Bus company sues Florida school district that recommends purchase of competitors' vehicles

Bus company sues Florida school district that recommends purchase of competitors' vehicles

Hillsborough County wants to buy 100 buses, but Blue Bird says the district's choice of Thomas Built buses is based on inaccurate figures.

A school bus company and its local dealer say the Hillsborough County (Fla.) school district's process for buying buses is unfair.

The Tampa Tribune reports that the Blue Bird bus company and Florida Transportation Systems, Blue Bird's Tampa-based dealer, have sued the school system. They contend that Hillsborough County failed to fulfill a public records request about the process the district officials used to recommend that the board buy 100 buses from Thomas Built for more than $10 million.

The board is scheduled to vote on the recommendation at a meeting next week.

Blue Bird's attorney argues that some of the calculations the district used to arrive at a cost estimate are inaccurate. Florida Transportation System officials argue that their buses would have been more economical than the Thomas Built fleet.

Hillsborough County decided to acquire new buses after a consultant said the district’s bus fleet was outdated. The consultant advised the board to buy 100 new buses every year for 15 years. The district’s cost analysis concluded that the cost of Thomas Built buses for 10 years came in at about $19.7 million, compared to Blue Bird at nearly $21.1 million and IC Bus at $21.5 million.

Jim Beekman, the district’s transportation manager, told board members his decision to recommend the Thomas buses was based on bus driver feedback, a survey of other school districts and guidelines from the National Association of Fleet Administrators.

 

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