The Problem / Challenge
Maintaining an exemplary safety and quality of service record matters to the Volusia County Student Transportation Services. In 2014 they received the Larson Quality Award, bestowed by the National Association for Pupil Transportation. Simply put, Volusia is known for its dependable, safe, efficient, and high quality of service. As part of their dedication to improving transportation services, Volusia needed to establish a higher standard of monitoring and reporting. While they already had routing and scheduling software in place to help schedule optimized, efficient and safe routes and stops for its student riders, Volusia recognized the potential to provide even greater accountability, efficiencies, service, and safety.
Volusia wanted to ensure that safety protocols were being met. Their routing and scheduling plans are specifically created in order to ensure the maximum regard for student safety. For example, they may schedule stops near an intersection, rather than at a driveway to a student’s home. Volusia adheres to the district school board rules concerning the location of safe stops in relation to traffic hazards, requirements of drivers to activate pupil warning lights, and to keep locations visible to vehicular traffic at least 200 feet in both directions. As well, stops should not be on a steep grade, blind curve or near a railroad crossing.
Student tracking is an issue that Volusia takes seriously. It was this specific issue that encouraged Volusia to seek out a vendor at the forefront of school transportation software and GPS technologies. They required a tracking system to be able to pass on vital information to staff and parents. Volusia would discover the two main benefits of using GPS in connection with TripSpark’s AVL backend software: The ability to verify that their routing plan matched the actual real world situation and student tracking.
On December 1, 2014, Volusia began phase one of implementation with a stand-alone GPS/AVL bus tracking solution. We worked to create a backend AVL software solution that matched up with their specific needs. In phase two, Volusia implemented the Student Ridership program. The system uses student ID cards, an RFID card reader and keypad, and GPS equipment installed on the school buses. Elementary students are provided with an ID card to identify themselves by simply waving their ID card near the card reader mounted near the entrance of the bus. Middle and High School students will identify themselves by entering the month and day of their birthday on the keypad also mounted near the entrance of the bus. The identification system has the intelligence to manage students with the same birthday.
While the cards are used to track individual students, the cards do not store any personal information about them. Each is simply assigned a unique and random identification number. The data is secure and encrypted and associates the data of students getting on and off the bus with information already being used by the School District and integrated routing software. Because all data is routed through a cloud server, the information can be viewed in a secure browser window. Buses can be seen on their routes on a map, to show speed, location, heading direction, status, etc. As well, the screen can display previous stop times and alerts about excessive idling times. Now, accurate GPS data can reveal if drivers are adhering to Volusia’s routing and safety initiatives.
Because Volusia already had TripSpark routing software in place, their GPS solution would integrate perfectly into the full suite of products allowing for easy installation, plug-and-play functionality and cost-cutting options. Not all third-party software is able to connect in the same way so Volusia can take advantage of a full TripSpark integration.
Our software solution has enabled Volusia to be able to remotely monitor all of their school buses and students getting on and off the buses in real time. Having access to GPS information gives Volusia access to a wide variety of real time information. In addition to enhanced safety, the system also identifies increased efficiency, cost savings, and reimbursement opportunities. Emergency or other issues are now addressed quickly and call inquiries get immediate information. Automated student identification reduces labor costs preparing state reimbursement reporting and ensures reimbursement dollars received for all bus riders. Enhanced engine idling monitoring reduces fuel consumption, emissions, and costs.
GPS capabilities have enabled Volusia to better to monitor routing efficiencies and track students to improve overall safety. We are happy to be able to address their district’s unique needs.