KELLER (CBSDFW.COM) – Thousands of students start school Monday. But some of their parents are still thinking of ways to get them to class.
Due to state funding cuts, Northwest ISD eliminated some bus routes, while Keller ISD is charging for rides. CBS 11 found these changes have caused a private transport business explosion — one with little oversight.
Rushelle Wetzel and her husband Chris used to be able to handle her small business, Smiley Transportation, on their own. This year though, their student load has more than doubled, from 50 clients to more than 100.
Parents pay an average of $40 a week for the service, but for parents like Kimberly Green, the security is well worth the price. “There was no way I was going to let me child walk or ride a bike across 1709, that’s a highway,” she said.
Rushelle Wetzel has been overwhelmed with calls from parents with the same issue as Green. Despite buying two new vans, hiring three new drivers, she has had to turn some people away. “They’re concerned,” she said. “School starts Monday and a lot of parents are panicking about how they’re going to get their kids back and forth to school.”
Other businesses are still advertising in front of schools. Small signs stick out of the grass on the corners, making the point they are commercially insured. It’s actually one of the few requirements for a business that is largely unregulated.
Drivers need clean records for that insurance, but background checks aren’t required. Special licenses aren’t required either as long as vans carry 15 passengers or less.
Established transport companies though say parents should ask about all those things, and insist on face to face meetings with a child’s driver, before settling on a service. “We treat and protect these kids as if they were our own, and these parents know that and feel that,” Wetzel said.
The companies CBS 11 spoke to including Stanley Shuttles, say they do their own background checks.
Texas does require licensed child care facilities to have 2-hours of training each year in transporting children. But that does not apply to these kid taxi companies, because they don’t care for the children — they only transport them.