CARLSBAD — As residents bid goodbye to their loved ones in the early morning hours before their commute to school or work, drivers for Care A Van have already been firing up their engines.
Care A Van provides van transportation to those needing wheelchair assistance or a ride to dialysis, doctor and non-emergency hospital appointments. They also provide transportation for special needs children in the Encinitas, Cardiff, Solana Beach, Del Mar, Rancho Santa Fe, Valley Center and Coronado school districts.
Most of the company’s drivers are retirees, like former accountant Ruth Nyboer, who derives a sense of purpose from her work. Nyboer’s passengers are autistic children from Del Mar and Solana Beach.
“I feel part of a team and enjoy the camaraderie,” Nyboer explained. “I’ve met a lot of great teachers and aides who come out and pick up the children when they arrive.”
Nyboer makes the rides enjoyable by playing the CD “Silly Songs” for the kids. She realizes the important part she plays in the family’s lives, even serving as a role model to the kids.
“Parents are living this 24-hours-a-day,” she said. “They need a rest. They are secure knowing who is picking up and dropping off their child. I feel like I am doing a service, yet it is rewarding to me.”
Richard Dripps founded Care A Van in 1993. He began operations using his own Dodge Caravan and garage. Initially, Dripps provided transportation for Medi-Cal patients and for private rides to doctor and dialysis appointments.
“In 2003, the Cardiff School District contacted him and said, ‘we have children with special needs and would like a bid from you,’” Care A Van Controller Mark Myland said, adding that school districts are mandated to provide transportation for special needs children, even if the school is out of the area.
Myland explained that because of the attachments formed between children, parents and drivers, school districts are reluctant to change transportation providers unless there’s a major problem.
“School districts never hear from parents,” he said. “If there’s a problem, we’re on top of it.”
The company has a staff of 55 drivers that are CPR rated and are required to pass routine drug testing as well as Department of Justice and DMV background checks. The company hosts a fleet of 55 vehicles, including vans, minivans and Ford Focuses. A state-of-the-art GPS system makes it possible to chart the most efficient routes, tracking gasoline usage and maintenance scheduling.
Like everyone else, Care A Van has been impacted by skyrocketing gas prices.
“We go through 300 gallons a day in gas,” Myland said. “That’s a dollar more than a year ago. Although it’s costing us about $5,000 more a month than a year ago, we’re not like UPS who can add a surcharge.”
Myland explained that when possible, Care A Van pairs drivers with children. Drivers are briefed on the child’s condition to make it easier to create a bond with the kids and their parents.
“One child has hearing problem,” he said. “One of our drivers, Anna Naotala, knows sign language. When I substituted for her while she had back surgery, the parents asked ‘where’s Anna?’”
Care A Van provides transportation service Monday through Saturday to Medi-Cal recipients and private clients at a cost of $65 per hour to destinations within a 10-mile radius. For more information, call Care A Van at (760) 729-5199 or visit cavtransportation.com.