Elizabeth Kamalakis was awakened by a desperate 2 a.m. call from a South Carolina school district official scrambling to find three buses to take eager students on their Orlando trip in a few hours. The company contracted by the district for the trip had canceled at the last minute.
The recent situation involved a bus broker, which accepted the trip but couldn’t find an operator to provide the buses for the trip.
While Kamalakis’ business — Coachlight Tours in Hardeeville, South Carolina — didn’t have the buses available, the former teacher was sympathetic to the situation. The Coachlight president and owner spent hours calling other businesses across the state to see what she could do to help out the desperate Myrtle Beach school official. She was able to find the three needed buses at the last minute.
Unfortunately, the nightmare situation wasn’t an isolated incident.
“I’ve got seven calls in a two-week span from people left sitting on a curb because no buses showed up,” Kamalakis said.
In an attempt to prevent further similar situations, Kamalakis sent out a letter, in her role as president of the Motorcoach Association of South Carolina (MASC), to superintendents across the state, warning them to beware of both brokers and fake accounts.
Letter to School Districts
Here’s what the letter said:
I write to you today concerning a most troubling matter that likely needs your attention. Of particular concern is a new type of “bus company.” These are not bus companies at all, but
rather artfully created websites that imitate a bus company. Many of these concerns operate several websites with various names. They do not own any buses or motorcoaches or maintenance facilities, nor do they employ any drivers, mechanics or typical support staff.
Simply a phenomenon of the internet, [these “companies”] are known as brokers and, once
they capture someone’s business, they simply try to find a real but unsuspecting bus company that will accept the trip. Savvy bus and motorcoach companies refuse business from brokers.
Their pattern of not paying bus companies or disclosing the details of a trip is, unfortunately, all too familiar.
Recently, we have been contacted by a number of school officials trying to find buses at the last minute because the contracted carrier (actually the broker) failed to deliver a bus. Brokers rarely disclose they are a broker, so the school official believes they have contracted with a real bus company.
While the money is probably lost, the true loss is the disappointment for our students when they cannot travel on a field trip they were looking forward to or the sporting event that is forfeited.
The Motorcoach Association of South Carolina is [made up] of men and women business
owners that make their home in South Carolina. We have invested in expensive buses,
maintenance and office facilities, and employ thousands of South Carolinians.
We are proud of the service we provide to the schools that make up the South Carolina public school system. Whether taking students on their first trip to Washington, D.C., a local museum, or a school sporting event, our member companies and their employees take great pride in providing this transportation to our neighbors.
Enclosed is a list of member bus and motorcoach companies domiciled in and, perhaps more important, invested in South Carolina with tangible assets and employees. We hope this information will go a long way toward avoiding canceled trips and disappointing any more students. We hope, too, that this message gets to the school personnel who make transportation decisions at the school level.
MASC Executive Director Linda Morris is hopeful that school district superintendents will share the letter with their district transportation directors.
She would like to see other associations consider similar campaigns to educate schools and other groups about the difference between bus brokers and bus companies.
This article is reprinted with the permission of Bus and Motorcoach News. Edits have been made for style. Read the original post here.