Managing school bus routes and tracking student riders becomes exponentially harder when a bus driver shortage, combined with a pandemic, forces frequent bus substitutions. When a driver calls out sick or there’s no driver available, or when a bus is taken out of service for maintenance, routes must be consolidated, and parents must be alerted.
While permanent bus route changes are handled in school bus route planning software, temporary, on-demand changes can be made in CalAmp’s K-12 fleet management solution. More than a school bus GPS tracking system, the solution integrates with school bus route planning software, reading in information about stop locations and riders.
Using the bus substitution feature, dispatchers can easily assign one bus’s run to another bus. In addition, the tool makes it easy to compare all the planned stops and stop times against actual stops and stop times. Creating planned vs. actual run reports ensures that schools have an accurate historical record of routes traveled and ridership.
Substitutions at the stop level
Once upon a time, schools could transfer all the riders of one bus to a spare bus that could take over the entire run. Most schools no longer have that luxury. Today’s realities mean schools often need to consolidate two or even three bus routes to accommodate all the displaced riders.
Soon, CalAmp’s fleet management solution will allow dispatchers to make route changes at the stop level in addition to the run level for more efficient routing when consolidation is necessary. They will simply click a bus stop within the CalAmp fleet management interface, click the new bus to which they want to assign the stop, and click “move” to assign it. Reassigning one stop or multiple stops will take just a few clicks.
More efficient school bus routing means more students get to school on time. In addition, bus substitution at the stop level could potentially provide school districts a way to automate bus assignments.
More accurate school bus alerts and contact tracing
When a child’s bus has been changed, parents need to be updated. CalAmp’s Here Comes The Bus ® solution includes a school bus tracking app for parents that shows them where their child’s bus is in real time and sends an automated alert when the bus is near the child’s stop. The bus substitution feature of CalAmp’s fleet management solution ensures that these alerts are based on the bus the student is actually riding instead of the bus originally assigned. Once the substitution is saved in the system, the system will notify the parent of the change.
With the stop-level substitution feature, parents will be able to track the location of the substituted bus as it nears their child’s stop to better time pickups and drop-offs.
The bus substitution feature also supports accurate contact tracing. CalAmp’s fleet management solution, Bus Guardian®, creates instant school bus ridership reports for contact tracing of potentially ill students. If a student or bus driver contracts Covid-19, it’s critical to know which students rode the same bus. When buses are substituted, updated ridership information courtesy of planned vs. actual reports ensures that contact tracing is accurate.
Busing students to school is a complex endeavor, especially during a driver shortage. Creating visibility into which buses and which students are where is equally complex, even before substitutions are factored in. Planning and executing on-demand route changes and maintaining an accurate historical record of routes and ridership is as easy as ABC with CalAmp’s fleet management solution.