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Technology can empower school districts in the wake of driver shortages

  •   3 min read

Though teachers and staff are back, it seems more than half of US districts are having trouble bringing students to the classroom safely and effectively. New tech offers a solution.

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After two years, most schools have re-opened for in-person learning. Yet many districts are still struggling to meet the renewed demand for transportation to and from school. 

School bus driver retention has been an issue for longer than most can remember, but the current situation has grown much worse due to the pandemic. In a recent NSTA/NAPT survey, more than 50% of school districts described driver shortages as either severe or desperate and more than three-quarters stated the shortage was getting worse. Yet, although driver recruitment and retention are failing to meet the demand for safe and reliable pupil transportation, some school districts are looking towards an emerging technology solution to become more efficient: TransitTech.

Make fewer resources go further

An efficient, automated, and flexible bus routing system can help balance transportation needs with available resources and constraints, like driver availability and bus capacity to support social distancing guidelines. 

As student travel patterns continue to evolve — with some choosing to continue virtual learning and more parents working from home and available to drive their children to school — fleet managers need to take stock of the current pupil transportation situation before making final route decisions. They also need to stay nimble, ready to adjust to future capacity increases or restrictions. 

Minimizing stops for greater efficiency can sometimes be a solution, but students shouldn’t be forced to walk a much greater distance to get to the shared stop. And while simultaneously considering the most efficient number of stops, fleet managers must also map out the quickest, most effective routes to and from schools. This is where route optimization comes in. With the click of a button, smart software can optimize for diverse student populations, numerous school locations, and varied physical abilities, and generate a detailed route plan that maximizes the number of buses and drivers available to a school transportation department.

Monitor vehicle and student activity

Ridership tracking allows for visibility into vehicles and the students who are aboard. With an innovative software partner, school bus fleets can see where their buses are, where they’ve been, and how well they are keeping to designated routes and schedules. Using a GPS-enabled tablet, drivers are provided with turn-by-turn navigation and routes that account for live traffic conditions. Fleet managers can see live locations, wait times, and ETAs of each bus in an instant. 

After students scan their passes upon boarding, fleet managers and caregivers will have visibility into their student’s boarding activity and location in real time. 

This same technology can be applied to students with the use of individualized, QR-code or RFID-enabled bus passes. These can take the form of physical cards, printouts pinned to students’ backpacks, or virtual passes displayed on mobile devices through a white-labeled Student App. After students scan their passes upon boarding, fleet managers and caregivers will have visibility into their student’s boarding activity and location in real time. This information is only communicated to select, approved caregivers, so parents and guardians always know where their child is without compromising privacy.

Live tracking doesn’t only serve efficiency goals, but also facilitates seamless real-time communication between school administrators, drivers, and caregivers. Parents won’t find themselves waiting when their child’s bus is unexpectedly delayed and staff won’t have to field phone calls from concerned caregivers when traffic necessitates a last-minute routing change. Instead, administrators can easily push system status updates and messages through the same student transportation app.

A smarter school bus solution 

Supply concerns are at the heart of current student transportation challenges in the United States. With drivers choosing to retire or seek work elsewhere, districts simply can’t afford to run their pupil transport programs inefficiently. Thankfully, TransitTech —  the same technology that moves people around cities and universities – is powering smarter bus routes and enabling administrators and caregivers schools to follow along as buses transport their students throughout the district. 

Student transportation operations have remained largely unchanged for over a hundred years whereas, in the past decade, TransitTech has already revolutionized transportation for those with disabilities, the elderly, and countless other vulnerable populations. It’s time that K-12 students, caregivers, and administrators across the country benefit from this flexible, secure, and efficient transportation software. 

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