Why every fifth child risks being deprived of a school bus at the start of the school year

The problem is not new, but it is getting worse every year. The passenger transport sector has difficulty in recruiting, whether in metropolitan areas or in rural areas. Faced with the Covid-19 pandemic and the ensuing confinement, many drivers preferred to leave their jobs for jobs less affected by the crisis. Several other factors exacerbate this deficiency, the direct consequences of which can prove dramatic. In addition to less frequent desertings – as announced in Metz and reported by France bleu – industry players fear a shortage of 8,000 school bus drivers at the start of the school year. Thousands of children – about one in five – could therefore be left without a bus on 1 September.

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does not count turnover usual”one of the first issues to be addressed for the sector concerns its aging pyramid. “On average, the drivers are 51 years old, and every year massive pensions have to be filled. The phenomenon has escalated with the health crisis because drivers close to legal age left earlier for fear of being hit by the virus.explains Ingrid Maréschal, General Delegate of the National Federation of Passenger Transport (FNTV), the main association of companies in the sector, and adds that the branch today is mainly a way to “retraining”. If the limit for passing the bus driver’s license was set at 21 years, the acquired since April 30, 2021 is available from the age of majority. “But an entire apprenticeship sector must be created, because unlike the truck sector, there is as yet no educational and professional orientation for transport” she continues.

However, Thierry Douine, president of CTFC Transports, one of the unions in the sector, disputes this solution, especially with regard to school lines: “Working conditions with children are not always easy. When they are small, one must be able to ensure their safety. And when they are teenagers, it is sometimes necessary to be respected. How do you expect an 18 year old to achieve this? »

Wages are too low

In the industry, precarious contracts are also a major obstacle to employment. To make ends meet, drivers are regularly forced to find another job. A real challenge for school bus drivers whose deserts are spread out over the day. “It is a job with a very wide range. The main services are in the morning and in the evening, with a large break in between. Part-time work thus accounts for 40% of the contracts in the industry ”, describes FNTV’s general delegate. This necessarily leads to an equivalent remuneration, “if companies have no other tasks” to leave to their employees.

General for Thierry Douine “salary too low” does not make the sector attractive. On average, a public transport driver earns between 1,500 and 2,000 euros net per month, depending on seniority, overtime and any bonuses.

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On the urban stretches, the inconveniences committed against the drivers do not help fill in the gaps. Sometimes it can assume much more serious proportions, such as the assassination of Philippe Monguillot in Bayonne in July 2020. “It does not concern the majority of travelers, but unfortunately we can not deny that it exists. It happens that drivers get stoned, or worse »recognizes the representative of CFTC Transports. ‘There are offenses that can encourage people to leave the profession. But at the moment, I do not think it is a deterrent to becoming a member of the branch. “adds Ingrid Mareschal.

A European phenomenon

Faced with this recruitment difficulty, which has lasted for more than ten years, the regional councils, as it is their competence, try to find solutions. According to Western France In Brittany, a € 10 million plan has been announced – divided into support for training and pay rises – to find the 550 drivers missing for the start of the school year. I Pays de la Loire, “qualifying sessions 100% supported” offered, and opportunity for “complementary activities between sectors in tension” being investigated, again according to the regional daily newspaper.

However, it must be emphasized that this shortcoming is not a specific problem for France. According to a study published in June last year by the IRU (International Road Transport Union), the number of vacant bus drivers reached 7% in 2021, and an increase of 1% is expected in 2022. “This puts already struggling economies and societies at increased risk of inflation, social mobility problems and supply chain collapse”considers the Secretary-General, Umberto de Pretto, and in particular calls on the authorities to “ encourage more women » access to the profession, which represents only 12% of the employment rate in the branch on the continent. In France, between rail, air and road construction, the new Minister of Transport, Clément Beaune, risks stepping on the accelerator.

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