ISBOA – An Introduction

ISBOA was formed in the fall of 2008 when it became apparent that the government's proposal for competitive procurement of home-to-school transportation through one-size-fits-all Requests for Proposals (RFP’s) was going to harm Ontario's enviable school bus industry.

The unilateral move to significantly alter the existing business partnership between School Bus Operators, School Boards and the Ministry of Education left operators with no choice but to advocate for competitive procurement options appropriate for small business and the unique school bus contracting market.

Over the past 5 years ISBOA has grown from a handful of original members to now represent 120 – or over 75% -  of the bus companies in the province. ISBOA enjoys province-wide membership support and ISBOA has become the industry association of choice to the overwhelming majority of family-owned bus companies in Ontario.

In 2013, ISBOA members served 3400 of the 18,000 daily school bus routes in Ontario. Many of our members are second and third generation businesses in rural Ontario who have served their communities for years, providing safe, quality services at a fair price.

Until 2009, school bus contracts were negotiated in an open-book manner, with all operators in the district paid the same rates for the same work. The business relationship was long term in nature, with operators working with school boards to negotiate rates that allowed them to live within the board’s funding envelope.

According to Ministry of Transportation Safety Ratings, independent family-owned school bus companies have the best safety ratings of any form of public transport on Ontario’s highways. They also have the lowest turnover of drivers and are therefore best able to provide consistent, punctual, worry-free service for families and school boards.

Five years ago, there were nearly 250 school bus companies in Ontario. Today there are barely 150. By contrast, in Quebec, there are over 500. Sadly the policy direction of the provincial government has made school busing such a volatile and uncertain business that families are walking away from their businesses. Nearly 30 other school bus companies have been wiped out overnight through RFPs. This volatility will most certainly lead to a deterioration of safety, drive away long-serving school bus drivers, and increase costs for school busing in the long term.

ISBOA has supported our members who have been forced to take their school boards to court to stop unfair and illegal RFPs. To date, school bus operators have been successful in court five times and won a precedent-setting injunction in April 2013 against two school boards in London, ON.

ISBOA membership is made up of individual companies that have chosen to argue the merits of an alternative procurement model that recognizes the long-term relationship of school bus contracts and removes the exposure to litigation by allowing for the recovery of investments that have been made on behalf of the School Boards, Consortia and Ministry of Education.