Today’s technology suppliers are poised to help student transportation operations bring their fleets into the modern age and overcome hurdles brought on by COVID-19.
Chandra Swaminathan, the director of software engineering for Tyler Technologies, surmised during a Jan. 27 STN EXPO Virtual presentation that COVID-19 poses many challenges that have forced the school transportation industry to adapt. But to its credit, he added, meal delivery or Wi-Fi-equipped buses were sent out on routes that were planned in a matter of weeks instead of months. A key driver of that accomplishment was technology.
He shared five predictions and key pieces of tech that will greatly affect the future of student transportation.
Cloud-based platforms offer a way to go beyond the limitations of self-hosted solutions, he shared. They offer peace of mind and data security, reduce IT department burdens, facilitate getting software updates out faster, and enable online implementation and training.
The end of 3G is also coming, Swaminathan warned. All major cellular carriers have announced they will no longer support this third-generation of wireless mobile telecommunications technology, which powers many devices in the school bus market. Currently, 4G is 50 times faster than 3G and offers better features to drive modern GPS and manage fleets.
“Tablets are proving to be a must-have in your arsenal,” he added.
They provide turn-by-turn directions that accurately reflect routing and enable drivers to access crucial student information in a safe, secure manner. They also facilitate paperless inspections, child check, and more.
Today, seating charts and contact tracing have become essential, but even outside of COVID-19, parents demand more visibility of their children’s bus rides. Student ridership solutions provide that peace of mind and also reduce the workload of the transportation office.
End-to-end solutions are the future, so student transporters should expect nothing less than complete integration for the transportation office, bus facility and district administration.
“We’ve all been in Excel [spreadsheet] hell – trust me it’s not a happy place to be,” Swaminathan said of manual data management solutions.
He then reviewed Tyler’s connected solutions, including Tyler Traversa, the Ride 360 parent app that provides school bus locations and pickup times, Tyler GPS, and Tyler Drive.
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Tyler’s newest offering, announced the previous day during the company’s Product Showcase, was designed to support the paperless driver and empowers staff to do their jobs independently.
The Tyler Technologies Mobile Suite includes Tyler Bus Clock, Tyler Bus Inspect, and Tyler Bus Attendance (which was released last August). All three were made to enable school bus drivers to be independent and completely paperless for their entire route. They are also extremely customizable, stated Tyler Solutions Consultant Ryan Smithson.
Smithson gave a live demo of all three technologies during the Product Showcase, first highlighting how the Bus Clock app allows drivers to clock in and out from their mobile phones.
Next, he showed how Bus Inspect allows managers to set up as many inspection procedures and COVID-19 sanitization protocols as needed for drivers to complete and sign off on. Work orders can automatically be created and the bus history can be checked right from the app. Drivers and mechanics can also submit information on the same bus without working over each other.
“Instead of a messy paper process, we can now do this through a mobile app,” Smithson said.
Tracking ridership is becoming mandatory in more states as COVID-19 contact tracing is being required, Smithson noted. Tyler Bus Attendance allows drivers to track students without a costly GPS or RFID card setup, he said.
Visit stnexpovirtual.com to watch the replay of these presentations.