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Old 4th August 2020, 12:59   #1
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Default Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

Schools across India have been shut ever since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the country. It has impacted school bus operators, who are now facing financial collapse.

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Bus & Car Operators Confederation of India - (BOCI) & School Bus Owner Association have urged the government of Maharashtra to provide immediate relief to school bus operators and their staff.

The associations are seeking bus staffer's salaries for the entire lockdown period. They have also requested the government to waive off Taxes and are seeking deferment of Motor Insurance, extensions of moratorium & waiver of interest as well as Parking fees.

Bus operators also want the government to increase the age limit of school buses from 8 years to 20 years in Mumbai and 15 years to 20 years in other areas of Maharashtra. They also want subsidized fuel rates for school buses like BEST & MSRTC, parking facilities for school buses, GST input credit benefits on purchase of new buses, banning of illegal private vans plying as school buses and vehicle sanitization.

Here is a list of demands that has been submitted to the government:
  • Salaries of Bus Staffer’ for entire lockdown period
  • Waiver of Taxes
  • Deferment of Motor Insurance
  • Extensions of moratorium & waiver of interest
  • Parking fees issue to the Corporation
  • Increase the age limit of school buses from 8 years to 20 years in Mumbai and other areas of Maharashtra from 15 years to 20 years
  • Following CMVR, policy of school bus should be more than 13 seats only below this capacity it should not be considered as school bus.
  • Adhering to Mumbai High Court order dated May 2017 requiring an agreement between School authorities and school bus transporter.
  • Issue Heavy passenger vehicle licenses as issued in other states and such license holder of any Indian state to be permitted to drive all buses in Maharashtra
  • As per Supreme Court order dated 16.04.2018 stating any LMV license holder be permitted to drive any class of vehicles up to 7,500 km, in Maharashtra
  • Experience of 5years to drive school bus to be abolished if driver has bus badge or heavy passenger vehicle driving licence.
  • Subsidized fuel rates for school buses like BEST & MSRTC
  • Harassment by traffic cops to school buses during drop and pickup of students
  • Parking facilities for school buses
  • GST input credit benefits on purchase of new buses
  • Banning of illegal private vans plying as school buses
  • Regular Vehicle Sanitization
  • Recommending Minimum Rescue Package suggested by AIMTC to the Central Government
  • Issue of harassment by traffic authorities

There are said to be over 50,000 school buses in the state. Around 1.5 lakh people working in this sector are in financial distress or have lost their jobs.

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Old 4th August 2020, 13:14   #2
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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Originally Posted by TusharK View Post
Schools across India have been shut ever since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic swept across the country.
Some of the demands seem justified though some seem absolutely outrageous.

An interesting business opportunity can be developed if these school buses can be merged into private bus networks like "Ola Shuttl" and be used to ferry private / public company employees to their workplaces.

It shall reduce the logjam in the present public transportation and provide ease of convenience to the employer and employees, whilst providing operators with an alternative revenue stream.
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Old 4th August 2020, 14:20   #3
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

On one hand, you have parents complaining that schools are collecting bus fees through the lockdown period. And on the other, this. Where's the leak?
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Old 4th August 2020, 14:32   #4
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
On one hand, you have parents complaining that schools are collecting bus fees through the lockdown period. And on the other, this. Where's the leak?
The schools are likely to be swallowing this entire amount, or at the very least, keeping it in their bank accounts to earn interest on it.
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Old 4th August 2020, 14:37   #5
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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Originally Posted by sharktale View Post
Some of the demands seem justified though some seem absolutely outrageous.

An interesting business opportunity can be developed if these school buses can be merged into private bus networks like "Ola Shuttl" and be used to ferry private / public company employees to their workplaces.

It shall reduce the logjam in the present public transportation and provide ease of convenience to the employer and employees, whilst providing operators with an alternative revenue stream.
With less than 25% of the corporate workforce working full time in the white-collar industrial establishments, the demand for shuttle bus services is also poor. There simply isn't enough business to survive and thrive.
This entire pandemic situation has really revealed the sheer lack of depth that governments at all levels have in understanding the economy. The hackneyed response has been towards supply side easing, but who the heck is going to ask for a loan when he doesnt get a regular cash flow in his house ?
All the dole that has been handed out has only been to appease political interests, and is a jugglery of numbers.
The government needs to tap into its financial reserves atleast for the next 2 quarters to support the out-of-job lower/middle class. You cant expect a school bus driver to suddenly take up selling vegetables and succeed at that.

Last edited by fhdowntheline : 4th August 2020 at 14:38.
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Old 4th August 2020, 14:42   #6
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

I'm actually relieved now not seeing school/college buses plying on the road causing traffic during peak hours. I relate few yellow school bus drivers to yellow sand lorry drivers. They keep talking in mobile while driving with one handed steering control, honks often as though they're next only to ambulance, chasing other counterparts and what not! Actually many times I had to call school's contact numbers for rash driving painted on the buses for complaints along with dash cam footage shared to them. I don't think action has been taken on them as the same driver and same bus from same school repeats the very next day. Wonder if they've been given freedom to drive like that considering repeat shuttles. Moreover by offering school buses most of these schools are seeing a lot of profit.

