Many factors need to be considered with school buses
On behalf of the Charles County School Bus Contractor’s Association (CCSBCA), I am disappointed that your article of April 22 titled, “School board looks into bus transportation” contained no information or input from any of the small local family owned businesses who currently provide daily bus transportation services for our children. The majority of the bus contractors are family-owned businesses that have been providing outstanding service to the community since the 1920s.
The article fails to point out that the presentation made to the school board was based on a 2010 legislative audit that is now six years old and upon a 2012 presentation, which was also in large part based on the 2010 audit. Most importantly, the article failed to note that, according to the presentation to the school board, after all estimated expenses, these small businesses only recognize a return on their investment of approximately 5 percent. In 2010, the rate of return was approximately 10 percent. Since 2010, that rate of return has declined by 50 percent. This is a result of economic and legislative changes, which were not reflected or discussed. For example, in 2012 the General Assembly changed Maryland law to enable local school boards to extend the life of a bus from 12 years to 15 years. As with any vehicle, an extended life equates to extended and increased maintenance costs. As local companies committed to ensuring the safety of our children, maintenance of our buses is of the highest priority. Additionally, the presentation failed to explain other factors which contribute to the increased cost of transportation. Some of those factors include the costs to transport our displaced students, special education students and our out of zone students. The provision of these valuable services do not lead to increased profit margins for the bus contractors but do increase cost and expense. These are a small fraction of the facts and issues not discussed in detail.
Finally, the article does not speak to the fact that as bus contractors we are dedicated to providing the highest quality of service to our consumers: our children. For decades, we have ensured the safest and efficient provision of service to our community. Bus contractors work together to ensure that routes are covered, often lending a hand to another contractor when a driver is sick or a replacement bus is needed. This is how small business should work. As small businesses, many owners routinely operate a bus or drive a route.
No story should be told without all members of the story having a voice. No decisions should be made without the participation of all parties, to include as Superintendent Kim Hill stated, the “family owned businesses who have provided our school system with great service over many decades.”
Mark Koch, La Plata The writer is the president of the Charles County School Bus Contractor’s Association.