Letter: Time for Dattco Bus Company to go
To the Editor:
The Board of Education, three years ago approved a new school bus contract for Trumbull students for five years which would involve leasing the buses directly to the town and, in the long run, save money — even though the bid wasn’t the lowest with the Dattco Bus Company.
The promise of better service and real savings seemed like a better idea. But the old saying that “The road to hell was paved with good intentions” certainly came true with the Dattco Bus Company.
The new buses we leased were leased through Dattco’s own International Harvester dealership in New Britain, a windfall of profit for Dattco. Before Dattco got the contract we had 10-12 84 passenger buses. When Dattco got the contract the number of 84 passenger buses was expanded to 30 plus, even though the average number of students who regularly ride was between 25 and 45. Bigger buses are more expensive to lease, fuel, and maintain. Break downs this past year was a major problem, there were 70 plus, most with the 84 passenger buses. One major problem is leaking or losing anti-freeze probably being sucked into the engine through leaking gaskets. Seventy breakdowns in one year must be some kind of record.
When a break downs accrues and students need to be transferred to another bus, sometimes at dangerous locations, the head of transportation along with a police officer must go to the location to safely transfer students. Sometimes replacement buses are not available and delay getting students to and from school.
The number of breakdowns should be considered unacceptable, but under the lease terms we are stuck with them for five years.
Also, in two and a half years, Dattco fired more than 25 drivers, including me. I drove school buses in Trumbull for 14 and a half years, had very few problems, but Dattco wants new people that work at lower rates regardless their lack of experience.
They regularly get bus drivers from East Hartford, six or more to cover the runs. I have lived in this town since 1949 and built my own home here 40 years ago. I don’t like the way Dattco treats its help or this town. The older, experienced drivers feel like they have a target on their back and moral is very low.
Dattcos’s failure to provide safe and efficient transportation for our students, should lead to a termination of their contract as soon as possible. You would think that a contract worth $25-million plus extras for athletics and field trips would inspire them to solve problems with unreliable buses with their New Britain dealership or directly through International Harvester Corp. but so far the problems are being addressed only in making small patch-up style repairs.
The Board of Education has had meetings and notified Dattco that service had to be improved but to date it seems like Dattco ignores the towns requests and the Board seems powerless to effect change. Previous bus companies only got three-year contracts with two-year extensions. Dattco got five years with a possible two-year extension.
Somewhere lollipops must have been passed out. We, the townspeople got our share of five-year supply of all-day suckers.