STEO ‘true to our process’ on running school buses Monday

In this Aug. 20, 2015 from the Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario website, STEO posts its busing cancellations for inclement weather. The acting general manager of the transportation consortium says they are true to their process for running the school buses on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016. (STEO via Newswatch Group)

EASTERN ONTARIO – The acting general manager of Student Transportation of Eastern Ontario says its decision to run the buses Monday was made following a comprehensive collection of information early this morning.

Janet Murray told Newswatch Monday afternoon, they go through an “extensive process,” which usually starts 48 hours before the buses run, until they receive information from The Weather Network as well as 18 weather captains on-the-ground across the region early in the morning.

The weather captains are part of the contracted bus companies and usually give reports around 5:45 a.m.

“Information was shared with us through that process that we could expect 4-6 centimeters throughout of entire course of the day in most areas, maxing out at potentially 8 (centimeters) in some areas of service,” Murray said.

She said there were no weather alerts, warnings or “significant concerns” for the region in its entirety this morning, after an “intense and thorough process.”

“So with the forecast, such as it was, in addition to information shared by our bus captains, the decision was made, in consultation with the school board(s) that we service, to run the buses today,” she said.

The heavy, wet snow led to a number of accidents, including a school bus in the ditch near Green Valley. Others reported some school buses couldn’t make hills on the slippery, packed snow.

Murray was asked if anything went wrong today, considering there were roughly 180 busing delays across Eastern Ontario and the head of the Cornwall Community Police Service Traffic Unit posted on Facebook that it was bewildered that the buses were running.

“We are true to our process and what we are doing it trying to make the best decision possible…by 5:45 a.m. at the latest. We are making those decisions based on the information at that time of day and for the duration the buses are on the road ,” Murray told Newswatch.

Murray says decisions can be made on a regional basis sometimes. For instance, buses could run in Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry and not in Leeds-Grenville or vice versa.

The acting GM of the busing consortium was asked whether the company is quick to cancel buses compared to 20 or 30 years ago, as the public shifts to a more American lawsuit-driven society.

“I’m not aware of that having been the case (parents suing STEO over accidents). I think regardless of any concern for those potential lawsuits, exercise the most extreme amount of concern just because of the concern for the cargo that they transport. I think that is always top of mind for them,” Murray said.

She said drivers always have the option to not go down a road they deem unsafe.

“I think that diligence is always there, regardless of what the culture is,” she said.