CHARLES COUNTY, Md. – With less than a week until the start of the 2023-24 school year, contract negotiations between the Charles County School Bus Contractors Association (CCSBCA) and the Charles County Board of Education (CCBOE) are at a standstill. CCSBCA continues to wait for a multi-year contract inclusive of:
- Equity in pay
- Job security for local bus drivers and their employers
- Eight-hour workday
- Multi-year contract
”The CCSBCA has provided decades of transportation services to CCPS; transporting its students safely and efficiently every day. And while contract negotiations are at a standstill, we remain focused and committed to maintaining and growing our partnership with the school system, giving back to the community, and ensuring a positive experience for students and parents every step of the way,” said Mark Koch, President, CCSBCA.
The first day of school for Charles County’s 23,000 public school students is August 28th, and it remains uncertain if bus transportation will be provided by the CCSBCA if the terms and conditions of a new contract are not agreed upon by all parties.
On behalf of the 458 Charles County bus drivers and attendants, the CCSBCA has been earnest in its efforts to negotiate – since 2015 – with the CCBOE, but to no avail. CCSBCA has pleaded – for the past 8 years – with Charles County Public School (CCPS) for better wages, improved benefits, and a multi-year contract.
CCSBCA is comprised of 24 local small businesses, mostly minority-owned, who have been serving the public school system as their student transportation service for more than 90 years. CCSBCA operates more than 358 buses during the school year and has more than 897 years of combined service in Charles County. CCPS operates a fleet of 30 buses and their drivers enjoy an 8-hour workday and school benefits.
Mark Koch, President of Koch Trucking Company and President of the CCSCBA, stated the following:
- “It is an equity issue, and everyone is aware of the national bus driver shortage . . .
- “There is intense competition among local counties in the state for good CDL drivers . . .
- “In addition, we are losing our veteran drivers to other jurisdictions like Calvert, St. Mary’s, and Prince George’s counties,”
Mr. Koch also compared the wages of a CDL operator who is a bus driver to one that works for commercial trucking companies.
- “We cannot compete unless the CCBOE is willing to pay our drivers livable wages, ensure an 8-hour workday as they do for their bus drivers, and create a multi-year contract for job security so we can attract the best workforce possible; safety is always a priority when hiring bus drivers.”
According to CCPS, the cost of an 8-hour workday for the contracted drivers is approximately $1.6 million which is .004% of the Board’s overall $444 million budget. “Finding route efficiencies can definitely lower that figure, and we are happy to work with them,” says Koch.
Adam Dyson of Swann Transportation, one of the 24 CCSBCA minority-owned bus companies, also operates his buses in Calvert and St. Mary’s counties. He stated the following:
- “We asked for the 8-hour day last year in Calvert County and it was immediately granted. St. Mary’s gives generous bonuses to attract and keep their drivers. The relationships with the school systems in the other two counties is one of partnership, they care about our drivers, and they want to work with us on efficient and safe operations; this is what we aspire to do in Charles County, but it isn’t happening for some reason, collaboration and communication is sorely needed.”
Jefferson County Schools in Louisville, Kentucky serves as a recent example of a school system that has had to cancel the first few days of school due to student transportation issues around bus driver shortages, poor management, and operations practices.
“We do not want to be that school system, taking children to the wrong schools, messing up routes, and not having the best drivers behind the wheel for our children and their parents,” said Jessica Beckman of Stanley Bus in Marbury, Maryland. “We need the school system to want to be the best, not only in education, but in safe student transportation, and that’s what we are striving for.”
During the 2023 Legislative Session of the Maryland General Assembly, the Charles County Delegation introduced Senate Bill 491 which established a Student Transportation Task Force in Charles County to study and make recommendations on three topics: (1) bus driver wages; (2) multi-year contracts; and (3) best practices.
The Taskforce met 4 times and will finish its work at its August 22nd meeting, at which time a report will be submitted.
For a copy of Senate Bill 429, use the following link:
“It’s been an honor to be on this committee, and I really hope good recommendations for wages and best practices; like with student discipline issues and efficient operations, come out of the Task Force,” said Paula Stone of Stone Transportation, a small minority-owned business and a member of the Senate Bill 491 Task Force. “We’ve been meeting since July, but we still have no viable contract with CCPS to start school next week.” In previous years, CCPS extended the previous year’s contract until a new contract could be signed. “Extending last year’s contract is a non-starter for us and our drivers,” said Stone. CCPS and BOE have known our position for a year, actually for several years, and they will not do the right thing for its students, our drivers and the community, and we know that they have the money in their $444M budget to do so,” said Stone.