School bus costs increase 26 percent, following a national trend

Jan 23, 2024

A continuing national shortage of bus drivers following the Covid pandemic is helping to drive up transportation costs for school districts across Massachusetts — and Dartmouth is no exception. In presenting the new school transportation contract at the Jan. 22 School Committee meeting, Superintendent Saba-Maguire said the driver shortages are translating to increased costs for Dartmouth too. 

The new school transportation contract, now approved by the School Committee, represents a 26% increase in the transportation budget. 

“The current school transportation climate both here locally and nationally is very challenging,” Saba-Maguire said. “Additionally, with inflation … it’s no surprise that these costs have increased.”

The contract came in about $75,000 over what the district was expecting: Assistant Superintendent James Kiely estimated a 15% increase in discussions about the fiscal year 2025 budget. Under the new contract, Dartmouth will pay $477 per route per day. 

The district received only one bid for the contract, from Tremblay’s Bus Company in New Bedford. 

“This isn’t just a Dartmouth problem,” said School Committee member Shannon Jenkins. “Most communities in the Commonwealth are receiving only one bid for their transportation services. It’s not an issue we’re going to fix here in the Town of Dartmouth.”

Tremblay’s Bus Company could not immediately be reached for comment. 

At the last school committee meeting, Kiely said he’s looking to make some efficiency changes to the bus routes that should shore up some of the additional costs that Dartmouth will have to bear. Saba-Maguire said those changes are expected to reduce the need by “at least one bus.” 

“When we’re talking about Prop 2 ½ and we’re talking about trying to live within our means, it’s very difficult to live within our means when we have transportation contracts that are coming in at 26% higher,” said School Committee Vice Chair Chris Oliver. “At the end of the day, we do have to bus our students.”

The motion to approve the contract passed unanimously.