Table of Contents
Approximately 5 percent of the 44 bus drivers, or three drivers, are absent each day. MPISD has two substitute drivers and four maintenance employees who are licensed and certified. However, the maintenance employees are occupied repairing and renovating school property and are only available to drive buses in an emergency.
When a driver is absent or when the department experiences an open route, the director, secretary, and mechanic(s) double as drivers. At the time of the review, the director, secretary and mechanic were driving an average of three days a week, for a total of up to 25 hours per week. This means that vehicles often go without maintenance and other key management functions are not performed.
Numerous school districts have upgraded some driver positions to "lead drivers," who act as substitutes while performing such functions as mentoring newer drivers, providing behind-the-wheel training, observing routes, managing student discipline, providing student safety training, performing office and shop clerical functions, and performing minor vehicle repairs and maintenance.
Hire two part-time "lead" drivers.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE
1. The superintendent directs the deputy superintendent of Administration and Operations to create two "lead driver" positions. March 1999 2. The deputy superintendent of Administration and Operations and the director of Transportation create a job description for the positions and submits them to the board for approval. April 1999 3. The board approves the positions. May 1999 4. The director of Transportation advertises the positions and hires the most qualified candidates. July 1999
Based upon the percentage of time that regular drivers are absent, the combined wages of two "lead" drivers would total $320 per week or $10,240 per year.
1999-2000 1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 Hire two part-time "lead" drivers. ($10,240) ($10,240) ($10,240) ($10,240) ($10,240)
MPISD does not have a formal behind-the-wheel training or evaluation program for its bus drivers. Federal and state law require new bus drivers to successfully complete a demanding series of examinations-three written and one behind-the-wheel. There are major differences between the state automobile driver's license and the federal Commercial Driver's License (CDL). As an example, one of the written tests focuses on the concepts and applications of air operated brakes.
MPISD is not providing expert behind-the-wheel bus training, or on-going behind-the-wheel evaluation. There is no one within the district to provide expert training. Although MPISD drivers are properly licensed, the audit team was unable to locate driver files that would indicate the amount of training, date of licensing, etc.
Recognized formal training is available from Texas A&M University, in conjunction with the state and national industry associations. The course includes the theory of driver training, the purpose of record-keeping, and several hours of driving a bus in a variety of weather and road-simulated situations.
Districts regularly send one or two drivers to be trained in this program. The drivers then return to the district and train all other regular and substitute drivers.
Send one driver to training school and use this driver to train other drivers.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINES
1. The assistant superintendent of Administration and Operations directs the transportation director to implement a formal driver training program. March 1999 2. The director of Transportation interviews and selects a MPISD bus driver for the training. April 1999 3. The trainer attends the one-week course at Texas A&M University at College Station. Summer 1999 4. The trainer implements training and evaluation. Ongoing
The costs for tuition and room and board at the training school are estimated at $1,000.
1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 Send one driver to the training school and use this driver to train other drivers. ($1,000) $0 $0 $0 $0
The Transportation Department does not have the logistical support to maintain the existing fleet. During the review team's site visits, safety concerns were noted in the maintenance of the bus fleet. Some of the buses had tires with insufficient tread depth, some had broken windows and door glass, and first aid and bio-hazard kits were missing. The district did not maintain routine brake, transmission, or engine service records.
The department has two mechanics for sixty vehicles or a ratio of one mechanic to thirty vehicles. At the time of the review, one of the mechanics was not on the job due to medical leave. The effective on-site mechanic ratio was therefore one mechanic for sixty vehicles. However, the mechanic drives buses on an average of three times per week which, in effect left no mechanics working on a regular basis. Since then, the mechanic on leave resigned and the district has hired a second mechanic. In a telephone survey, the review team found that the mechanic-to-vehicle ratio for the peer group and the Bowie County Transportation Cooperative averaged one mechanic or mechanic helper per twenty vehicles. The average wage rate for a vehicle mechanic in MPISD is approximately $10 per hour, while local commercial rates are at least $13 per hour.
The state and the district recognize relevant education and certification for professional employees. Virtually all recognized commercial vehicle repair facilities promote and advertise to the public the value they place on certified vehicle technicians. However, no MPISD mechanic has recognized certification in their craft, and the district lacks a systematic mechanic training program to address technical changes in the industry.
