Is Alternative Student Transportation as Consistent as Traditional Transportation?

Alternative Transportation Myth #3: Alternative Student Transportation Is Not as Consistent as Traditional Transportation

There are several alternative transportation models to explore when evaluating what is best for your district. Each model is different in how they structure their drivers, vehicles, and routing services. Districts utilizing alternative forms of student transportation typically fall within one of the following model types:

All In-House

Some districts run their own “white fleet” for alternative transportation. They typically own their own vehicles and facilities, and employ all drivers, mechanics, routing, and dispatching staff. All operations are run by the district employees, within district facilities, and they utilize their own insurance. District employees are also generally covered under district benefits and employee policies. Some driver workforces are unionized.

Because drivers are employees of the district, they can assign vehicles and routes to those individual drivers and expect that those drivers will be on those routes every school day. They also employ all back-up drivers, routers, etc., so all routes can be covered in case a regular driver is out sick or taking some paid time off, as long as they are fully staffed. Regulations vary from state to state, but all drivers and vehicles follow student transportation regulations under that state’s department of education.

Employee Only Contractor

Other districts work with an employee only contractor. The contractor typically owns the vehicles and facilities, and they employ the drivers and operations staff. Some driver workforces are unionized. It mirrors the district’s in-house model but usually only provides either alternative vehicles or buses. Again, because the drivers are employees of the contractor, they can be assigned specific routes and vehicles, and the expectation is that they will be there every possible school day as long as they are fully staffed. Employee only contractors should be compliant with all federal, state, local, and district requirements.

Student Transportation Management Company

A student transportation management company utilized subcontracted service providers who employ their own drivers. They are accountable and responsible for making sure that the drivers and vehicles of the service providers are compliant with all federal, state, local, and district requirements. They must have proper insurance for the services provided and are also regulated by the same entity responsible for student transportation in any given area. They must meet or exceed all applicable student transportation requirements.

Given that they work with service providers who employ drivers, student transportation management companies can assign routes and expect consistency.

Transportation Network Companies (TNCs), Taxis, Traditional Transportation Brokers

These types of companies work with independent contractor drivers and are not regulated by the same entities as school districts and student transportation organizations. Additionally, having independent contractor drivers means they are not employees and cannot legally be treated as such. Routes and trips can be offered to the drivers, but it is up to them whether to accept or decline the trip. Independent contractors choose their own hours, the days they are willing to provide services, and even the types of trips they are willing to run. This can cause difficulties in scheduling and training, which leads to inconsistencies in drivers and/or vehicles.


We are going to call this one plausible because it really depends on what the district chooses to do to meet the needs of their students. The first three types of alternative transportation listed above are all able to provide consistency for students (same driver, same vehicle, etc.), but with so many districts opting for the “all of the above” option not listed, it is plausible that consistency is being overlooked when it comes to getting our kiddos to school.

Abi Studer is marketing manager for ALC Schools. With a robust background in contract compliance and regulation subject matter expertise, Studer blends that experience into ALC School’s marketing efforts. Her focus is to provide school districts across the country with actionable and relatable content to evolve their efforts with Special Needs students. Visit for more information.