We recognize that contracting school transportation comes with some questions. That’s why we’ve consolidated some of the more frequently asked questions into one easy-to-read list.

How can I determine how much my school district actually spends on transportation?

It’s not as simple as examining your transportation budget. In our experience, there are districts that don’t account for depreciation of buses and facilities, shared payroll and clerical staffs, shared utility costs, capital expenses of facilities, computers and radios, and/or expenses from pool-based benefits like workers’ compensation and liability insurance. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, the opportunity cost of owning capital equipment (like buses and real estate) is often overlooked. You can use our cost calculator to do a basic assessment. 

How can contracting transportation services save my district money?

Contracting student transportation services allows you to achieve greater efficiencies. Your district pays a fixed price for busing services, eliminating hidden costs or unforeseen overruns. We implement a comprehensive, thorough and frequent preventive maintenance program to reduce repair costs. And computerized routing means more efficient use of time. Finally, with 44,000 vehicles in operation, we are able to leverage our size to reduce both direct and indirect costs, from parts purchasing to payroll processing services

What happens to my school district’s current fleet when we contract with First Student?

The choice is yours, and ranges from retaining complete or partial ownership to having First Student purchase an entirely new fleet for your district. Our services are 100% tailored to meet your district’s unique needs. We will work together to determine the best course of action for your existing buses.

If my school district contracts with First Student, who makes transportation decisions?

You hire us; we report to you. You set the parameters and tell us what you want to achieve, and we propose solutions for meeting those needs. We handle the day-in, day-out regimen of safe, efficient student transportation. No major decisions are made without district approval.

What will happen to my school district’s current transportation team should we decide to partner with First Student for busing services?

Your current transportation team’s knowledge of the community and relationships with the students is held in the highest regard. We consider the bus team (drivers, dispatch, maintenance, location managers and support staff) at your location to be a crucial resource; therefore, we make every effort to employ them. Through negotiations with your school board, business/accounting team and bus driver labor union (if applicable), we offer the most competitive wage and training package possible. All bus-related personnel must pass our stringent background checks and substance screenings.

How will First Student ensure that our students will be safe during their bus rides?

Nothing is more important to us than the safety of the children who ride our school buses. We invest millions annually to install safety equipment on our vehicles. Our hiring, training and ongoing development programs for bus drivers and monitors far exceed every industry standard. First Student is the only school transportation company in the industry to be awarded the coveted National Safety Council (NSC) Green Cross for Safety® award, the highest award for safety in North America. This award is presented annually to an organization that has distinguished itself for outstanding achievements in workplace and off-the-job safety and health, community service, environmental stewardship, and responsible citizenship.

Can my school district contract only a portion of our service with First Student?

Yes. Larger districts may initially contract only a portion of their service as a means to gain experience with privately contracted transportation. For example, a district can contract for a limited service, such as preventive maintenance services, and later add more services over time until needs are met. This stepped approach allows a district to transition into contracted transportation services at a pace that may feel more comfortable.

Can partnering with First Student help my small or rural school district with busing?

Yes. Often small districts benefit the most from First Student’s service. We provide advantages that smaller districts typically cannot afford, including comprehensive maintenance and computerized routing, as well as sophisticated driver development and safety programs. Additionally, multiple small districts located in the same region can benefit from shared services — managed and directed by our local, community-based transportation professionals, and using the same bus fleet.

How much experience does First Student have in special-education transportation?

We have extensive experience in pre-school, early childhood and special-needs student transportation services. Our drivers serving students with special-needs receive unparalleled training in a variety of areas, including characteristics of disabilities, sensitivity and handling special equipment, to meet the needs of these students.

What is your safety record?

First Student is twice as safe as the industry average as measured by both collisions and injuries. We use a variety of leading technologies and driver training programs to keep your students safe and on time.

My school district’s transportation system runs well. Why should we consider contracting with First Student?

First Student offers enhanced safety, lower costs, improved transparency and increased flexibility. The district maintains control of their bus service, and turns the management of day-to-day operations over to the most experienced transportation professionals in the industry. 

If we contract our student transportation, what happens if we decide to bring operations back in-house?

Your contract with First Student can be written to accommodate buy-back provisions should you wish to return some portion or all of your contracted services to in-house operation.

What key performance indicators (KPIs) does First Student track for a school district?

We continuously monitor and measure a variety of KPIs to benchmark and set goals for areas of improvement. Measurement areas include on-time delivery, mileage, anticipated versus actual route timing, fuel usage, ride times and more.

My school district needs help explaining the benefits of contracted transportation to our staff, parents, and local community. Can First Student provide resources to help us?

Absolutely. We understand that communicating the benefits of contracted student transportation to a school district’s employees and community requires a straightforward and sensitive approach. To assist you, we have included some tools in our Why Contract section. 

Your First Student business development manager can help your board and staff navigate the process and explain its benefits to your constituents. Additionally, they can attend school board meetings and address questions or concerns raised by board members, school administrators, parents and the community.

What is the size of First Student’s current student busing operation?

We serve approximately 1,100 contracts across North America – more than any other privately contracted transportation provider. Every day, we complete 5 million student journeys. We employ 50,500 people across 39 states and 7 Canadian provinces. Our fleet of 44,000 school buses ranks us number one in the industry according to School Bus Fleet.

Our smallest locations are staffed by a single First Student location manager; our largest have bus service teams of more than 100 people. All locations are backed by the full resources of our North American network.