Detroit expands school bus tracking system
Detroit’s public schools have upgraded and expanded the fleet tracking system for their school buses. The new system will more than double the number of buses the school system can follow with real-time tracking and will provide data for future analysis and planning.
Since 1992, the school system has used automated vehicle location technology to track 400 district-owned and -operated school buses. In 1999, as a result of a systemwide emphasis on accountability, officials decided that they needed a standard way to gather information from their school buses and from an additional 535 buses operated by subcontractors. The school system also wanted to ensure that the vendor and the school district terminal operations staff adhered to the same standards.
The school system upgraded its fleet tracking software to the Fleet Director Enterprise Edition system from Teletrac, Vista, Calif., and required subcontractors to install it as well. The system also can distribute tracking information to 10 different contractors and two school locations.
Compilation of the tracking data at the management level allows officials to perform historical analysis on the bus routes. That information will assist transportation managers in analyzing bus performance and overtime costs. The data also will help them balance routes and justify the cost of additional buses.
Since delays caused by weather and road conditions are a regular part of the winter driving environment in Michigan, the tracking system will not only allow the bus routes to be tracked in real-time, but also will allow the drivers to send short, pre-configured messages indicating bus arrivals and departures. Messages also can be sent from dispatchers to prompt drivers to send information or to call in.
In addition to tracking buses, the system can help keep track of students. As in many school districts, Detroit school bus drivers cannot leave special education students at their destinations if no one is there to meet them. Parents of special education children who are late or miss pick-ups can call one of the school system’s “non-deliverable student” centers and find out exactly where their children are and when they will be at the center for pick-up. Schools also will be able to hold parents accountable for their own delays and missed pick-ups because the system will track exactly when the bus arrived and departed each location.
According to Dale Goby, director of student transportation for the Detroit public school system, “We are looking for not only performance and productivity advantages, but also safety for our students and convenience for our parents. It is critical that we maintain strict standards of accountability where children are concerned.”