Many fac­tors need to be con­sid­ered with school buses

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

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.

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