Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Belleville signs onto busing issue

The Intel had a story posted to the web late Monday as Belleville city council added its support to the small group backing independent school bus operators in the Hastings and Prince Edward DSB area. I've blogged about this before, here and here.
The bus operators claim the RFPs being issued by the transportation consortium in their region are keyed to give preferential status to multi-national or larger school bus operators (IE: Laidlaw, Students First, etc.). They're fighting for their livelihoods as they believe the RFP process will shut them out and they'll lose the hundred or so routes they currently operate on contract for the different boards in the consortia.
Vaughn Richmond, owner of Richmond School Coach, told council during Monday’s meeting that the group can’t compete with large multi-nationals.
In the past, Richmond said, drivers’ contracts were renewed annually, with the ministry only serving to oversee the related grant structure.
Richmond stated several concerns with the ministry’s proposal, including potential reductions in operators and increases in provincial taxes that he said could arise “after an RFP removes the competition.”
The Independent Operators also have concerns about the stability of the system under large companies.
Richmond told council that it would “not be a stable platform under an RFP,” and that there are already two multi-nationals operating in the Quinte region that he knows of.
There are legitimate concerns here about the ability of smaller school bus operators to survive in a consortium-based world where contracts are handed out worth tens of millions to transport tens of thousands of students to hundreds of schools within a district. Larger companies, I would suspect, are able to more easily offer the route-sharing and fiscal efficiency that a smaller company may not be able to, putting them at a disadvantage within a consortia bound to reduce costs and the total number of routes it's running.
However, given the ultimate goal of the consortia is to reduce the overall amount spent for school transportation in the province, I don't forsee the scenario Richmond presented to council.
Later in the piece, one councillors gives his full support but asks whether the independents can submit a joint bid-- apparently they aren't recognized and able to bid as a joint entity.
This sort of scenario does exist in other consortiums-- school bus operators banding together for joint contract negotiation, etc., in an association that includes multi-national and local bus operators. Something to ponder.


Anonymous said...

The move to consortia has inevitably led to only the big companies being able to meet the requirements for efficiency that boards have to meet if they are to get approval for their transportation grants. The efficiency folks aren't interested in the mom and pop operators - just the bottom line. Some consortia continue to hire small operators - but then are punished as a result.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 20:51 - so does this make school boards more about "efficiency" and trustees those "efficiency folks"

Seems to me that when delivering education to children(and I see transportation as being a rung in the delivery ladder) becomes more about that bottom-line we all lose.

What's worse is the move by some to cloak that bottom-line so it's less obvious such as with the new accommodation review guidelines.