Last edited by KPR : 4th August 2020 at 14:45.
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Old 4th August 2020, 17:36   #7
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

It is a bad situation for the school bus operators. We do have a logistics business. From past few days we have been getting a lot of calls from school bus drivers for job.
In this pandemic, the school should have provided atleast a minimal amount to the operators and drivers as they are also a part of the school.
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Old 5th August 2020, 07:26   #8
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

Quite sad. These guys lead a hand-to-mouth existence. Covid-19 has given a body blow to some industries and this is just one of them. Worse part is, it's going to be a while before schools reopen & run at full clip.

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Some of the demands seem justified though some seem absolutely outrageous.
Typical negotiation strategy. Ask for something outrageous and then settle for something reasonable .
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Old 5th August 2020, 09:12   #9
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

Let's look at comparing Covid19 with Pneumonia and TB two cousins of Covid19. In calendar 2020, in India, we have suffered ~40,000 deaths due to Covid19. Extrapolating data for 2019 in this year we have most probably lost ~61,000 to Pneumonia and 47,000 to Tuberculosis in the first 7 months and this after India has clocked enormous progress in the last few years on curbing fatalities in both diseases. Till as recently as 2015-2016 the numbers were more than twice as high.

I said this in March when the lockdown came that the Government has lost all sense of balance on how to deal with this epidemic in a measured manner and keep a perspective of after all what do certain number of deaths per 100,000 infected actually mean with reference to India's two biggest contagious killers. a disease spreading like wildfire is not the same as a disease getting people ill, which is not the same thing as some of those ill being seriously so which is not the same as a fatality. With WHO, ICMR and over night TV experts going off the grid completely we have done far greater harm than anything Covid19 could do. The first 3 week lockdown was essential to apply the brakes. Maybe the first extension was needed to gear up. But after that we lost our way with finger wagging politicians and rule happy bureaucrats.

My organization helps children of poor parents get life saving surgery done. On March 24th, 2020 I had exactly 98 kids on my waitlist with surgery dates for each set running out through April & early May. 9 of those kids died waiting because there was no way to travel to the hospital from their villages - a 9% fatality rate. Compare that to the official fatality rate of 2.2% in India. If we count all those undetected the rate is a lot lot lower in my estimate.

My heart goes out to these bus operators and the thousands other small businesses where lakhs if not millions have lost their livelihood and savings. They remain hidden in plain sight.

Last edited by V.Narayan : 5th August 2020 at 09:16.
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Old 5th August 2020, 09:47   #10
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
On one hand, you have parents complaining that schools are collecting bus fees through the lockdown period. And on the other, this. Where's the leak?
This, at least is not happening in my kid's school. Only school fees is being taken and not bus fees.
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Old 5th August 2020, 10:17   #11
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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Originally Posted by KPR View Post
I'm actually relieved now not seeing school/college buses plying on the road causing traffic during peak hours. I relate few yellow school bus drivers to yellow sand lorry drivers. They keep talking in mobile while driving with one handed steering control, honks often as though they're next only to ambulance, chasing other counterparts and what not! Actually many times I had to call school's contact numbers for rash driving painted on the buses for complaints along with dash cam footage shared to them. I don't think action has been taken on them as the same driver and same bus from same school repeats the very next day. Wonder if they've been given freedom to drive like that considering repeat shuttles. Moreover by offering school buses most of these schools are seeing a lot of profit.
This is grossly insensitive. There are many more car drivers than school bus drivers and they drive rash and ugly and dangerous too (look up our accident thread) but it doesnt mean that I would be relieved at somebody loosing their job and not being able to drive their car just because I get emptier roads.

Rash driving is a symptom not the cause. The cause is lax driver licensing, poorly designed and maintained roads, lax enforcement, exploitation in the form of bribes, poor operating conditions (imagine sitting in that seat in 40 degree heat and humidity with no aircon or any other creature comfort to speak off with a hot engine for company). Then there is the question of working hours and job pressure to keep up with the schedule and no dignity of job what so ever. They have got a family to feed as well just like everyone else. Knee jerk reaction to issues that have roots in systemic problems is not the solution.

P.S. Apologies if this is out of topic mods.
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Old 5th August 2020, 11:10   #12
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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Originally Posted by extreme_torque View Post
This is grossly insensitive. There are many more car drivers than school bus drivers and they drive rash and ugly and dangerous too (look up our accident thread) but it doesnt mean that I would be relieved at somebody loosing their job and not being able to drive their car just because I get emptier roads.
I may have written school/ college buses that implied the meaning all buses and vans. Apologies for that. But actually I’m relieved from seeing on road a select few. I'm writing from my pain of seeing same bus/same driver honking, cutting through dangerously every single day during my office commute. It was not done only to me. To other commuters as well and even when I travel through other mode of transport or in other's car. Are you trying to say that we can allow such dangerous drivers in road especially behind the wheels of a nursery school bus that has ~40 nos of 4-5 year old kids just because the driver has a family to feed them? The 'few' that I complained about to respective school, the management should have been warned but nothing of that sort happened and the very next day the habit continued! Yes I'm relieved that I need not drive with that danger lurking from behind.

