On Sept. 1, Queens-based Rivlab Transportation Corp. was advertising for bus drivers for the current school year on Facebook. On Nov. 1, the 39-year-old company will cease to exist.
“Recently we have been severely impacted by a nationwide shortage of school bus drivers,” Rivlab Transportation Corp. Operations Manager David Riveles stated in a letter to its schools. “In the last few years our costs, especially labor and insurance, have skyrocketed and had made competition with some of the larger companies impossible.”
Owned the past 18 years by Lawrence resident Alex Edelman, who also serves as the village mayor, Rivlab could not hire enough drivers to fulfill its contract with roughly 12 private schools spread across the Five Towns, Brooklyn and Queens. Rivlab was sold last week to a company whose name he did not disclose. That company is purchasing Rivlab’s equipment, primarily its buses, Edelman said for its school transportation contracts.
“We had a driver crisis the last two years and it really hit this year as larger companies are offering more money and we can’t get drivers,” said Edelman, noting that Edelman much larger companies are offering more money. He added that Rivlab was in negotiations for 10 months with one company that he said “was jerking us around.” Then another company, the one that purchased Rivlab, came forward.
Edelman said that he paid upwards of $500 per month during the summer for advertising seeking drivers. The Facebook ad included an offer of a “good starting salary,” and along with such benefits as medical, paid holidays, paid vacation, retirement plan, free life insurance, safety bonuses, free uniforms and $500 signing bonus.
Rivlab sent out a letter last week to its private school clients informing them that school bus service will be discontinued on Nov. 1. That was confirmed by Rabbi Zev Friedman, dean of Rambam Mesivta High School in Lawrence, where roughly 30 students are affected.
“We are working on a solution and expect to have it resolved very soon,” Friedman said. According to sources, many parents paid in full for the entire school year. “Any monies paid will be credited toward the future arrangement with another company,” Friedman said.
Yeshiva Darchei Torah in Far Rockaway sent a letter to its parents on Oct. 4, informing of them Rivlab’s action. Roughly 240 students are affected. “This comes as surprise to us as well as to our fellow schools, and we share in your concern,” Rabbis Pinkus Mayor, director of special projects and Baruch Rothman, director of institutional advancement, wrote in the letter. The officials stated they “spent countless hours” last week to transition to a new school bus company.
About 50 Hebrew Academy of the Five Towns and Rockaway students are also affected, according to a person with knowledge of the school’s transportation issues.