The extreme cold warning issued by Environment Canada continues into the weekend.

We would like to thank parents, students and schools for their patience and understanding during the past week for the East Thunder Bay Transportation Consortium as we worked to getting children to and from school and doing so safely for both students and bus drivers during this period of extreme cold weather.

The decision to cancel student transportation is never taken lightly and the challenge in doing so knowing the effects of snow or ice on safely driving a bus in those conditions pales in comparison in deciding to cancel due to extreme cold temperatures. The varying effects of temperature on the many electronic, air and emission systems required in modern school buses is a concern anytime ambient temperature drops below -30°Celsius. Southland’s team of mechanics, drivers and dispatchers were hard taxed this week as to keep buses running and picking up students. We sincerely appreciate their efforts and dedication.

Knowing our climate and being familiar with winter Southland has invested in a fleet powered by gas engines making them more robust in the colder temperatures than diesel powered buses as winter grade diesel fuel tends to gel as it approaches -40°Celsius.  The gas engines are also easier to start in the colder temperatures.

The East of Thunder Bay Transportation Consortium is geographically one of the largest Consortia in Ontario. There are many challenges with servicing such a large area with the weather conditions and temperatures being very different along the shores of Lake Superior than they are inland in the Northern Regions. Every effort was made to monitor the conditions in each of the communities we service.

As for the timing, Environment Canada issues current temperature updates once an hour. The 6am reading is the latest we are able to make a decision since the 7am reading would be too late for notifying rural parents and bus drivers.

Why not Windchill? Windchill is what the temperature “feels like” to exposed human skin and does not affect inanimate objects. Our responsibility is to provide transportation based on whether the buses can operate through the duration of the inclement weather event. The amount of time a driver or mechanic is expected to be outside the bus during extreme cold conditions is kept to a minimum which can contribute to determining not to run a bus if it is suffering from a mechanical issue. Whether a student should be outside in extreme cold to catch their bus is a decision to be made by their parent.

A heartfelt thank you to all the amazing school bus drivers, mechanics and dispatchers on the Southland team who pulled together this week to make student transportation happen under very challenging conditions. Once again, you have proven yourselves as being the heroes we need.

Anthony Friedrich

Transportation Coordinator