Above: Vic Greene, who transports École Dufferin students to and from school, took part in the virtual reality training.

Virtual Reality Brings School Bus Driver Training to Another Level 

FRIDAY, APR. 22, 2022


riving a school bus is an immense responsibility. A successful school day starts with the trip to school, and drivers set the tone with a safe, welcoming environment onboard for each learner. Now imagine maintaining that environment for students while also contending with fog, construction zones, slippery conditions, deer running into the roadway, tight turns and aggressive, speeding cars – all within a few minutes. 

That’s exactly what some school bus drivers across the Grand Erie region underwent as part of regular safety training sessions this week, and they did it without ever leaving the parking lot. It all took place on a technology-enhanced coach bus with a virtual bus simulator to take driver training to a whole other level by replicating different types of challenging driving scenarios. 

Above: Grand Erie School bus driver Vic Greene thinks virtual reality provides an opportunity to build on traditional safety training with hands-on experience.

“It’s a really hands-on way to build on the traditional safety training, and definitely makes you more aware of your surroundings,” said Vic Greene, a school bus driver whose route includes transporting students to and from Ecole Dufferin. “My next run is at 3 o’clock, and I will for sure approach it differently – this is a great experience.” 

The technology is owned by transportation company Transdev, a parent company of Voyago, and is moving to various locations in the province to aid school bus driver training. This week, it’s in Waterford at Voyago’s office. Each driver took a turn behind the virtual wheel, surrounded by screens immersing them within typical Ontario roadways. Most got off to a tentative start, getting accustomed to the steering and braking systems before hitting the open road. That’s when the real challenge starts and drivers skills are put to the test. 

“When you brake, the seat moves, and when you drive through gravel on the shoulder, you feel that too,” added Greene. 

Once the driver completes their virtual route, a report is produced noting any collisions (those deer can be tricky), speeding or other infractions. There’s no pass or fail grading, but the information is a helpful complement to the rest of the day’s training. 

“It’s really exciting technology that Voyago is rolling out,” said Philip Kuckyt, Manager of Transportation, Student Transportation Services Brant Haldimand Norfolk. “It is great to see the company leveraging technology to allow drivers to improve their skills in a safe and controlled environment. This will certainly improve driver awareness and lead to a safer service for our students.” 

Valuable, ongoing professional development is a cornerstone of Grand Erie’s multi-year strategic plan. Chances to take part in unique and worthwhile trainings like this align with the collective priority of nurturing curiosity and opportunity for every learner, and help build the culture of well-being that includes the trip to and from school for many students.  

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