Below is an outline of the basic steps to follow when considering contracting student transportation services. Feel free to contact us for additional information or assistance in your analysis.

Step 1: Conduct a cost analysis of your student transportation operation.

Conducting a comprehensive cost analysis is beneficial – and eye opening. While labor is one of the largest expenditures, employee wages are just one of many cost elements. You must also calculate benefits, health care, training and testing, pension, workers comp, recruiting and hiring costs, uniforms and workspace costs. Similar extraneous costs, such as depreciation and insurance, should also be included when calculating the cost of your fleet.

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Step 2: Assess your transportation system.

Understand your existing system’s strengths and weaknesses. List your safety performance, on-time delivery, driver shortage percentages, spare bus ratio and breakdown/defect numbers. Then determine concrete goals and objectives for your new transportation system.

Step 3: Determine routing and scheduling responsibility.

Routing and scheduling are absolutely critical to the overall success of a transportation system. Relying on their experiences in operating districts of all sizes, private contractors can often find routing efficiencies that drive cost savings and improve a district’s on-time performance.

Step 4: Be intentional.

Whether it’s for operational savings, improved performance or to replace an aging fleet, identify the specific reasons why contracting is in the best interest of your school district. This enables you to clearly reflect your priorities while developing the RFP — and while communicating with school board members, drivers and community stakeholders.

Step 5: Develop RFP specifications with your district-specific requirements.

Your district’s Request For Proposal (RFP) will define the required specifications for how your transportation must be managed and operated. The contract will serve as an accountability mechanism (which is legally binding and enforceable) and becomes a valuable tool for your district to measure performance success over time and set long-term goals for increased efficiency. Send us a request and we can provide you with a sample RFP from which to begin customizing.

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Download Sample Planning Timeline

Step 6: Establish protection clauses.

You can select specific criteria for your existing staff, fleet and other elements. Some include grandfather clauses pertaining to existing employees and fleet. Whatever you include, make sure you update district policies and procedures to reflect the same. The school district will remain in control of all transportation policy and procedures.

Step 7: Set expectations and communicate often.

It is important to clearly define and communicate your district’s expectations. This helps ensure the school board, drivers, community members and private contractor are all on the same page and working toward common goals. 

Fear of the unknown can drive uncertainty. Inform the public of your decision to outsource and review the process steps with them. Similarly, drivers may be concerned about their jobs and not recognize fully the value of their experience and knowledge. Explain the extensive nature of the RFP process. And, help them to understand that reputable student transportation service providers will recognize the value and importance of retaining as many drivers as possible.

Download Sample PTO Letter
Download Sample News Release

Step 8: Qualify potential transportation providers and issue RFP.

Research potential providers and include them in the RFP process. You will qualify them through your research as well as through the proposal review process. Consider holding a pre-bid conference to openly present all specifications to potential bidders.

Step 9: Rank your responses.

Within your RFP, include a point matrix. This will allow your internal judges to individually assess a point value for each section, or goal. Then, the proposal with the highest total points is likely your best candidate to begin contract negotiations.

Step 10: Negotiate and award.

Jointly develop a comprehensive contract that creates the foundation for a well-formed, high-quality partnership. Include performance, safety and service standards that allow you to meet your district’s goals and expectations.