School bus contractors are hoping to get about an additional $500,000 from the state to cover vehicle insurance costs.
The request reflects a survey presented in Thursday’s Public School Transportation Committee meeting.
The contractors say costs are higher than the state allots; some companies are requiring higher levels of premiums to cover special needs students, potential child abuse and acts of terrorism; and that the difference in insuring smaller buses and larger ones isn’t as much as the state pays for.
“There are 93 contractors south of the canal for this new year, and there are 615 buses that operate south of the canal,” said Tyler Bryan, education associate for school transportation at the Department of Education.
“It has been a barrier for new contractors to get, and especially one-bus operators who want to pick up a bus, to get any insurance company to take them if they don’t have like five years of insurance are given worse premiums at much higher rates,” Bryan said.
The current state allowance for bus insurance, which is calculated by passenger sizes of buses, is $2,104 for buses that hold 60 or more passengers, $1,822 for buses carrying 36 to 59 passengers, $1,735 for buses holding 17 to 35 passengers and $1,563 for buses with a capacity of 16 passengers or less.
“We had 42 respondents to the survey and the average insurance cost of all the respondents was $2,993.75,” Bryan said.
The average cost for insurance per bus last year, according to the survey, was $3,031.44.
Bus contractors are asking for the state to fill that gap.
Here’s how much was spent on individual bus insurance by the surveyed contractors :
Some of the concerns reported in the survey were:
- Newer contractors with little experience are paying more than $6,000 per bus for insurance.
- There isn’t a significant price reduction for contractors of smaller buses, and most smaller buses transport special services students which may cause insurance to require higher premiums for liability.
- The current transportation funding formula reimbursement doesn’t provide additional funding for vendors to increase above minimum insurance requirements. There is concern that a $1 million liability is no longer sufficient in a school bus accident.
- Some insurance companies are starting to require additional insurance for terrorist attacks and/or for child abuse.
The committee seems to be turning its focus away from bus driver pay and towards insurance and benefits.
Along with the Public Education Compensation Committee, the transportation committee has sent recommendations to the governor to increase bus driver pay to $25 an hour from $22.50.
Any changes will have to be made in legislation sent to the General Assembly.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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