Scott Hucal, general manger of Prairie Bus Lines Ltd./Photo contributed

Red Deer school bus company reviewing everything after driver charged

‘Maybe there’ll be more random testing’

Prairie Bus Lines Ltd. is reviewing all its policies and procedures for drug and alcohol testing after one of its drivers was charged with impaired driving, general manager Scott Hucal said Wednesday.

“We’re searching. … We don’t have all the answers. There’s 6,000 school buses in this province that would be probably thinking of the same thing.”

He said the industry is reeling across the province from the incident, and he’s heard from a lot of people on it. “We’re the forefront of this because it happened to us, but it affects everybody, our community, customers. I’ve got calls from as far away as Fort McMurray.”

On Monday afternoon, a school bus carrying 18 students home from École Barrie Wilson School crashed into a tree and sign in the Vanier Woods neighbourhood. The driver allegedly continued to drive a bit further before stopping. No one was injured.

The driver worked for Prairie for about the past five years but she is now no longer employed there, Hucal said. “Now it’s up to the courts to decide. … The main thing for us is we’ve got to review what we’re doing. We’ve got some good practices … Maybe there’ll be more random testing.”

Prairie Bus Lines drivers have to provide a criminal background check and their driver’s abstract is reviewed before they are hired. Then they must undergo training. Hucal said the believes Prairie Bus Lines does have good hiring practices but they still need to review everything.

“The unfortunate thing is no matter what we do, there’s still the human aspect of life.”

He said there are mechanisms like alcohol lockout devices to help prevent impaired drivers but as far as he knows, no school bus company in Canada uses them.

Prairie runs about 80 buses in the Red Deer area each school day. Hucal said he could not recall any similar situations happening at Prairie Bus Lines where someone was charged with impaired driving.

“All of our drivers and staff are devastated.” Some people are now looking at the company and bus drivers negatively, he said.

“It’s very unfortunate because there’s a lot of very professional and confident, caring drivers out there that are also getting tainted. … At Prairie we’ve got to change the community’s thoughts of what we are and who we are, and just become a better company from this somehow.”

Following a Red Deer RCMP investigation, Shelly Joy Kolodychuk, 42, was charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle; operate a motor vehicle over 80 mg; dangerous operation of a motor vehicle; and failing to remain at scene of collision. She is to appear in Red Deer provincial court on July 12.

barr@reddeeradvocate.com

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