Re article: Consortium shakes up bus operators
January 19, 2018
As it appears that Ms. Wendy Dobson of the WDSTS, seemingly has the bus driver pool under control, there are a few things that the WDSTS needs to consider.
The school bus driver is a free agent, and with a valid B License and a clean record they will be able to get hired on with almost any school bus operator of their choice. Since the drivers’ minimum rate of pay is now mandated by WDSTS, the only thing that will change is the name on the side of the bus and on their pay stub. The only thing they may forfeit is the relationship of mutual respect and trust they have built with the operations and maintenance staff.
What the WDSTS hasn’t taken into consideration is the current full-time operations and maintenance staff, some of who have been with the companies’ long term and have provided years of hard work, dedicated service and loyalty. These staff have earned wage increases, accumulated holidays and other benefits that may be lost if they are forced to start at the bottom of the ladder once again. Will the new company recruit the current experienced staff who are familiar with the area? If the operations and maintenance staff are to be taken on by the new company, (we have only heard mention of the drivers), will they be compensated for their years of service?
It takes years to assemble a great group of people that work well together to make a smooth running operation.
Ms. Dobson is going to ensure a smooth transition. If Ms. Dobson had been with the WDSTS in 2010, the last devastating blow to the school bus industry, she would realize that this transition will be anything but smooth. Eight years ago after the first full round of RFP’s, many local, small operators were crippled. Back in 2010 the RFP process was to save $661,000 annually. Our taxes have not decreased. Where did the 5 million dollars plus go? Wi-Fi?
Operators have been and will likely continue to be forced to put on many more miles to service their routes and equipment in many cases, they may not or do not have a local operations facility. How could this be efficient?
Ms. Dobson wants “a good pool of operators to help you out if there was an issue”. Years ago before this RFP nonsense came about, there was a great pool of operators that worked together and helped each other out. Two instances come to mind. Instance one was early in my school bus career. It was a miserable winter day and I had been dispatched to deliver a bus to a driver that was stuck and required a heavy tow. Upon arrival at the scene I was astonished to find that I had just delivered a bus to a different operator. The driver transferred the students and continued to finish their route. Instance two, after a weekend in the spring, drivers came to do their pre trip inspections to find that we had been vandalized. Nine buses with one flat steering tire each. I presumed someone didn’t want to go to school that day and had drilled holes in the sidewall of the tires. Dispatch somehow managed to get all of the students to school, likely with the help of other local operators. The next problem is where do we come up with enough tires to get 9 buses back in service (at that time school bus tires were not typical in size to the rest of the transportation industry). We had only 2 in stock, as we had just replaced 2 on the Friday before, one of which now had a hole in the sidewall. The next thing you know, the owner of the company appears with the box of his truck full of tires. I asked him where on earth he had gotten those. He had gone to all the other local operators and borrowed tires. That folks, is TEAM work. The teamwork that would be beneficial to the school board and the parents of the students that we transport, no longer exists due to the animosity created between operators by the RFP process.
The school bus industry is a unique part of the transportation industry, unlike any other. Dispatch can be crazy for 4 hours a day, 2 hours in the morning and 2 in the afternoon, particularly in inclement weather. The phone never stops ringing with parents concerned about their
child(ren) being picked up or dropped off late. Drivers on the 2-way radio having issues with road conditions, closures, accidents, having to re-route, etc. Unlike dispatching a truck to California where dispatch has 3 days to find the driver a load home, we are doing well to have 3 minutes to make the correct decision.
All positions in the school bus industry are equally important. We have learned to work together as a team to ensure or greatest resource and future, our children are transported safely.
Did WDSTS give any consideration to the “small” operators that may have spent a million dollars or more on new equipment (buses) last year, due to contract obligation? They do not have other locations to ship it off to. What are they to do with the equipment now? Sell it at 60% of its depreciated value?
It is quite a shame and quite discouraging to lose all of this in the event WDSTS can hopefully save a couple of bucks.
No longer is the worry of getting put out of work by the completion, now we are getting put out of work by the government.
WDSTS is messing with the lives and livelihood of many!