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Dracut Schools Ink $1.7M Transportation Contract

Mar 08, 2019 11:23AM ● By Lisa Redmond

DRACUT – With only one qualified bidder, the School Committee recently approved a $1.7 million bid for the first year of a five-year contract with North Reading Transportation Bus Inc. as school bus companies around the state and the nation struggle to hire drivers.

School Superintendent Steven Stone told the committee that of 33 bid packets that were provided to possible bidders, NRT, New England Transit Sales, First Student, Trombly Motor Coach and Dee Bus attended the bidders meeting. NRT was qualified and submitted a bid by the bid deadline.

The transportation costs include busing for regulation education, late buses, sports and field trip, and bus monitors, he said.

The price per bus will increase to $382 from $308 under the is new contract. Stone admits the overall 12 percent increase in the contract is “a lot more than last year,’’ he said it is still below regional spending (for transportation).

After doing a comparison of what other districts pay per bus, NRT’s cost per day per bus/van is the current “market rate’’ and so the contract is “reasonable,’’ according to the bus report.

Chart courtesy of the Dracut Public Schools

To offset some of the transportation costs, students who qualify to ride the bus due to the distance they live from school, pay a $150 per rider user fee with a family cap of $600 in the current school year.

Committee Chairman Joseph Wilkie asked if NRT will provide new buses under the contract? Outgoing School Business Administrator William Frangiamore said the contract calls for bus replacement within 10 years or no more than 200,000 miles. The state Registry of Motor Vehicles inspects the buses every year, he said.

Stone explained the contract includes wage increases and other compensation to help hire and retain bus drivers. The first year will act as a base and should increase about 2 percent per year with cost of living increases.

“There is a shortage of bus drivers. It’s a national problem,’’ he said.

In a 2017 story by ABC News, a survey by School Bus Fleet Magazine describes the shortage of school-bus drivers as “severe.’’

According to School Bus Fleet Magazine, 90 percent of the respondents to their survey have some degree of school-bus driver shortage.

A 2017 review of the issue by the National Association of Pupil Transportation found that the top factors causing the shortage included benefits, wages, obtaining a commercial driver’s license, the split shifts.

The first impediment is the process to get a commercial driver’s license, which includes getting a permit, training time and taking the test can take up to six months, depending on the state, the story states.

The suggested solution ranges from increasing recruiting efforts, wage increases, offering bonuses and optimizing bus routes.

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