How to Procure Alternative Transportation

How to Procure Alternative Transportation

February 19, 2024

Alternative forms of student transportation provide options for districts that need to supplement their current bus transportation in order to best serve their students’ needs. There are multiple ways to procure alternative transportation. A district’s urgency in starting services, as well as other procurement requirements, can help determine the best route to take.

Before pursuing any option, however, there are some questions that should be answered. Some of those questions include:

  1. What are the district’s rules for piggyback contracts and cooperative purchasing agreements?
  2. How many students are we expecting to transport under this contract?
  3. What is the necessary timeline for securing a contract?
  4. Can a subcontracted service model be accepted?
  5. What are the minimum insurance requirements?
  6. Do we have any technology or communication requirements?
  7. Do we know any neighboring districts that are satisfied with their transportation provider?

Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, but it gives us a good place to start as we explore a few different procurement options.


flow chart


Cooperative Purchasing Agreements

One of the simplest ways to get started quickly is through a cooperative purchasing agreement. These organizations exist at both the state and national levels, and participation is free with no obligations. Their goal is to reduce the time and money it takes for government agencies, public and private schools/colleges, tribal governments, and nonprofit organizations to find and enter into a contract with pre-vetted vendors for virtually any product or service, typically with a reduced price. Cooperative purchasing organizations award qualified vendors through their own RFP process. They take the time to vet and enter into contracts with dependable vendors so that your district has a readily available list of qualified vendors for upcoming projects. Check to see if your district participates in a cooperative agreement and what the policies are regarding using transportation as an approved service.

National cooperative purchasing leaders include OMNIA and Sourcewell, in addition to others.


Piggyback Option

Another quick alternative to the RFP process is to pursue what is known as a “piggyback clause.” These clauses are available in many active contracts nationwide (even outside of alternative transportation). If you know a district in your area that is satisfied with their alternative transportation partner, it is possible that they have included this option as part of their contract. The piggyback clause essentially allows for districts to agree to the same terms, conditions, and dates of service as another local district. Make sure to review all aspects of any contract you may want to piggyback on before reaching out to the vendor directly.


Release a Request for Proposals (RFP)

The best-known, most conventional way for organizations to procure products and/or services is through what is known as a Request for Proposals (RFP). Although an RFP for student transportation services can be as broad or as specific as the district sees fit, the specifications typically outline the project’s scope of service, preferred/expected qualifications of bidders, and specific terms and conditions of the contract. An RFP must be released to the public and is typically posted on national bid sites, state/local procurement sites, district websites, etc. To ensure you are evaluating well developed, informed responses, we recommend maintaining a list of vendors who have contacted you regarding their services. You can then email the RFP directly to these vendors so they have enough time to properly evaluate and respond to the opportunity. Since this process is very time and resource intensive, many districts opt to enter contracts through other means such as those mentioned above.


Safety Above All Else

It goes without saying (but we’re going to say it anyway) – the safety of your students always comes first. So, even if you choose to use a cooperative purchasing agreement or a piggyback option, be sure to review the documentation and be aware of the provider’s policies regarding things like drug and alcohol testing, background checks, and training. Know what types of vehicle inspections are required and make sure they meet or exceed your own. And check their references.

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