Transit Windsor experiences bus driver shortage

Oct 3, 2023

A recent analysis article published by CBC News examined the current shortage of city bus drivers in Windsor. According to Tyson Cragg, Transit Windsor’s executive director, the service is short of approximately 10% of its pool of 200 bus drivers and has been relying on its staff to work overtime to compensate for the shortage.

Since the service involves crossing the border to the U.S. due to the tunnel and special event buses to Detroit, drivers need to adhere to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s program regulations. These include quarterly random drug testing, which may deter some job applicants, said Craigg.

“And then if there’s issues like, for example, the drug test comes back positive, then the level of testing, the frequency of testing increases as a result,” Craigg said in his interview with CBC News. “The majority of the drivers are required through our collective agreement to be in the drug and alcohol pool, which basically qualifies you for international operations, whether it be the tunnel bus or special events operations.”

Moreover, the national president of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Canada, John Di Nino, has expressed concerns over the effects of drivers having to work overtime over the long term.  

“Is that sustainable at some point over many, many months and maybe years?” he said. “You know, some of these people are going to start to experience some sort of fatigue when it comes to trying to make ends meet and taking on all this overtime.”

According to Craig, one of the reasons there are not enough new drivers being hired is due to Transit Windsor trying to reduce costs.

“Overtime is a cost savings to the employer and they manage their portfolio from a cost-savings perspective as opposed to actually hiring people — it’s cheaper for them to pay the overtime. And the reason that it’s cheaper is that they don’t have to pay extra into pensions,” he said.

Craigg also added that other contributing factors to the shortage are increased ridership levels following the COVID-19 pandemic, high selectivity for job candidates, failure of transit agencies to deliver competitive wages, and a retiring workforce of current drivers. Furthermore, Craigg noted that there is a reluctance for individuals to move into the transit industry due to safety fears due to the pandemic, as well as an “increase in violence against transit workers at astronomical levels.”