Knox Co. school bus contractor speaks out, receives additional fuel assistance

Knox County Schools Transportation Supervisor Ryan Dillingham said he’s heard from a lot of bus contractors who’ve expressed concerns about rising gas prices.
School Bus Fuel Problems
Published: Mar. 10, 2022 at 7:36 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 14, 2022 at 9:47 AM EDT
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - There’s a problem one East Tennessee man said has gone from critical to crisis.

“We’re at crisis,” said Owner of T and J Bus Lines Tony Williams.

T and J Bus Lines is contracted by Knox County Schools. Williams said he has 13 buses that run for KCS averaging transporting 1,500 students per day.

The buses run on diesel fuel. According to AAA, diesel gas prices in Tennessee are at an all time high of $5.03 Thursday.

Williams said in Feb., he was paying under $4 a gallon for fuel for the school buses. Now in March, it’s more than $5 a gallon for diesel.

“We’re going to have to park the buses. If more money doesn’t come from somewhere, we’re not going to have a choice. It’s not a matter of being obstinate or just refusing to do the job. We’re not going to be able to do the job,” Williams explained.

Williams told WVLT News he’s losing sleep.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. The money is not there,” Williams said.

WVLT talked to Knox County Schools Transportation Supervisor Ryan Dillingham who said he’s heard from a lot of bus contractors who’ve expressed similar concerns.

Dillingham said in current bus contracts, once fuel gets above $2.75 they start reimbursing contractors for fuel. The rate is one penny for every five cents over that cost.

“We just ran our March pay roll. As of our March pay roll, we will have paid out almost $300,000 extra to contractors specifically for fuel,” Dillingham explained.

To help with the problem, Williams eliminated idol times. He said spring break happening in March will help this month’s fuel costs since that will eliminate a week of driving.

Dillingham also said whatever they need to do, they will, whether that’s talking to the school board or looking at other areas in transportation to help contractors.

On Saturday, March 13, Williams shared that he received an email with “a very fair proposal to help with the additional fuel cost.”

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