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Bus Éireann must review ageist policy on drivers to support expansion of School Transport Scheme – Lombard

1st March 2024 - Senator Tim Lombard

Bus Éireann’s outdated age policy begs the question whether it’s time to review their operation of such an important contract like the School Transport Scheme, a Fine Gael Senator has said.

Senator Tim Lombard of Cork was speaking following an interview with Bus Eireann CEO on RTE’s Drive time this week, during which, he defended their policy which prevents drivers aged over 70 from operating the school transport scheme.

“There are many qualified bus drivers around Ireland, aged 70 and over, who are currently ruled out under the scheme. With the proposed expansion of the School Transport Scheme published this week this will have to be addressed to help with capacity challenges.” Senator Lombard said.

“Quite simply it’s an ageist policy.”

“Road safety is paramount when it comes to the transport of school children and teenagers. This above all else must be our guiding principle and should always be adhered to, but the exclusion of experienced and medically fit drivers simply because of their age is ludicrous.

“I listened to Stephen Kent on Drive time on Wednesday, and he could offer no evidence that a medically fit and qualified 71-year-old driver is less safe than a younger driver.

“Quoting a Canadian study from 2012 and making generalisations about a whole cohort of drivers over 70 being a greater risk rather than focussing on experience, qualifications and medical fitness of individuals made for a ‘bus crash’ interview.

“Over 90% of School Transport services are contracted locally. These contractors can employ a 70-year-old driver to take students to a school match or swimming lessons but can’t employ that driver to drive the school bus in the morning or evening. No matter what way you look at this it defies logic.

“We know a reversal of this Bus Éireann ageist policy won’t solve all capacity issues, but it should be part of the solution.

“We need foresight and ingenuity to resolve the current school transport impasse. It may be an administrative headache for Bus Eireann, but for families across the country it’s an urgent need.

“A state-owned body like Bus Éireann solely using age as the criteria to exclude drivers is unacceptable – it’s time they reviewed this policy,” Senator Lombard concluded.

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