The primary goal of a school transportation system is to provide a safe and secure means of commute for students. However, most schools have to walk the tight rope of managing limited budgets, while keeping the transportation service above par and affordable for all.
Honestly speaking, by implementing an intelligent school bus tracking system, schools can achieve the seemingly impossible – efficiently and profitably manage a school bus fleet, while upholding safety standards.
So, how does a tracking system work to achieve this? For those of you who are yet to implement this system and are wondering how the process works, here is a step by step explanation:
1.School Account Creation
First and foremost, upon signing the agreement, a unique account is created for the school. The school is registered with the given address, and the school decides on the pick-up point radius that best covers its catchment area. Next, account is validated and activated.
The recommended hardware is then ordered, shipped, and received at the school. Typically, the hardware consists of the following:
a)GPS Trackers: These devices are the foundation of the tracking system – they pick up signals from navigational satellites and determine location coordinates as well as speed.
Nowadays GPS devices for school buses come with a host of features such as real time tracking on website or app, speed monitoring, shock sensors, Panic button, vibration alarm, voice monitoring, accident detection, auto-ignition cut-off, etc.
There are a variety of trackers available, but the device selection depends on the tracking objectives, vehicle specifications, cellular service provider and ideal input voltage.
b)Sim Cards: Schools must also buy the requisite number of sim cards with suitable monthly data plans for transmission of the GPS tracking data.
c)RFID Cards: These are radio frequency identification chips embedded on cards, which are uniquely coded for each student. The students are required to use this every time they enter or exit the school bus and various places inside the school premises.
d)RFID Scanners: These are devices that can read student RFID cards and record attendance.
e)NFC enabled smart phones: Since all mobile phones have GPS functionality, they can be used (with limited functionality) by school bus drivers in place of GPS trackers. An NFC (Near Field Communications) enabled smart phone can then additionally function similar to an RFID card reader.
A technician then ensures that the GPS trackers are correctly installed into the electric circuitry of the bus and the requisite number of RFID scanners are installed at entry/ exit gates of the school bus, as well as specified locations inside the school.
Schools need to collate all the required details regarding vehicles, drivers, attendants and students. This information is then formatted and input into the tracking software. Schools can choose to include student street addresses, or alternatively, provide pick up / drop point details, along with number of students at every stop.
The system then uses all input data and employs Artificial Intelligence to come up with the most efficient routes, that minimize distance covered, time taken and fuel consumed; and maximize vehicle utilization, driver productivity and operational efficiency.
a) Auto Routing
When student addresses are not included, the school needs to provide pick up / drop point details, and the number of students for every stop. The system then automatically creates the routes and trips by selecting the most congruent stops – considering shift timings, density of pick up points, vehicle seat capacity, road conditions, turn restrictions etc.
b) Auto Allocation
When student addresses are included, the system automatically determines optimal pick up/ drop points and assigns students to these bus stops – considering walk–to-stop distances from given addresses, along with other factors stated above.
6.Providing Printed RFID Cards
Once students are assigned to each bus stop and routes/ trips are in place, unique RFID cards are prepared and printed for every student. These are then provided to the school authorities to give out to students.
7.Creating User Profiles & Sharing Credentials
User profiles are created for all stakeholders who need to access the system and user access levels are determined by the type of role.
E.g., parents should be able to access the real time location of the bus in which their child is travelling, not information for all buses; whereas a transport manager needs to be able to see all the school buses live on a map and be able to give instructions to a driver in case of a last minute inclusion in his route.
Next, these credentials are shared along with app links to each stakeholder. Every stakeholder is provided an app that is unique to their requirements.
The set-up process is now complete, and it’s time for the buses to hit the road.
8.Daily Route Plan & Real Time Optimization
The route plan for each trip is shared with the driver and bus attendant, along with student details for each stop.
All of these pre planned routes are optimized on the go – in response to student absence, change in pick up or drop location for a student, change initiated by driver, new roads, changing road conditions, accidents, child safety hazards, road blocks, new one-way zones, etc.
Students swipe their cards while entering and exiting the bus, which marks their attendance for the day. Similarly, their movements in and out of various class rooms and common areas of the school can also be tracked and recorded.
10.Real Time Alerts & Reports
Finally, all stake holders get access to the real time location of the bus on their mobile, along with notifications and alerts. E.g., parents are notified of the ETA (Expected Time of Arrival) for the school bus, and can also get alert notifications every time there is a change in the route, the driver makes an unscheduled stop, or if the driver exceeds speed limits / drives rashly.
In addition, parents get complete visibility regarding their child’s whereabouts – during the school commute, or inside the school premises.
At any time, stakeholders can access reports on relevant information.
E.g., school authorities can access detailed attendance reports for all students. Transport managers can evaluate fleet efficiency by viewing reports on distance covered by each bus, fuel consumed, mileage, repairs and breakdowns etc.
They can also configure reminders to take care of regular maintenance checkups for each school bus.
Thus, a school bus monitoring system logically and systematically employs sophisticated technology to track school buses in real time, handle student attendance, and tackle complicated aspects of school bus fleet management – at the same time addressing the requirements and concerns of each stakeholder.
The end-result? An enhanced level of safety for students, peace of mind for parents, efficient fleet operations and a cost-effective transport solution for schools.
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