committee.

He's also still perplexed why Service NL doesn't do its bus inspections in the summer, rather than rely on the official inspection stations, some of which are operated by bus companies.

"Why would you put children at risk for one or two months?" he asked.

All school buses are required to be thoroughly inspected at least three times a year, the department noted.

During the course of these routine inspections, buses may be placed on restricted service — not permitted to carry passengers — or removed from service, depending on what's required for the bus to meet national and provincial safety standards. These buses may be permitted to return to service after they have been fixed and passed an additional inspection.

Last week, Island Bus Service of Portugal Cove-St. Phillips and a unnamed mechanic were charged with a combined 100 counts under the Highway Traffic Act after half of its buses were pulled off the road. The first appearance in provincial court is Nov. 30.

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