Pupil transport. Photo to illustrate.Photo: ANP/Arie Kievit

Student transport in the municipality of Altena is going through a difficult period. The College of Mayor and Aldermen (B&W) announced this in a letter to the municipal council. According to them, the shortage of personnel and the increasing absenteeism among drivers are at the root of the current problems.

In the municipality of Altena, located in the province of North Brabant, transport company Juijn is responsible for implementing the student transport. According to the council of B&W, the Zaltbommelse transport company is struggling with several problems, as a result of which student transport is currently not running optimally. “The problems at the carrier are serious due to a staff shortage, high absenteeism and extra demand from the municipality”, the council wrote in a letter to the council last week.

High absenteeism due to illness “At the moment there are logistical problems when planning rides, which has consequences for pick-up and waiting times of the students who use this form of transport in accordance with the scheme,” according to the college. “Children are sometimes picked up later than usual or cannot be picked up due to staff illness. In addition, we see that the extra requests for the children who use the language classes lead to new rides that are difficult to schedule at the desired times.”

In addition, the Commission believes that the current problems will not be solved quickly. “Despite the actions and measures that Juijn, but also volunteers have taken in consultation with the municipality, we expect little change in the coming months in the increasing percentage of absenteeism and staff shortages. We understand that this is very annoying for parents who are unexpectedly confronted with this, but also for their children.”

Streamlining The college says it has already had several conversations with Juijn. During these discussions, the main focus was on how both parties can ‘streamline’ the current problems as best as possible. According to the commission, various solutions have emerged from those discussions, which can mitigate the impact of the problems. For example, both parties want to point out to parents of children who use student transport the kilometer allowance that they can receive if they arrange adapted (taxi) transport. The deployment of volunteers is also not excluded.

Finally, the Commission would like to emphasize that they cannot always have a complete grip on situations such as these, which makes it difficult for them to make adjustments. “We do our utmost to shape this as well as possible together with the carrier. We realize that this can lead to unpleasant situations for involved parents and their children,” concludes the college.

Difficult month Transport company Juijn confirms to TaxiPro that October has been a difficult month for them. “It is true that in October, simultaneously with the national wave of flu complaints and corona infections, we experienced a high rise in absenteeism within our company. In combination with the continuing shortage of drivers, this created a situation that we were justifiably concerned about.”

In Altena, Juijn says he transports more than 250 students daily in 11 routes to school. “In the entire month of October, six routes were abandoned or not driven at all. Very annoying per incident, but at those moments there was no driver available anymore.”

The transport company from Zaltbommel is therefore in constant consultation with the municipality. Juijn also believes it is important that parents are updated on issues such as these in a timely manner. “Informing in advance creates awareness whereby in the event of an emergency, for example if a route is abandoned or canceled, hopefully more understanding of the situation.”

New influx of drivers However, there is also good news to report. For example, Juijn says that the peak in sick reports has leveled off after the autumn holidays. “Most likely thanks to the autumn holidays and period of rest. All routes have been driven on time as usual, we did not have to move a single ride. This has resulted in a new influx of drivers. We are now a bit more spacious in our occupation. However, in the unlikely event of a subsequent wave of sick leave, the situation can quickly turn around. We remain alert and monitor the situation and the ratio of sick reports to the number of routes to be driven on a daily basis,” concludes the student transport company.

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