The Alberta School Bus Contractors Association says hundreds of school buses could soon be off the road.
Insurance rates are renewing next month and are expected to be expensive. Some worry the contractor will not be able to afford the increase.
“With the hike in insurance already, our company was in debt. Now from November 1 this second wave of insurance hikes will create a deeper debt,” said school bus contractor Chantal Frechette.
He is one of several bus contractors in Alberta that faced higher premiums last November.
“Small contractors were hit the hardest. Of these, an increase of 358 percent was seen. “They went from about $1,200 per bus to $4,300 per bus,” said Mark Critch, president of the Alberta School Bus Contractors Association.
With insurance renewals a week away, Frechette expects rates to be even higher.
“We need financial help, and if we don’t get this financial help, small companies like mine will have to close our doors, and sadly, there will be a lack of transportation for children to schools,” Frechette said.
Critch said about 500 buses could be taken out of use, affecting 15,000 to 20,000 students.
“Rural areas are the most affected as most of your small contractors are out in rural areas. There are big contractors in metro areas. Their growth has been large but much lower than that of rural small contractors,” Critch said.
Critch said the association is trying to work with the Alberta government on lower rates but those efforts have gone nowhere.
“It is the responsibility of the government to step up and ensure that children can come to school safely. NDP critic Sarah Hoffman said she also had a responsibility to regulate the insurance industry.
In a statement to Granthshala News, Cassandra Kitz, press secretary to Finance Minister Travis Toes, said: “Alberta schools all have school buses, and they have commercial insurance. Getting kids to school safely is always our first priority.”
“The Office of the Minister of Education has received a request from the Alberta School Bus Contractors Association and has responded to the request. Insurance coverage has been found for bus operators contracted to school boards. Renewal of insurance will be effective November 1, 2021. Thus, no government assistance would be required and there would be no disruption in the school bus service.
“Insurance premiums increased for all contracted bus operators, but the largest increase was due to a history of high claims for one insurance group and the decision by their long-term insurer not to insure public entities such as school boards. Many schools The boards have provided additional funding to their contracted bus operators to help subsidize the increase in premiums.
“The insurance industry is actively working to find solutions to achieve more affordable premiums, and in the meantime, school bus operators are advised to most effectively manage their insurance needs with their insurance providers. We are continuously monitoring the issue and looking for alternative solutions to the rising cost of insurance.”
But Critch said that with the new rates, he doesn’t expect the change to happen in a timely manner.
“It seems like nobody wants to do anything until it’s too late, and in a couple of weeks, it will be too late,” Critch said.