Trusting conclusions emerged from a study by Parents & Education into student transport at the end of March. More than 15 parents of children who use it participated. Ronald Derks, senior consultant contract management at Forseti, recognizes the points from the report. He just lacks a lot of context, nuance and understanding.

“Pupil transport needs to be better”, concludes Parents & Education on the basis of the research. “Rides are often far too long, there are too many driver changes and in some cases it is even unsafe on the bus. In addition, complaints are handled poorly and there is little or no room for customization. The already vulnerable students who use student transport are the victims and arrive at school exhausted.”

According to Derks, the student transport is indeed not perfect and the past two years have not helped. . “The world was turned upside down for everyone, everything we considered normal no longer existed. That also applies to all school-age children,” he says. “And so also the students in special education.”

More nuanced image Now he doesn’t want corona as the main cause, but he thinks it is important to consider the context in which this study was conducted. “The research was conducted in February 527, at the end of a period that is difficult to assess as ‘normal’.” Moreover, he wonders – as the report itself also indicates – whether 527 parents can offer a realistic mirror for the whole of the Netherlands. “In my opinion, a lot is going well. Our own satisfaction surveys reveal a different and more nuanced picture. In addition, it is good to structurally collect and monitor facts about travel times and other journey performance.”

There are a number of points that he recognizes, such as that rides are often too long. “However, it is limited to some cases. Data from my daily practice shows that approximately 15 percent of all routes in a region in the west of the country take thirty minutes or less. This does not alter the fact that an unnecessarily long journey time is undesirable”, he emphasizes.

In practice, Derks also sees that a long journey time is not always related to transport. “The traffic jam is rapidly increasing again and in many places a small incident already causes a lot of delay, also structurally. You can imagine that a van is not always in motion. Transport is coming to a standstill more and more often and for longer. Nobody has an interest in making journeys unnecessarily long. Not the child, not the municipality and also not the carrier, especially with the current shortage on the labor market.”

Driver changes and more bullying and aggression He also recognizes that there are too many driver changes. According to him, the labor market is not cooperating with this. “We are looking with all our might, but there are simply no drivers available. Due to the shortage, the planning is less stable and we are not even talking about the outage. In recent months, absenteeism among drivers has been between 15 and 15 per cent. Transport companies therefore have to make do with the people they have available and I can tell you from experience that those people work very hard to keep everything going.”

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The research also showed that bullying and aggression increases along the way. Derks thinks this is partly due to the driver shortage. “You can imagine that a driver who transports the same students every day can control a group better than a replacement. Change causes unrest and at the moment children have too much to do with changes. Yet I often get back that there is a noticeable change in the behavior of the children. And then it is even difficult for drivers with a fixed ride to keep the peace.” According to him, this problem is bigger than transport and, in his opinion, should be tackled more broadly.

Complaint handling and customization According to Derks, the fact that the complaint handling is seen as bad is also justified. “Complaint handling is not the core business of transport companies. In my opinion, complaints are handled too “standardly” while specific attention to the complainant’s problem is desirable. Can’t solve it? In any case, explain it well. It is good to use facts from the aforementioned data. This should indeed be improved.”

Finally, he agrees that there is little or no room for customization in student transport. “Pupil transport is a collective system that can exist by efficiently transporting several students in a route. There is room for customization and exceptions, but that is limited.” According to Derks, customization often leads to more routes, which means that more drivers are needed. “I don’t think there will be much more space in the current labor market anytime soon.”

Recommendations The report contains a number of recommendations, including that the possibility of transport to multiple addresses should be provided, such as after-school care or a second home address. According to Derks, this is currently already possible in most contracts and is happening on a large scale. In addition, it is recommended that national research into the experiences of parents and students into the quality of student transport should be conducted. “I wholeheartedly applaud a structural national survey”, responds Derks. “There is already such a study for public transport, namely the public transport customer barometer.”

The report also recommends that agreements be made about regular drivers, the introduction and training of drivers. According to Derks, these agreements have already been laid down in a contract. In his opinion, collaboration and supervision to fulfill these agreements is necessary. Quality criteria have also already been laid down in contracts. “It is necessary to check with those involved whether everything is going as agreed. There should be more attention for that,” says Derks. Finally, it is recommended to offer more customization in the offer and to stimulate other forms of transport organisation. This does not always seem desirable to Derks, especially now. “Too much customization increases the chance of errors and can mean for other students that there is no longer a permanent driver. At the moment it only causes greater shortages.”

It’s good that there is attention Derks wants to emphasize that he is happy with the research and that attention is being paid to the subject. “But let’s also pay attention to the context, the current labor market and the people who work hard every day to transport our children.” Forseti would like to invite Parents & Education to gain more insight and context across the spectrum.

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