British Columbia

Kelowna bus driver fails to regain job after texting while driving caught on video

A Kelowna, B.C., transit driver has failed to win his job back after he was caught on video texting for more than a minute while driving a bus with passengers on board down the highway.

Used phone for more than a minute while driving on Highway 97 in Kelowna, B.C.

A Kelowna transit driver claimed he pulled out his phone during a 'lapse of reason' to contact his girlfriend while he was driving a bus with passengers on board along a highway. (David Horemans/CBC)

A Kelowna, B.C. public transit driver's one minute and 14 second stint of texting while operating a transit bus was described as "a deliberate disregard of safety rules" and "one of the worst instances of distracted driving" an investigator had ever seen, according to labour arbitration documents. 

The incident occurred on January 18.

Bus driver Tim Wesman, 59, had been employed by First Canada ULC for four months when he pulled out his cellphone while operating an express bus on Highway 97 in Kelowna. The company has a contract to run public transit in the Okanagan city.

The incident was spotted by another transit driver and captured on a camera inside the bus. The company then fired Wesman following an investigation.

Wesman fought to win his job back through his union, arguing the termination was "unnecessary and inappropriate" given the circumstances that led to the distracted driving and his previous good record as a transit driver.

The arbitrator sided with First Canada in a decision handed down last month.

Staring at his phone while driving

According to a written summary of the video, Wesman took out his phone 10 seconds after pulling into traffic and used the device while driving when the bus was stopped in traffic. 

Wesman continued using his phone as the bus started rolling again — at one point for 29 seconds where he had both hands on the device while driving up to a speed of 45 km/h.

The texting occurred for one minute and 14 seconds with Wesman staring at his phone for 40 seconds as he drove the bus with passengers on board.

The bus driver who witnessed Wesman texting reported the incident to his supervisor who informed First Canada general manager Colin Whyte.

Three or four days later, a manager told Wesman he'd been seen texting and driving. According to the document, Wesman said he didn't recall using his phone.

'Embarrassed by his conduct'

In a written statement submitted a week later Wesman said, "I realized now that I had touched my phone. I believed I was stopped in traffic at the time."

The next week Wesman and a union rep met with Whyte to watch the video.

According to the document, part way through the viewing Wesman asked that it be stopped, saying "he had seen enough" and was "embarrassed by his conduct."

Wesman was dismissed that same day.

An arbitrator ruled the bus driver 'acted with a reckless disregard for public safety' when he used his phone to text his girlfriend while driving. (City of Kelowna)

The company has a strict policy around cellphone use while driving and employees are aware they could be dismissed if caught, according to the document.

During his arbitration hearing Wesman explained his father had died a month before the texting incident. Wesman said he was also worried about an upcoming medical exam and had been experiencing bouts of anxiety.

Wesman testified he desperately wanted to meet his girlfriend the day he texted while driving and he used his phone to arrange the meeting during a lapse of judgment.

His union argued other transit drivers who had been caught using a cellphone while driving had been given suspensions and not terminated. First Canada noted those cases were not as serious as Wesman's.

The company also stated Wesman was not honest about the texting prior to watching the video.

'A reckless disregard for public safety'

The arbitrator ruled Wesman acted with "a reckless disregard for public safety" in texting while driving with passengers on board.

He noted there was "no good reason" Wesman could not have waited to text his girlfriend and agreed with the employer that Wesman "was evasive and less than forthright" when confronted about the texting.

CBC News has not been able to reach Wesman or First Canada ULC for comment. 

About the Author

Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan

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