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Bus Eireann

Bus Éireann stands over ban on over-70s school bus drivers amid shortage

The school bus service is experiencing shortages of drivers as schools return for the academic year.

BUS ÉIREANN HAS said that it has no intention of reversing its current policy of preventing those over the age of 70 from driving school buses.

The announcement comes amid an ongoing shortage of school bus drivers at the start of the 2023/24 academic year.

Bus Éireann has said that the policy is in place given the scale of the operation of school transport. It said that it is in place as part of its responsibility to ensure the safe transport of over 150,000 children on a daily basis.

It went on to say that while child safety was a core reason for the policy, there were other considerations.

“These include studies we have reviewed associated with driver age and risk and the wider context of the current national concern raised by the Road Safety Authority in relation to the road accident trend,” it said.

“For these additional reasons we have no plans to increase the age limit at this time.”

As a result of calls from consituents, a number of TDs have called for a review of the ban.

Fianna Fáil TD for Clare Cathal Crowe was one such deputy.

He said that the shortage of drivers had left “children across the county with no way to school”.

“In many instances, private coach operators who have contracted themselves to the Department of Education and Bus Éireann have highly competent drivers over the age of 70 who are unable to fulfil morning and afternoon school runs,” he said.

“Bizarrely, these same drivers are allowed during the day to bring children to and from school matches or swimming lessons – so long as it’s not a school drop-off or collection.”

The change, said Crowe, would free up hundreds of drivers to cover shortages nationally.

Bue Éireann has been experiencing severe driver shortages as schools return from their summer breaks. These have left many families unsure as to whether their children will have a bus to school.

Speaking to The Journal earlier this week, a number of parents around the country said they have faced issues with ensuring their children have a school bus to take them to school this year.

They also accused Bus Éireann of making the process “unnecessarily stressful”.

The Department of Education has established an Exceptional No Service Interim Grant to help cover the cost of private transport while families are in limbo.

Payments will not be made until the service has resumed as normal and the total number of days children went without a bus can be calculated.

There is now a customer service line dedicated to school transport queries.

Additional reporting by Mairéad Maguire and Diarmuid Pepper.

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