In the March 2013 issue of SBF
, I interviewed executives at several school bus companies for a roundtable titled “Contractors on School Busing Now, and What Lies Ahead.”
The officials had interesting things to say on topics ranging from school bus driver shortage to healthcare reform to changes in the contractor market.
Here, I’ll share with you some of their comments that didn’t make it into the print edition of the roundtable.
For the article
, I asked everyone what changes they have seen in the industry over the last several years that have impacted the contractor market. Several people discussed the economy’s impact on the market.
Just as Domenic Gatto, founder and CEO of Atlantic Express Transportation Group in Staten Island, N.Y., said that the company has seen school districts reduce daily routes, field trips, charters and eliminate bus service due to their financial stress, Patrick Dean, director of development at Dean Transportation Inc. in Lansing, Mich., said that his company is also seeing significant reductions in school transportation.
“Schools across the country are doing more with less,” Dean said, and he added that Dean Transportation is “no different.”
“As an organization, we are leveraging technologies … to find every efficiency possible for our partner school districts,” Dean noted. “Our goal is to operate the fewest buses for our schools while providing the high quality service expected.”
David Duke, CEO of Durham School Services’ parent company, National Express Corp. in Warrenville, Ill., also spoke to the ramifications of the challenging economy, saying that not only are student transportation services being cut, “part-time positions are being filled by people that really need full-time employment.”
Duke also sees in these times “a need to get a better return from capital, so there is a push to extend the life span of the fleet. The longer fleet life helps reduce costs for the contractor and the customer.”
“The best way to extend the life of the fleet is to have a quality maintenance program that includes preventive maintenance,” he added.
In terms of state-specific changes, John Corrado, president of Suffolk Transportation Service Inc. in Bay Shore, N.Y., said request for proposal legislation that passed in 1996 marked a significant change in the contractor market.
“Through this qualitative process, school districts are given the opportunity to review a company’s safety practices, maintenance programs, fleet condition, etc.,” Corrado said. “Many operators have made significant investments in training, equipment and facilities so that they can improve service and safety and give their company the best chance to have a winning proposal.”
I also asked officials if there are any regulatory issues at the state or national levels that they were monitoring. Gatto said Atlantic Express continues to monitor environmentally related regulatory issues, as they have been impacting the company’s capital expenditure with higher priced alternative fuel vehicles.
“Additionally, we would like to see more government action against Illegal passing of stopped school buses,” he said. “We are also monitoring issues related to new technology, such as onboard cameras and GPS. Lastly, we would like to see a CDL specifically for school bus drivers.”
Dean said that on a national level, his family’s company is working closely with the National School Transportation Association on issues such as healthcare reform, transit and charter rules, and fuel tax reform.
Until next time,
| posted on Friday, March 22, 2013 8:37 AM