In addition to providing regular transportation services to and from school, school districts often face the task of providing transportation for educational programs, extracurricular activities, field trips and athletic events. Many school districts provide these services on their own, but when districts are located close to each other and can share resources, they may be able to save money and time on buses, routes, fleet maintenance and software. School transportation consulting companies can often help districts analyze the best scenarios for collaboration and provide recommendations to move forward with a partnership.
Companies such as School Bus Consultants have analyzed key areas of transportation collaboration among school districts, and learned several important lessons about how such collaboration can benefit districts:
- Primary Service Delivery - In this scenario, school districts share buses as well as drivers. This can create the potential for substantial cost savings, but may be complex to implement.
- Support Services - In a collaborative approach to support services, areas such as fleet maintenance, parts inventories and cooperative purchasing are done together. This yields a smaller cost savings but can significantly decrease each district’s exposure to risk.
- Infrastructure - School districts Centralization of shared bus parking, maintenance facilities, office spaces, administrative support, communications, GPS technology and even routing software can lead to big savings. However, collaborative infrastructure must be approached with sensitivity at the community level if local jobs are to be affected.
- Management Services - A transportation manager can coordinate across more than one school district, and routing services or training resources may be shared. This consolidation often leads to better expertise in specialized areas such as efficiency with extracurricular and athletic trips, and cost savings often emerge over time.
In general, student transportation costs can fall by up to 60 percent for on-bus staffing, followed by 15 percent for the fleet itself, 10 percent for fuel, 10 percent for operations, and 5 percent for management. Generally, driver labor and operations compromise the bulk of the costs.
At the same time, collaboration requires a shared policy among districts, especially when it comes to bell time coordination. Buses can — and should — be used multiple times in a school day when possible, and shifting bell times and tiers may help. At the same time, small scale collaboration on maintenance, fuel and administrative services can serve as a stepping stone for larger partnerships. In all, each school and each school district has a set of transportation policies regarding bus stop criteria, ride time parameters, students per seat, discipline guidelines and bell time requirements that should be considered by professionals before setting up a new arrangement between schools and school districts.