School & Employee Bus Transportation

Industry Profile Report

Dive Deep into the industry with a 25+ page industry report (pdf format) including the following chapters

Industry Overview Current Conditions, Industry Structure, How Firms Operate, Industry Trends, Credit Underwriting & Risks, and Industry Forecast.

Call Preparation Call Prep Questions, Industry Terms, and Weblinks.

Financial Insights Working Capital, Capital Financing, Business Valuation, and Financial Benchmarks.

Industry Profile Excerpts

Industry Overview

The 2,500 school and employee bus transportation services in the US contract with public school districts, private schools, parents, colleges and universities, airports, and private businesses to provide bus and shuttle services for students and workers. About one-third of the 13,600 public school districts in the US outsource student transportation services and that number is expected to grow.

Aging School Bus Fleets

Faced with tight budgets, school districts postpone replacing older buses in their fleet.

School Bus Driver Shortage

Many school districts and transportation contractors are having difficulty meeting demand for school bus drivers.

Industry size & Structure

The average school and employee bus transportation firm has 73 employees and generates about $4.9 million in annual revenue.

    • The school and employee bus transportation industry consists of about 2,500 companies employing 184,000 workers and generating about $12.3 billion in revenue.
    • There are about 13,600 public school districts in the US, along with over 32,400 private schools, and 7,200 charter schools. Many school districts operate their own bus transportation services and about one-third outsource to transportation services firms.
    • There are more than 480,000 school buses operating in the US transporting an estimated 26 million students to and from school and school-related activities. The average school bus carries 49 student passengers.
    • The average annual public expenditure to transport a student by bus is almost $1,200.
    • The industry consists of many small companies providing services to a local area - 63% of firms have less than 20 employees.
    • The 20 largest firms account for about 51% of industry revenue.
    • Large firms include First Student (part of FirstGroup, PLC), Durham School Services (part of National Express Group, PLC), Student Transportation of America, and North American Central School Bus.
                                  Industry Forecast
                                  School & Employee Bus Transportation Industry Growth
                                  Source: Vertical IQ and Inforum

                                  Recent Developments

                                  May 17, 2024 - Moderate Sales Growth Expected
                                  • School and employee bus transportation industry sales are forecast to increase at a 5.67% compounded annual rate from 2024 to 2028, faster than the growth of the overall economy, according to Inforum and the Interindustry Economic Research Fund, Inc. School and employee bus transportation industry employment remained below pre-pandemic levels during the first quarter of 2024 while average wages for nonsupervisory employees decreased slightly, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.
                                  • Employee bus transportation services may be negatively impacted as bankruptcy filings continue rising toward pre-pandemic levels, according to Fitch Ratings. Overall corporate bankruptcy filings increased 40% to 18,926 in 2023, normalizing from 13,481 filings in 2022, but remain around 18% below the pre-pandemic average from 2016 to 2019. Chapter 7 liquidations rose 32% year over year in 2023, while Chapter 11 reorganizations were up by 58% for the year. Higher-for-longer interest rates and approaching loan maturity walls will lead to an up-tick in high-yield and leveraged-loan defaults, including distressed debt exchanges and corporate bankruptcies, according to Fitch.
                                  • Vans are becoming more popular for student transportation, according to School Transportation News, but experts caution that the vehicles still aren’t safer than school buses and shouldn’t be used merely to address school bus driver shortages. School districts facing challenges ranging from serving an increasing number of students with special needs to coping with driver shortages are increasingly using vans and other smaller vehicles. Their more manageable size, less stringent driver qualifications, and other features offer greater flexibility in transporting students. Jason Saunders, chief asset management officer for contractor Beacon Mobility, notes that the supply of larger school buses hasn't kept up with post-COVID demand for new units and the availability of Commercial-Drivers-License-permitted drivers is decreasing.
                                  • Workplace occupancy, an indicator of demand for employee bus transportation service, was 51% for the seven-day period ending on April 24, down from 51.9% for the seven-day period ending on April 17, according to data gathered from swipes of access control cards in buildings with security systems provided by Kastle Systems. Occupancy has rarely hit the 50% mark since the early days of the coronavirus pandemic despite attempts by many organizations to bring employees back. The Austin, TX, metropolitan area had the highest occupancy for the seven-day period ending on April 24 at 64.9%. The San Jose, CA, metropolitan area trailed all others tracked at 39.8%.
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