7 student populations that benefit from small-capacity vehicles

7 student populations that benefit from small-capacity vehicles

October 5, 2023

School districts nationwide are facing bus driver shortages. 87% of school transportation professionals reported that the lack of drivers is a major problem when providing safe student transportation. To overcome this challenge, district leaders can supplement school buses with alternative transportation services (small-capacity vehicles) for various types of students.

How alternative transportation solutions work

Alternative student transportation refers to any mode of student transportation outside of the traditional yellow school bus. This service typically uses small-capacity vehicles such as sedans, SUVs, and minivans to complement existing bus routes, reach students in remote areas, or support kids with unique needs by providing them with more comfortable school journeys.


7 student populations who benefit from small-capacity vehicle transportation

Every student deserves a safe ride to and from school, and the traditional school bus is not always able to accommodate students with dynamic needs. Alternative transportation may be more suitable for these students because small-capacity vehicles can be equipped to handle specific safety requirements and meet special seating arrangements.

The student populations most often transported utilizing alternative transportation services include:

  • Students with special needs

    Alternative transportation options are customizable to accommodate students with disabilities or special needs. For example, vehicles can be equipped with sensory features to create a calming environment for students with autism. Additionally, many individualized education plans (IEPs) dictate that students with specific processing disorders ride alone to and from school. A sedan or SUV may be a better option for these kids.

    Many children need access to wheelchair-accessible vehicles or those that can accommodate car seats, boosters, or safety vests. Alternative solutions provide special needs students with a more accessible and personal transportation experience, allowing them to arrive at school ready to learn.

  • Students experiencing homelessness

    Students covered by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act often move from one place to another. These frequent breaks in consistency are challenging for the kids and can be difficult for district staff to keep up with. Moreover, adding and removing stops to existing bus routes can make the trip longer and delay pick-up times for students already traveling on that route.

    Alternative transportation services provide flexible options that can be adjusted as the student moves from one location to the next. Route adjustments, in this case, don’t always have to mean a new driver. Instead, the driver and vehicle can be rerouted, providing a consistent routine for students, which helps them feel at ease. Transportation that accommodates changes in a student’s living situation or schedule helps to ensure their attendance at school, even if they move frequently.

  • Early childhood education students

    Depending on the state, seat belts or car seats may not be required on school buses, even for children younger than five, which is the typical age of a kindergartener. Districts may require that students ride in car seats, but they may not have a bus equipped to utilize them. Small-capacity vehicles are a good option for young children as they can accommodate car seats.

  • Medically fragile students

    Medically fragile students may benefit from vehicles equipped with features to accommodate mobility impairments or other needs, such as oxygen securement. Transporting students in specialized vehicles can give district staff and families peace of mind and better accommodate their unique needs.

  • Out-of-district and rural students

    Some school districts have students who are transported to specialty schools. Utilizing an efficient, small-capacity vehicle for one or two students traveling out-of-district allows the district to only pay for the trip and not for the other miles traveled in each direction.

    Additionally, it can be challenging for a bus to navigate in remote or hard-to-reach areas. Using small-capacity vehicles that can maneuver in tight spaces or difficult terrains is a more efficient option.

  • Students attending specialty programs

    Many districts offer special after-school care or adult transition programs for students. Due to the small number of students attending these programs, these types of trips are more efficiently served utilizing smaller vehicles.

  • Extended school year (ESY or “summer school”)

    It’s common for a smaller subset of students to attend classes during the extended school year. Smaller enrolment numbers usually mean smaller routes. Often, these smaller routes are more efficiently served in smaller vehicles. Utilizing alternative transportation and paying just for the trips can save districts a lot of money without compromising safety.

Discover our cost-efficient alternative student transportation service

To learn more about our safe student transportation service, read our whitepaper, “Alternative student transportation – Everything you need to know. You’ll also gain insights into enhancing your district’s existing school transportation program with smaller vehicles.

Contact us to explore how our technology-enabled service helps district leaders enhance school journeys for all students, especially children and youth from these most vulnerable communities.

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