The National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) offers a vehicle technician certification program and provides testing for certification of vehicle mechanics to achieve greater levels of technical proficiency. The registration fee for ASE training is $25 and the test itself is $20. Tests are administered in 600 locations throughout the country in May and November, although none are close enough to Mt. Pleasant where travel would not be required.
Districts such as Spring Branch, Cypress Fairbanks, and Katy provide an hourly incentive wage increase to mechanics who obtain certification in such areas as engine repair, electrical systems, and transmission repair. The salary incentives become part of the base rate pay for the certified mechanics.
The new director of Transportation is exploring options for a preventive maintenance program, but none had been established at the time of the review to ensure that the buses are mechanically reliable and safe. The director has since adopted a schedule to regularly maintain buses, but there continues to be a backlog. The purpose of preventive maintenance is to schedule the repair or replacement of parts and assemblies that wear or break with time and miles driven. An aggressive maintenance program can lessen on-the-road bus failure and accidents due to mechanical failure.
Within the city of Mt. Pleasant, the review team found that there are sufficient commercial diesel and gasoline repair businesses that could provide mechanic assistance to MPISD. Some districts, such as Hamilton ISD, use a contractor for major maintenance and repair services. This option could benefit MPISD because the district would not have to set up a comprehensive maintenance program from scratch.
Address routine and remedial maintenance of MPISD's bus fleet by exploring options.
The district must establish a maintenance program to ensure the safety of its students. One option is to hire one additional skilled mechanic and provide salary increases and training for all mechanics. This option would raise the salary of MPISD mechanics to a level closer to the commercial salary level. These improvements would enable the district to begin a viable maintenance program.
Although MPISD already contracts out some services, such as recoring radiators and rebuilding alternators, it may be feasible to outsource the entire mechanic and maintenance functions, depending on available vendors and the district's cost comparison. The district should evaluate this option by putting out a request for proposals with vendors in and around the Mt. Pleasant area. In comparing costs, the in-house option should include the upgraded salaries of three mechanics and all maintenance-related costs such as facilities, utilities, parts, and supplies. Should this option be exercised, the district should ensure through contract negotiations that qualified district mechanics are allowed to apply for the contractor mechanic positions.
IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIME LINE
1. The director of Transportation develops a formal routine and remedial maintenance plan and reviews it with the deputy superintendent for Administration and Operations. March 1999 2. The deputy superintendent reviews the plan, makes any modifications, and approves it. April 1999 3. The director of Transportation prepares and releases a request for proposals that includes all elements of the approved maintenance plan. June 1999 4. The director of Transportation compares costs and quality of services between the best proposal and the in-house option, and gets approval from the deputy superintendent for Administration and Operations and the superintendent to implement the best option. July 1999 5. The board authorizes the director of Transportation to outsource the mechanic function, if this is the best option, or to hire an additional mechanic, establish a training program, and raise the mechanics' wages. July 1999 6. The deputy superintendent of Administration and Operations recommends to the board that an additional position be added to the transportation department should the outsourcing option prove infeasible. July 1999 7. The director of Transportation contracts with the best vendor for maintenance functions or advertises and hires a mechanic, ensures that all mechanics salaries are increased, and implements certification training. August 1999
Although outsourcing the maintenance function may produce quality improvements at a comparable cost, it is not possible to estimate costs because a routine and remedial maintenance program has not been defined for the district.
Should the district establish a comprehensive in-house maintenance program, an additional mechanic will cost $27,040 (2,080 hours per year x 25 percent benefits for a total of $33,800 x $13/hour). Raising the wages of the two existing positions from $10 per hour to $13 per hour will cost $12,480 (2,080 hours x $3/hour x 2 mechanics) plus 25 percent benefits for a total annual cost of $15,600.
Certification training will cost approximately $200 per year per mechanic x 3 mechanics = $600.
Recommendation 1999-2000 2000-01 2001-02 2002-03 2003-04 Hire one additional skilled mechanic. ($33,800) ($33,800) ($33,800) ($33,800) ($33,800) Adjust salary of existing mechanics ($15,600) ($15,600) ($15,600) ($15,600) ($15,600) Provide certification training for all mechanics. ($600) ($600) ($600) ($600) ($600) Total Cost ($50,000) ($50,000) ($50,000) ($50,000) ($50,000)