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What to Ask Before Hiring a Private Transportation Company for Your School

02/23/2024 Written by: AP Education

Many educational institutions outsource some or all of their transportation services to private companies or have considered doing so.

There are several reasons why outsourcing this service might make sense for a college, university, or K-12 public or independent school, including the potential cost and time savings, the expectation that service will be more reliable, and the opportunity to take advantage of the latest in-vehicle safety technology (without having to make a substantial investment in it).

In addition, responsibilities such as employee drug and alcohol testing, background checks and training, fleet maintenance, and problem-solving for issues such as employee absenteeism are risks that are typically transferred to the hired vendor, ultimately minimizing a school's liability exposure.

Before hiring a transportation partner, though, it is critically important to thoroughly vet them and make sure they are as committed as your school is to prioritizing the safety and well-being of the students in your care.

What Are the Best Practices for Hiring a Private Transportation Company?

One of the largest and most worrisome exposures your educational institution faces daily is the possibility of a crash involving an owned, leased, or hired auto transporting students or employees. To help reduce this risk, you want to make sure that any transportation services you employ follow these three effective mitigation strategies:

  1. Hire the most qualified employees and train them to be safe drivers.
  2. Outfit vehicles with the most up-to-date safety and technology features.
  3. Have a comprehensive vehicle repair, maintenance, and inspection plan.

If the drivers and vehicles used in your school's transportation services achieve the highest standards for a comfortable, dependable, efficient, and, most importantly, safe ride for all passengers, it will be a big step toward minimizing the chances of an incident.

Use the following questions to help better evaluate the professionalism and competence of a potential transportation partner, one you're currently working with, or even your school's in-house transport services.

Driver safety questions

  • Is the minimum age requirement for drivers set higher than the state mandates (as this can mean drivers are more experienced and less likely to get in an accident)?
  • How many years of driving experience do you require new hires to have?
  • Do you confirm the validity of driver's licenses by running them through the state RMV database?
  • How frequently are you reviewing driving records for surchargeable events, traffic violations, at-fault accidents, DUIs, and other offenses?
  • Do you use a notification method, such as a Registry of Motor Vehicles Driver Verification System, that alerts you when an employee's driving status changes for any reason?
  • Are driver candidates drug and alcohol screened, and do you have a zero-tolerance policy?
  • Do new drivers have to pass a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination to be considered for employment?
  • Does every driver have a national Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) and a Sex Offender Record Information (SORI) background check run against their legal name, license number, and social security number?
  • What is the system for tracking expiration dates of driver's licenses and certifications?
  • Do you have a driver education program that includes classroom and on-the-road training, a written and road test, and continuing education courses?
  • Do you have safety supervisors whose primary responsibility is monitoring drivers to ensure they follow best practices and policies?

Vehicle safety questions

  • Do you have a statement of vehicle safety policy that all managers and vehicle operators have signed?
  • Do all vehicles have seat belts for passengers, including appropriate body belts for wheelchair passengers?
  • Are all vehicles equipped with push-to-talk handheld units that enable two-way communication between drivers and dispatchers?
  • Do all vehicles have GPS tracking capabilities, allowing dispatchers to see the exact location of a vehicle at any time and to get real-time and archived data for all trips?
  • Is there onboard camera technology on all vehicles that captures the details of events and incidents inside and outside the vehicle?
  • What is the vehicle inspection and maintenance process, and are these activities conducted onsite or outsourced?
  • Do drivers follow a pre-trip inspection checklist to ensure tires, lights, brakes, horn, windshield wipers, and the like are in safe operating condition?
  • What does a driver's post-trip inspection checklist include, and what does a driver do if they find any problems or deficiencies with the vehicle that need attention or repair?
  • Do the operations and maintenance teams regularly discuss ways to improve vehicle functionality, safety, productivity, and appearance?
  • Have any violations of rules or regulations been filed with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration?
  • Do you have a dedicated safety officer/fleet coordinator who oversees the fleet safety program?
  • Will the company share its incident reports and safety records with you?

Another essential question to ask any vendor before contracting with them is, "Can I get a copy of your certificate of insurance (COI)?" AssuredPartners has more specific guidelines for requesting evidence of insurance and suggests that your educational institution be listed as an Additional Insured, having the vendor's COI provide initial proof of insurance. This evidence typically includes the insurer and insured's name, coverage type, policy numbers, effective dates, endorsements, and limits. Reviewing these details with your insurance professional and discussing how this coverage might affect your school's liability if a crash occurs is critical. Although a vendor's coverage should help reduce your potential financial obligations, it is not likely to entirely eliminate your risk.

Tap Into AssuredPartners' Knowledge and Experience to Help Protect Your Students, Faculty, and School

Our team knows you work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of those whose care has been entrusted to you. So, of course, you want to work with partners committed to doing the same. At AssuredPartners, we have risk management specialists whose primary mission is to work collaboratively with clients to help create an environment of safety for their people. This includes being an active participant in helping our clients assess vendors.

If you're seeking the services of a private transportation company, we can assist you in evaluating the qualifications of potential vendors, from the quality of their fleet safety programs and vehicle operation procedures to the effectiveness of their driver authorization processes and training curriculums. In addition, we can examine vendor contracts and carefully review certificates of insurance to help uncover any gaps that may need to be addressed by your educational institution's insurance solutions.

We can also offer valuable support and guidance on how to implement better risk management practices if you're keeping your transportation services in-house. This may include assessing your strategy for recruiting and hiring drivers and revealing any risky practices; identifying ways you could improve your vehicle repair, maintenance, and inspection process; or examining your claims history and offering solutions on how to limit losses in the future.

Please contact us today to better understand and minimize potential threats to your college, university, or K-12 school.

Need more insights? Your local AssuredPartners team can help.

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