7 Investigates: School transport companies say they’ll go out of business if RMV doesn’t postpone rule changes

BOSTON (WHDH) - Dayanta Johnston wouldn’t trade her job for anything. After all, she’s been working M Transportation for decades.

Neither would Janine Dorisca, who helps her father run Jolly Garden Transportation.

“You have parents who depend on us,” says Dorisca.

The women run their own 7D transportation companies, companies used to bring children to daycare and after school activities, special needs students to school and help school districts when buses are full.

Now they might be forced out of business.

“They’re costing my livelihood. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years of my life,” says Dayanta.

THE 10 PASSENGER VAN RULE: “It will put us out of businesses.”

Both owners received a letter in May, along with hundreds of other 7D transportation companies across the state.

It says by October 1st, the RMV only wants companies, like theirs, to have 10 passenger vans on the road.

“They want 10 passengers, made from the manufacturer as 10 passenger,” says Dayanta.

For Janine, it means all 5 of her vans would have to go.

“Financially, as we all know, we’re in a global pandemic. To be able to have to replace 5 vans, some of which have loans on them, and then try to find funding to go buy new ones, it’s impossible,” says Dorisca.

Dayanta would have to replace two of her vans, vans with thousands of dollars of loans left to pay off.

“I’m out. Once they take these two off, that’s it for me,” says Dayanta. “It’s just disheartening, where do I go at 59, at my age. I’m in my 50’s. Who is going to hire me now? How do I get rid of all these vehicles, get a job to be able to pay for all of these vehicles and still make a living.”

TRANSPORT COMPANIES SAY THERE’S A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Janine Dorisca says there’s a simple solution, remove the seats.

“This is a 14 passenger. Once we remove the last row, which is four, it goes down to ten,” says Dorisca. “I just had to lift these two levers up and then have somebody on the other side, help me lift it. Like it never happened.”

A new van would cost $30,000. Dorisca says right now, many companies don’t have the financial means and resources to purchase or lease new vehicles, and some companies may have to increase their rates for parents, parents already facing economic difficulties with COVID.

“We want them (the RMV) to understand we are all on the same page. We want to be able to work, we want to be able to thrive as a small business and more importantly, we want to get these kids back home and to any destination safe and sound,” says Dorisca.

But the RMV says they can’t just take the extra seats out. They say the new regulations enhance safety standards, and to further ensure companies aren’t driving more than the 8 students they’re allowed to at a time.

“Taking the seats out is the biggest deal. There’s no other way. It’s either take them out or go out of business. I have no other choice,”says Dayanta.

Dayanta says 7D companies already have follow the 8 passenger rule, and the RMV does safety checks often, so why force this change?

The companies say they are even willing to hand over those extra seats to the state to ensure compliance.

MA SCHOOL TRANSPORT PRESIDENT ASKS RMV TO POSTPONE VAN CHANGES 

The RMV tells 7 investigates the changes are part of a three phase plan and they’ve been “communicating with stakeholders for more than a year.”

One of those stakeholders, David Strong Jr., President of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts, says because of Coronavirus, the plans should be put on hold.

“Things are getting tight right now and so you have to watch every dollar that is going out, and to look at purchasing right now could very well put some of these companies out of business,” says Strong.

Strong says ten passenger vans aren’t readily available as well.

“Availability of the ten passenger vans is extremely difficult at this point. There’s not a huge demand for them outside of this industry, so manufacturers don’t manufacture a lot of them,” says Strong.

Strong says he knows the state doesn’t want to put people out of business so he’s asking the RMV to work with them.

“What we would propose is that they delay the implementation date until we get through these current conditions,” says Strong.

“I think what we’re asking, it’s more than reasonable. As you can see, it can be done. Registry has the means to see we are following these guidelines,” says Dorisca.

The RMV says no one was available for an interview.

When 7 Investigates asked the RMV if they would postpones changes to the van rule, they did not answer.

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