Driving the School Bus Forward
According to the American School Bus Council, school buses transport 26 million of the 50 million students who attend school each day, with an average of more than 5 billion miles traveled each year. With so many passengers moving in and out of these vehicles, school bus design and fleet management has had to evolve to keep up. Bus manufacturers have revamped their fleets to include handicap accessible entry, more seats, and even their designation as mass transportation systems under anti-terrorism legislation. One thing hasn’t changed through all of these modifications: despite the addition of eight identification lights, emergency exits, crash and structural strength regulations and pedestrian safety devices, safety remains the top priority for drivers, manufacturers, and fleet managers.
With a highly visible paint job, unique dimensions, and bright flashing lights, school bus exteriors are designed to provide a safe and secure way to get students to and from school. But fleet managers should also update the way they monitor and secure their passengers – our children. It’s no secret that many school buses could use an update before the start of the next school year.
So how can we make them safer? Go digital!
More Kids, Fewer Mistakes
With news stories popping up every few months about a child left behind on a bus, it’s no wonder parents and school districts are scrutinizing drivers and inspection processes. But having more passengers each year means drivers have to carry a heavier burden with more stops and drop-offs in a shrinking amount of time. With the number of student passengers increasing each year, fleet managers need to consider solutions that make it easy for drivers to keep their passengers safe and vehicles cleared after completing their routes. Consider looking into tools that scan and log each rider’s entry and exit, keeping track of their whereabouts every time they take a ride.
Hide and Seek
There are also solutions that provide parents with real-time info on their child and their vehicle’s location, for further peace of mind. It is all too common for a kid to miss or get on the wrong bus, causing panic for a parent, driver, and teachers. In fact, in one year bus riding students will enter and exit buses more than 20 billion times. While we can’t expect frazzled bus drivers to know where each and every student is at all times, there are tools that can collect data from each ride, adding an extra layer of accountability each time a vehicle is parked for the day. Earlier this year, an eight year-old in Spokane, WA was thought to be missing because she got on the wrong bus. Though it’s difficult for drivers and fleet managers to keep track of their passengers while outside the bus, it’s not impossible. Student tracking tools offer a way to keep an eye on a child’s whereabouts and play a very important role in keeping tabs on young riders and save parent’s the fear their child is missing.
Safe Vehicle, Safer Passengers
Preventing equipment failure goes a long way in ensuring passenger safety, which is why inspections are so crucial for school buses. A flat tire, broken mirror or dark lightbulb may seem like a minor annoyance but can wreak havoc if not found and addressed quickly. Fleet managers should look into tools that streamline pre- and post-trip inspections, in addition to real-time updates alerting them when buses are not operating safely or when they need maintenance. There are also solutions that provide data on real-time behavior during a ride, giving managers and drivers a way to evaluate trips and make them safer. In a 2011 study by Zonar, buses in the Columbus City School District equipped with their patented Electronic Verified Inspection Reporting (EVIR) technology experienced a 50 percent speed reduction, creating a safer environment for students and drivers.
Although parents will always be concerned about the safety of their children, there are a number of ways school districts and drivers can help give them peace of mind. These steps are just a few ways going digital will improve safety for school bus fleets as they begin prepping for the next school year.