Planning and maintaining a student transportation system is a full-time job. It requires the foresight of transport professionals, the experience and local knowledge of drivers, and the buy-in from parents and students. Even with all of that, things will (and do) go wrong all the time, resulting in delayed journeys, reduced attendance, and, at worst, risks to student safety.
A student bus tracking system is not designed to replace your transportation department but supercharge it. In the hands of experienced professionals, these technological solutions can help to make routes more efficient, reduce delays, and even improve student safety.
What is a student bus tracking system?
Student bus tracking is a catch-all term for any system employed by a school district to plan, optimize and report on student transportation. It’s a wide field that can include planning the most efficient routes for school buses, checking in students as they board the bus, even coordinating and executing school trips. A comprehensive student bus tracking system will allow you to keep tracking of everything that goes on in your transportation system, from special instances to day-to-day operations, so that you can provide the best possible service to your students and their parents.
Benefits of a Student Bus Tracking system
Student bus tracking systems like Routefinder PLUS provide a full suite of integrated solutions to student transport challenges.
Benefits to your transport department
A quality student bus tracking system is the perfect addition to a well-run transport department. Improve the workload of your transport professionals by giving them a powerful tool to help them do what they do best.
- Data on data on data
Without a doubt the biggest benefit of a student bus tracking system is the mountain of data it provides you with on every aspect of your transport department. Collect information on stops, route times and attendance, student, and parent feedback surveys, and much more. If you can think of it, it’s probably something you can learn more about. Having access to all this data empowers your transportation employees to make educated choices that can improve efficiency and student safety.
- Saving time
Planning a student bus route manually takes time and effort, and if a student joins or leaves, or an address needs to be updated, the whole process must start again. Automating the route planning procedure with a tracking app saves your transport department hours of planning time. Some student bus tracking systems will even suggest the best routes for you by analyzing imported addresses.
- Continuous improvement
A quality student bus tracking system isn’t just a one-time solution, it evolves with your needs. Improving efficiency and safety is easier with powerful technology to back it up. Routefinder PLUS uses artificial intelligence to analyze your routes and continuously suggest ways to make them more efficient and safer, saving you more time and money in the future.
Benefits to the student
A student bus tracking system isn’t just good for you, it’s good for your students. Smarter tools in the hands of smart professionals with local knowledge mean safer, quicker, and more enjoyable journeys to and from school.
- Student safety
The number one priority of any student transportation department should be student safety. While a student bus tracking system will never replace the knowledge and experience of transportation professionals, it can help in making sure students are safer from pick-up to drop-off. Empower your drivers to make safer decisions with cutting-edge technology. Transport tracking systems can automatically determine the most optimum locations for pick-ups so that students don’t have to crossroads to get to the bus or their homes or send automated alerts when a bus crosses a railroad. Sign-in systems can make sure parents and transport managers know where their students are at every stage of the journey.
- Keep students updated
Managing your student buses through a comprehensive technology system keeps your students updated as well as your transport managers. Bus stuck in traffic? Send an update to the student or their parents to let them know you’ll be late. Need to update one of your routes? Let all the affected passengers know with the click of a button.
- Better school bus experience
A more efficient school transport plan means a better travel experience for your students. Optimizing your transport routes can help with staffing issues, potentially meaning students have shorter waits at morning pick-up and afternoon drop-off. Smarter route planning could shave minutes off travel time, meaning more precious time in bed for students and parents.
A student bus tracking system could deliver even more benefits to your school system and its stakeholders.
- Increased attendance: reporting from school districts implementing a student bus tracking system reveals a noticeable increase in student attendance.
- Costs saved: increased attendance can translate to more reimbursements, depending on your state policies.
- Be prepared for the unexpected: tracking systems like Routefinder PLUS have facilities to create “What If” stops and hold them in reserve. This means you can be prepared for a road closure or anything else that might affect one of your routes.
Frequently asked questions
Student bus tracking systems are still relatively new, so here are a few answers to common questions from transport professionals, parents, and students.
Is it safe?
Yes, a student bus tracking system is a very safe option for any institution’s transportation department. All reputable tracking systems will store student data safely and restrict access to only the most relevant professionals. All the data stored is used to make sure every student has the safest journey possible, from pick-up to drop-off.
Is it expensive?
It depends on the service you use and the scale of your transport operation. Services like Routefinder PLUS scale to your requirements to make a powerful but affordable option for your school district. Most schools who use a student bus tracking system find that the cost of the service is more than paid back by the work hours it saves.
What do parents say about it?
Like with any new technology, student bus tracking systems have their skeptics. Some parents are concerned about the data tracking that goes into a comprehensive tracking system. However, many of these fears come from uncertainty about what exactly goes into a student bus tracking system. If you’re considering implementing a tracking solution to your school transport department, make sure you communicate with parents about the benefits listed above to put their minds at ease.
What skills and equipment do I need?
Again, it depends on the system. Tracking systems that use RFID chips to scan and track students require some technical knowledge to install, but many larger districts and institutions should be able to do this in house. Some systems like Routefinder PLUS work directly on PC and even mobile devices, making them easier than ever to implement and use.
What do the students and parents need to do?
Nothing! Most of the time students and parents don’t need to do anything when a district rolls out a student bus tracking system. Student address data can be imported directly into the system without input from the parents and used to plan routes automatically. Parents will see an improvement practically overnight!
Things to remember when rolling out a student bus tracking system
If you are considering implementing a student bus tracking system in your institution or district, there are a few things to bear in mind:
- 1. Don’t make it a surprise: whether they are already skeptical or not, no parent wants to wake up one morning to discover their child’s school bus process has changed. Even if it’s a seamless integration with the current route system, make sure you notify parents, drivers, and any other key stakeholders well in advance. That way you can account for any miscommunication and build in their feedback to improve your student bus tracking system from day one.
- 2. Focus on the practical: it’s easy for people new to a piece of technology to get carried away with what-ifs and imagined scenarios. In your communication, focus on the practical changes and actual benefits of a student bus tracking system. That will help stakeholders focus on how their lives will improve.
- 3. Be open to feedback: a student bus tracking system can provide a lot of benefits, as we’ve explored, but that doesn’t mean that everything will be perfect right from the outset. There will be some time where the system must adjust to your institutional practices, where staff will learn how it works, and where routes need adjusting with local knowledge. Allow your drivers, parents, and students to feedback on their experiences with the system so that you can make sure it’s improving everyone’s lives.