Soaring premiums that are expected to take effect in next month could force hundreds of school buses in Alberta off the road, an industry association has warned.
The Alberta School Bus Contractor Association (ASBCA) has raised concerns that many contractors might not be able to afford the anticipated increase in insurance rates come renewal time in November, which might push some to halt operations.
ASBCA president Mark Critch told the Calgary Herald that premiums for school buses have shot up by as much as 358% at the same time last year, raising annual rates from $1,300 to $4,300.
He added that around 500 buses in the province, which services between 15,000 and 20,000 students, will have their coverage up for renewal but very few insurance providers were giving them “straight answers” on how much the new rates will be or what will be covered.
Critch said that although all contractors would feel the impact of the price hikes, small and mid-size operators, or those who own fewer than 10 buses, would bear the brunt of the increases.
“We’ve tried to get insurance for these small contractors through our association, we’ve got different answers from so many different insurance providers,” he told the Calgary Herald. “I don’t know that anyone has a good answer outside of the fact that the insurance companies just don’t want the business anymore.”
Critch said that the ASCBA had already reached out to the Alberta government to help provide operators about $2,500 in financial support for each bus to ease the pressure but has received little response.
However, Kassandra Kitz, press secretary for Minister of Finance Travis Toews, told the Calgary Herald that the province had already responded to the association, adding that the price hike was primarily coming from one insurance group that received a high number of claims. She also said there was one insurer that decided to stop providing coverage to public entities.
“Alberta schools all have school buses, and commercial insurance is in place for them,” Kitz said in an email sent to the Calgary Herald. “Getting kids to school safely is always our number one priority. Increased insurance premiums are happening across Canada with a limited insurance supply, and quite frankly, more claims.”
But NDP education critic Sarah Hoffman said that the government is responsible for regulating the insurance industry and lifting the pressure off the shoulders of the contractors. She also called on the province to meet with the operators and come up with a solution.
“They seem to be giving insurance companies pretty much whatever they ask for, and the government has a responsibility to take care of people and to make sure that children can get to school,” Hoffman told the Calgary Herald.