The shortage of bus drivers is hitting public transit hard. At exo, where there is still a shortage of more than fifty employees to “offer the planned service”, working conditions will be reviewed to fill the gap by 2025.
“We have around 1000 drivers. Fifty is not such a big percentage, but the problem is that the shortage is felt in the same sectors, so the cancellations are repeated. We really want to correct that,” explains exo’s general manager, Sylvain Yelle.
Out of a total of around 5,500 trips per day, just over 80 (1.5%) are affected by cancellations on a regular basis, he says. In a report led by the exo crisis unit published on Thursday, we can read “that a missing bus driver can affect on average up to 8 trips”.
Exo, whose drivers are largely provided by external carriers, aims to hire the missing fifty drivers by 2025. This would allow it to return to a delivery rate of 99.5%. “We are already expecting gains this fall,” says Mr. Yelle.
The sectors most affected by the shortage are L’Assomption, Terrebonne, Mascouche, Sorel-Varennes, but also Le Roussillon, which includes Candiac and La Prairie, where users say they are less well served since the overhaul of the service linked to the Express Network. metropolitan (REM).
Regarding this overhaul, moreover, Mr. Yelle promises adjustments in two stages, first “within a few weeks”, then in a few months. “In the short term, we saw that the hours do not quite correspond with the exit hours of CEGEP Édouard-Montpetit. We will adapt,” he says.
A survey will also be distributed soon to users with the aim of making broader corrections in the coming months, maintains the CEO. “Whatever we can do to make life easier for our users, we will do it,” he insists.
As for the shortage, the crisis unit, which brings together mayors, the Regional Metropolitan Transport Authority (ARTM) and the Urban Transport Association (ATUQ) as well as Keolis and Transdev, is proposing to reorganize working hours and adjust beat times. In L’Assomption, where the shortage is particularly acute, certain stops have already been moved “to offer more direct journeys” which require less time and therefore drivers. They also have more time between two trips.
These measures will be extended to a new, as yet unidentified sector in spring 2024, “in order to create more attractive work shifts”, maintains exo. The organization also claims to be studying the possibility of “limiting the use of changes in bus gauges on the same route during the day, which would make it possible to create continuous shifts”.
In the Laurentides sector, a pilot project is also already in effect on line 11 to review drivers’ vehicle assignments. The initiative allows, among other things, to remove a driver on Saturday and Sunday, to offer more time off.
The company also wishes to further recognize the skills of foreign workers and facilitate the training process in centers and companies. Discussions are currently underway with the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ) to reduce the waiting time before obtaining licenses, particularly for drivers with immigrant backgrounds.
Exo also intends to increase the number of pilot projects for “new modes of mobility” which require few or fewer drivers, such as on-demand transport, i.e. a bus service based on the more localized needs of users. Projects have already taken place in Beloeil and Terrebonne, in particular.