How to use school bus technology to drive funding and improve student safety

Insights gleaned from smart fleet management platforms help savvy districts save money and lobby for more resources.

Note: Opinions expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) dollars are running dry as school districts across the country scramble for grants reduced to pre-pandemic levels. Advocacy for federal, state and local government resources has never been more competitive.

Campus safety and security procedures and technologies are mandatory for all schools—they cannot be relegated to “nice to have” status, even when funding is limited. School districts need comprehensive data insights to inform cost reports, supplement their grant proposals, prove their needs, and demonstrate solutions with evidence, not anecdote.

To that end, district leaders have an unlikely ally in bus technology.

Identify gaps in safety programs

Modern fleet technology can provide richer, deeper data that improves efficiency, safety and uptime. Passenger data, crash data, and dash cam footage provided by end-to-end intelligent fleet management platforms can illuminate weaknesses in campus security perimeters that extend to the bus.

A typical school bus serves up to 70 students on a variety of routes, campuses, and call schedules. This information, all consolidated on a single in-cab tablet and relayed for real-time dispatch, provides critical campus safety information. For example, detailed data on bus routes, timetables and passengers can help determine the safest locations for routes and stops. May also support funding requests to strengthen safety programs and improve security protocol.

But without this information, many school districts cannot accurately track who is on a bus, where and when students are dropped off, and where the bus is at any given time.

Protect students with smart technology

In many school districts, the work required to get students to and from school is a growing challenge. Buses are overcrowded, routes keep changing, driver shortages affect nearly every district, and state funding doesn’t cover the rising costs of transporting students safely. Keeping on schedule and keeping parents informed becomes more of a challenge as districts struggle to make ends meet.

School leaders must empower their districts to request the resources they need. Organizations such as the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitation Services/Office of Special Education Programs (OSERS/OSEP) offer grant programs to help schools prioritize safety infrastructure improvements and operations—and assess whether proposed changes will optimally support students. This is an excellent opportunity for school districts to apply for grants and support their submission with smart fleet information.

Data from technologies like passive RFID card readers can reinforce an offer by capturing the actual number of riders served, miles traveled and fuel used, among other numbers. Trip data also increases confidence in the safety of school transportation programs among administrators, district leaders, guardians, and students.

Identify places to save and spend

Every dollar saved by a district on transportation puts more money directly into classrooms and student safety. Today’s intelligent fleet management systems seamlessly capture and consolidate real-time data on passenger transportation, routing, mid-trip data, and pre- and post-trip inspections to help districts make more informed decisions about how to maximize the resources available to them. Often they also uncover new cost efficiencies.

For example, state-of-the-art GPS technology maximizes routes, shares live dispatch locations and helps avoid road hazards when they occur. This also reduces idle time and simplifies the process of keeping drivers on the right route, ultimately helping overall fuel economy. Likewise, verifiable, paperless pre- and post-inspection systems help ensure compliance and streamline processes for busy drivers, keeping buses running longer and catching minor mechanical issues before they become a safety threat. the students.

Savings illuminated through intelligent fleet management platforms can be redirected to campus threat assessment and risk assessment procedures, including updates to crisis plans, implementation of an anonymous reporting system, strengthening of key controls and adoption of tools for indoor and outdoor monitoring and surveillance. Together, these systems build a more comprehensive case for the districts’ needs and provide a realistic road map for improved safety.

Get everyone on board

There is a saying in education: what gets measured gets managed. This is also what is being funded. Smart school districts apply advanced technology to keep students safer and more secure. They want to identify which students are on which bus at any given time, give the district visibility into bus location and ETA, and keep parents informed of their child’s trip. And they want their solutions to be cost effective.

In addition to gaining state and local approval, the community must be confident in its school district’s existing safety protocol. This confidence goes a long way in strengthening campus security.

Districts can partner with bus technology providers to leverage data, raise more resources and funding, and make strong, actionable updates to their safety regime—without any hidden costs getting in the way.

Tim Amon is Vice President and General Manager of Passenger Services at Zonar.

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