A paid ad published by Roberts Hawaii in the Thursday edition of The Maui News suggests that it is suffering discrimination as a result of HIDOE’s handling of the bus driver shortage. This self-serving ad is deliberately misleading and obscures the company’s significant role in creating the problem.
HIDOE launched a major student transportation reform effort in 2013 that aimed to create better competition among school vendors and has saved more than $12 million over the last three years through better management of transportation costs. The previous services on Maui, operated by Roberts Hawaii, were among the most expensive services in the state and it was necessary to introduce a competitive process to reduce the amount of funding that was being diverted from classrooms to non-instructional services. The single Maui contract was split into four, covering different areas, which were awarded in strict accordance with state procurement process.
Roberts won the largest Maui contract, but lost the three others to a lower bidder, current contractor Ground Transport, Inc. Roberts then delayed the award process with protests to the Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs and an appeal to Circuit Court. Both rulings found that HIDOE followed proper procedures and, after months of legal delays, Ground Transport purchased over 70 new buses, established base yards and all of its needed support operations on Maui, after 27 years serving Oahu.
We will continue to make every effort to reinstate the suspended services as quickly as possible. On Monday, Aug. 21, a major route will be restored at Lahainaluna High and we expect more routes to be restored in the coming weeks. Interested school bus drivers or anyone needing school bus information can contact the Get on Board Hotline at 808-586-0161. Bus vendors are willing to pay all of the costs for certification and many are offering signing bonuses.
The department is very grateful for patience and kokua shown by our parents, students and schools, and we hope that this information helps to provide a clearer picture of the reality behind the very misleading and self-serving Roberts Hawaii ad. Mahalo nui loa.
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