Pennsylvania School Buses: Should You Use Contracted Services?
published on May 19, 2023 by Sonia Mastros
route optimization, school bus routing software, student bus transportation, contracted services, Pennsylvania school buses, school bus driver shortages, inefficient routes, outdated routes, inaccurate routes, route efficiency, state reporting, re-routing, bus shortages
To outsource or not to outsource? For decades, this has been a pressing question which student bus transportation coordinators have wrestled with.
A recent study by The Mackinac Center for Public Policy looked at outsourcing by school districts in several states, including Pennsylvania. They found some interesting distinctions that made Pennsylvania a special case for school bus contracting:
- Pennsylvania has the highest number of districts outsourcing student bus transportation services of the states surveyed, at two-thirds.
- Pennsylvania has many choices in outsourced bus services to choose from, with dozens of different providers operating.
- Contracts with multiple private transportation companies appeared to be fairly common. One school district had contracts with seventeen providers.
Clearly, the wealth of options in private transportation contractors has made it an attractive proposition for many Pennsylvanian districts. But is it right for your district?
Looking to the Bottom Line: The Pros and Cons of Student Bus Transportation Outsourcing
There are some clear and obvious reasons a school district might choose to outsource their bus and other transportation services:
- They no longer have to pay for the costs of maintaining a fleet.
- Training and development of bus drivers is likewise eliminated from the budget.
- Most legal\insurance responsibility for any accidents falls on the contractor, rather than the school district.
- Districts which previously owned their own bus fleet can usually sell those assets off for a substantial one-time cash influx, which is generally in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, at least.
For a school district facing severe budget shortfalls, hiring independent contractors can be an excellent quick fix for their financial situation. The reduced costs combined with the extra money generated by selling assets can go a long way towards mitigating an unfavorable financial situation.
But does it make sense in the longer term? That's harder to say.
Other schools surveyed, such as Rockwood School District in Missouri, found that even the lowest bids for contracted services were more costly than their own self-operated expenses. Other districts tend to view their self-owned bus fleet as an investment, and measure its worth in terms of opportunities it presents them.
Whether outsourcing is a good value largely depends on whether a district is looking at the short- or long-term, as well as the offers on the table.
Another Option for Cutting Costs in Transportation
For an alternative, many districts are turning to high-tech solutions to maximize the efficiency of their bus fleet. A combination of GPS tracking and centralized software allows them to:
- Mathematically optimize bus routes.
- Closely monitor usage statistics, such as fuel consumption and component wear.
- Spot impending mechanical failures before actual failure.
- Improve state reporting and thereby increase state funding.
- Reduce office resources spent addressing parental concerns.
BusBoss route planning, scheduling, optimization, vehicle and student tracking software can significantly reduce student bus transportation costs for any district or independent contractor. Contact BusBoss today for a free demonstration.
Does your district outsource or manage their transportation services in house? What has worked best for you? Weigh in and share some tips on what things to consider before outsourcing one of the most costly services in the district.
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