Hiccups in Supply Chains Affect Student Bus Transportation
published on September 14, 2021 by Sonia Mastros
School Transportation News recently posted an in-depth article talking about new challenges facing the student bus transportation industry. The various economic upheavals of 2020, spearheaded by the COVID-19 outbreak, have disrupted supply chains around the world. This is affecting manufacturers in every industry, including those involved in the creation and maintenance of school buses.
A variety of factors are all contributing to this problem, including:
- Long transportation delays due to lockdowns and extra customs checks
- Quarantines and work-at-home policies slowing down production
- The ongoing truck driver shortage reducing the number of goods being transported in North America
- Weather-related problems, such as the Texas freeze and the Northwest heat wave, further slowing distribution
The big problem is that supply lines and manufacturing chains are deeply interconnected. A problem at one factory can then cause problems at a dozen other operations if they rely on that factory for key components. So the disruption is creating a 'domino effect' that's harming most industries.
But the question is, will these problems impact school districts and their student bus transportation problems?
Here are some likely outcomes we see:
1. Higher Demand - and Higher Prices - for New Buses
Given that prices are going up across all areas of vehicle manufacture, it seems inevitable that school buses will see a price creep as well. Upgrading your fleet may be more difficult for the next couple of years until all the supply line issues are worked out.
Worse, these issues are even driving up the prices for used vehicles. The only upside is that if your district happens to have spare buses to sell, you will probably be able to get a higher price than normal for the next year or two.
2. Spare Parts and Maintenance Will Become More Expensive Too
The supply chain problems aren't limited to 'high tech' products such as electric engines or computer control systems. According to the STN article, even basic components such as bus seats are becoming more difficult and more expensive to manufacture.
If you know there are problems with your buses which will need to be fixed soon, we strongly recommend looking for spares and components now rather than waiting.
3. Bus Drivers May Become Even Harder To Find
For years, every industry that relies on drivers with Commercial Drivers Licenses has been struggling to find enough qualified drivers to meet demand. COVID-19 made this problem even worse. More than ever, school districts will be in direct competition with shipping companies for drivers, and that will be a tough battle to fight.
This may be a good time to investigate third-party outsourcing options. Larger bus companies will have more ability to compete on price and benefits.
In short, these are bad times for the school bus industry - although they will eventually get better. Has your district experienced any problems directly? Let us know in the comments.