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Originally Posted by extreme_torque View Post
Rash driving is a symptom not the cause. The cause is lax driver licensing, poorly designed and maintained roads, lax enforcement, exploitation in the form of bribes, poor operating conditions (imagine sitting in that seat in 40 degree heat and humidity with no aircon or any other creature comfort to speak off with a hot engine for company). Then there is the question of working hours and job pressure to keep up with the schedule and no dignity of job what so ever.
All the above points are not in my or ‘few’ driver’s direct control and we have to live with it here and help improving these for future. For professions like school bus driver one needs more patience. Temperament of driver is important in engaging him for such a job!

Yes the lock down and the school bus and private van operators and drivers who shuttle children to school/office are in deep financial trouble. Hope the school management/operators pay them for their families to survive and treat them like their teaching staff by providing alternate employment till then.

Last edited by KPR : 5th August 2020 at 11:14.
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Old 5th August 2020, 12:22   #13
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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Originally Posted by libranof1987 View Post
On one hand, you have parents complaining that schools are collecting bus fees through the lockdown period. And on the other, this. Where's the leak?
My kid's school is not collecting bus fees.

The school owns their own buses, and when we asked whats going to happen to the drivers and other help staff they said they are getting paid in full. I hope that's still the case...
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Old 5th August 2020, 12:23   #14
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

The school bus/vans are in the group of an unfathomable size that is going to suffer a lot. Within the same product type - next in line to sink with the school buses are Corporate / IT Office shared bus services like MetroZip, ZipGo, CityZip, Shttl, OfficeRide. Contractors and independent owners have invested millions in form of drivers & bus fleets into these new businesses over last few years.

With IT offices going with WFH - these investments would take eternity to recover. Even if office going starts, for quite some time ahead, people will be apprehensive about using a shared transport that also gets crowded in IT Parks (& will continue to be so even with social distancing norms on paper).
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Old 9th August 2020, 12:36   #15
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Default Re: Covid-19: School bus operators on the verge of collapse

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The schools are likely to be swallowing this entire amount, or at the very least, keeping it in their bank accounts to earn interest on it.
Don’t you think you are being a bit unfair in making such generalised statements? Have you ever taken a deeper look into what it takes to run a school? I am from the education field and have worked with some of the topmost educationists in the country for 16 years. So I can speak with some authority on this subject.

Like any economic activity, schools as entities have to be run with all that’s involved in a good business. Admittedly, schools are not suppose to be “profit” making ventures, however, for good financial health and long term sustainability, the ‘Trusts’ running the schools must be managed like any other business entity and must have a healthy ‘surplus’ of funds to remain viable.

Let me now justify why schools are asking for fees in these testing times:

1. Teachers & Staff salaries. Just because a school during these testing times is not functioning does not make these redundant. As a general yardstick, 45% to 55% of operational expenses are teachers, administration staff & ancillaries staff salaries.

2. Rent for Premises. A significant number of schools run out of leased properties (before anyone says anything about how it’s not ideal to run schools from rented properties consider this; the average price of a 1/2 acre plot in Mumbai will cost not less than ₹60 to ₹70 crores, thus making the whole thing proposition unviable). Thus can be the second major expense amounting to 15% to 22% of the operational expenses.

3. Upgradation of Infrastructure; most schools have had to quickly ramp up to provide content, lessons, and instructions online through LMS (Learning Management Systems). While as a general yardstick most businesses would spend around 2% to 4% of their turnover on IT systems, in the case of LMS systems and its lesson contents along with hardware investments will be as high as 10% of the turnover and as much as 8% of the operational expenses.

4. EMI’s for school bus fleets; while the subject of this thread is school bus fleet owners (contractors), many schools own the schools buses and have to pay regular EMIs for the fleets, in addition to salaries of drivers, cleaners & at-least one lady attendant in each bus. Over and above these expenses is the maintenance of the fleets. As a general yardstick, a school with 2,000 students will have a fleet of 80 to 100 buses. From a capacity and route optimisation perspective consider these; any particular bus route cannot be more than 1 hour 15 minutes from the school to the last stop, this includes drive time, drop and pickup times perfectly synchronised. It’s a whole more complex than it seems on the face of it. The average capacity utilisation will not be more than 60% as some routes will have less 40% load, but one still needs to run the buses even under these conditions.

Please consider the above before making generalised statements based on knee jerk reaction that ‘schools are greedy and exploitative in nature’.

In these testing times, should schools stop paying the teachers? Should teachers with more than 10 to 15 years experience be asked to leave as the schools are unable to pay their salaries. What happens when schools finally open up and physical classes start? Where are the teachers when schools had to let them go due non payment of salaries?

What happens to the rent & accumulated interest charges (which will be significant)? The lessor is within his/her rights to ask the school to vacate the premises if rent is not paid. Where will the school go then?

What happens when banks repossess the buses for nonpayment of EMIs? Again someone will say, RBI has asked for deferment of EMIs for 6 months. But that deferment is not a free meal ticket, ultimately interest which is going to be significant will have to be paid.
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