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My Bid is on the Street … Why isn’t Anyone Responding?

The March edition of School Transportation News discussed the Request for Information (RFI) and use of pilot programs. But now that you’ve done your research, you’re ready to bid (at least you think you’re ready).

Your department has viewed some product demonstrations. You’ve attended a few conferences. You’ve actually held the product in your hand (not just the squeezy bus from the trade-show floor). And finally, you’ve spoken to colleagues and suppliers, and you even copied some of the specifications from their recent bid. All of these “wants” are in writing and the bid is on the street.

Cue cricket noises and/or radio silence. And you were doing so well, or so you thought!

For districts and private contractors alike, the bid and specification process can be a bit daunting. In our attempt to get things out for procurement, we tend to listen too closely to our wants, use boiler-plate language, and often put specifications in a bid that don’t match what the operation truly needs.

Some things to ask yourself and your team as you write the bid specs:

  • Why are you bidding? What is it that your operation needs?
  • If new technology, what problem are you trying to solve and how will the solution make things more cost and operationally efficient?
  • Are you requesting something that still exists?
  • How did you come up with the specifications? Did you cut and paste from someone else’s bid?
  • Did you write specifications that only one supplier can provide?
  • Did you ask for millions of dollars in bonding and insurance that could only be provided by those running large countries?

Related: Student Transportation Veteran Provides Tips for School Bus Technology RFPs
Related: Study Cites Growth in School Bus Contracting, RFPs
Related: N.Y. Lawmakers Enact Permanent RFP Process for Contracts

Sometimes life isn’t fair, but bids have to be!

If you’re ever wondering why you’re not getting the response you want, it may very well be because:

  • Specifications listed were inadvertently worded in proprietary language that only one vendor can provide. This is not a fair bid practice and discourages prospective suppliers since it looks like you’ve already “pre-picked” a solution.
  • There are bids announced daily that have antiquated language and request products and technology that haven’t been “best practice” since the 1990’s. Vendors can’t respond to what isn’t available.
  • Language/template from another bid or district was used. While this may seem to save time, it can result in you getting what they need, not what your department needs.

To recap, ensure what you want is what you really need. Be fair, and next month’s blog will be less stressful.

Alexandra Robinson is a former director of transportation and a current industry consultant and editorial advisor to School Transportation News. She moderates a panel at STN EXPO Reno on July 15 that will discuss elements of a winning RFP from the perspectives of school districts and vendors.

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