In 2014, two bus transportation organizations in the province of Québec — Association des propriétaires d’autobus du Québec (APAQ) and the Association du transport écolier du Québec (ATEQ) — became one entity.

This merger created the Bus Carriers Federation, gathering more than 700 members working in all sectors of private passenger transportation, including schools, intercity, urban, charter and tourism, adapted, airport and medical. The federation’s mission is to bring private transportation companies together to promote the safe and efficient movement of people and to contribute to the image, value and stability of passenger transportation.

Preparing for future challenges
This merger was necessary in anticipation of the many challenges and issues the bus transportation industry will face in the coming years in Québec. One of these challenges is the renewal of the school transport contracts expected for 2017. Unanimously, the members of both associations chose to unify their voices to ensure strong and coordinated political representation.

Historically, school transport contracts have been awarded by negotiations by will. Three years ago, a report by the general controller of Québec raised the issue of disparity in the prices of contracts awarded to carriers. Committees have been created to find solutions to eliminate those disparities. Additionally, a difficult economic environment forces school boards to cut their spending and save money.

The temptation will be strong to lean toward the public tender as a method of awarding school transport contracts. The Bus Carriers Federation believes this contracting model would generate uncertainty in the school bus industry and would have negative impacts for a very large number of companies. Before imposing a public tender system that could weaken an industry, administrative and political authorities must take into account the performance of the current model, including:

•    a perfect matching of supply with respect to client needs;
•    high customer satisfaction rates;
•    effective resources management;
•    efficient and effective service in terms of productivity, safety, reliability and stability.

This is a great example of why both associations decided to merge their operations. Since the merger, the federation now represents almost all private bus companies, small to large, in the province.

Continuing critical safety campaign
For the past 27 years, the federation and its partners have organized an annual campaign, held in early to mid-February, that promotes safety on and around school buses all over Québec.

This two-week campaign, “Did You See Me?”, is composed of videos with original cartoon characters, posters, activities, a children’s book and a provincial media plan. It is a great opportunity to remind motorists of the important role they play in ensuring the safety of students when they are around school buses.

The “Did You See Me?” slogan involves all the interveners in the school transportation system, from the student to the bus driver or motorist; the bus driver to the students or motorists; and the motorist to the students.

For many years now in Québec, fewer and fewer accidents are attributable to school bus transportation. The results speak for themselves: Compared with the 1990s, when Québec averaged six to eight deaths per year, statistics now show a nearly clean slate, varying between zero and one death per year. However, as in many other areas, nothing can be taken for granted. That is why the federation organizes this campaign each year.

Martin Bureau is communication and public affairs manager for the Bus Carriers Federation.