Parents want their children to travel to and from school safely and punctually. For this, they rely on bus fleet owners, school administrators, operators, and drivers to work together to build a cohesive system.
One of the critical components of this system is route management.
Operators must strategically plan every bus route to create a well-oiled K-12 bus fleet that reaches all the neighborhoods, safely picks up students, and gets them to school before classes begin. And then repeat the process after school.
Operators need school bus routing software with end-to-end visibility, real-time GPS tracking, and other management features to plan effective routes.
In this article, we’ll explain how school bus routing software works and why every school or bus operator needs to use them. We’ve also listed the five essential features of good school bus routing software.
What is school bus routing software?
School bus routing software is a bus monitoring and management platform. Operators and dispatchers for school districts use this software to plan efficient bus routes and then use GPS tracking to ensure safe driving and on-time pickups and drop-offs.
Every bus is equipped with a tablet in a school bus management solution. This tablet sends real-time location and data to operators via a web or mobile application. They can use this to see where every bus is, check if they’re running on time, identify potential delays, and plan better routes.
Since student safety is vital to school bus management, operators can use advanced K-12 bus management software beyond basic route planning and GPS tracking.
For example, CalAmp has a Student Ridership module that can prevent students from getting off the bus at the wrong stop and send location-based notifications when their child boards or departs a bus.
With a solution like CalAmp, operators and administrators can gain complete visibility into the school bus fleet, manage stop-level bus substitutions, automate payroll for drivers, and more.
7 reasons why school bus routing software is crucial
Fleet intelligence can help operators improve the efficiency of their school bus operations. School bus routing software benefits the school, dispatchers, contractors, operators, drivers, parents, and students.
Here’s a closer look at the benefits of implementing school bus routing software:
1. Enhance route management
Using telematics, operators can gain end-to-end visibility across their school bus fleet. They can build optimal routes, track locations in real-time to ensure on-time departures and route compliance, and understand how long a route takes compared to initial estimates.
Real-time data and historical reports can be used in comparative analysis to identify faster routes and areas where constant problems occur. With these insights, operators can plan new routes, modify current ones, and ask for additional resources to boost efficiency.
For example, adding another bus to handle a resource-intensive route can improve punctuality and relieve drivers’ burdens.
These features help eliminate blind spots in school bus management and foster data-driven decision-making.
2. Improve student safety
Operators, parents, and guardians can monitor students’ arrival and departure times by tracking the location of school buses. CalAmp’s Here Comes the Bus application also alerts parents when their child’s bus is near their stop so they can get ready on time.
A New York City Bus Contractor using CalAmp highlighted why this feature is so important:
“New York families know how it is. They know it’s crazy on these roads and the bus is going to be late and the bus is going to be early sometimes,” Vallone said. “They just want to be aware so they can plan their mornings and know their children are home safe after school. Giving them that peace of mind is priceless.”
The app also lets parents and dispatchers directly communicate with each other. So, dispatchers can calm anxious parents with regular updates if there's an unexpected delay.
For additional safety, the platform offers a Student Ridership module which relies on RFID cards and barcode scanning for student tracking. Parents get alerts when their child boards or departs a bus. Drivers also get an alert if a student departs at the wrong stop so they can act immediately.
3. Mitigate delays
By tracking each bus’s location and using telematics software, operators can easily mitigate lengthy delays caused by breakdowns or absent drivers.
K-12 telematics tools record real-time vehicle data, so operators can send buses for preventative maintenance and protect against major breakdowns.
Other bus drivers must take on extra work when a school bus needs extensive repairs. This could cause severe delays and logistical complications as drivers try to complete longer routes.
CalAmp facilitates substitution at the stop level for sudden breakdowns or driver illnesses. Each stop can be reassigned to another driver, and their route can be altered instantly to accommodate these changes.
4. Improve driver retention
Driver retention is a crucial concern for school districts all over the country. The key to retaining drivers is to make their job as easy as possible.
Operators can use a K-12 telematics solution to decrease driver fatigue by planning more efficient routes. This translates into less time on the road for drivers and reduces stress. They can also track the work hours of every driver to ensure they don’t overburden their employees.
Drivers also benefit from an automated payroll system that logs their work hours. A sick driver can rest easy knowing operators can simply reassign their route with a few clicks.
These features enable easy collaboration and communication between operators and drivers. It simplifies driver management and reduces conflict.
5. Save time and money
By leveraging the features of a fleet telematics solution, schools can plan efficient routes that reduce fuel costs and save money.
Fleet telematics data and vehicle diagnostics can also reduce maintenance costs. Operators can spot vehicle issues quickly and address them. This is the difference between spending a few hundred dollars on smaller repairs or several thousand for a major breakdown.
K-12 fleet data can also help reduce expenses by eliminating redundancies like inefficient drivers and extra buses. The money saved on unnecessary costs can be re-invested in improving existing buses or buying new ones to create an even more efficient system.
Top school bus routing software providers, like CalAmp, have custom pricing models for each fleet and offer free installation. This means schools can create productive K-12 fleets without breaking their budget.
6. Streamline payroll
School bus management software can streamline a fleet’s payroll processes using tablets and integrated data.
For example, drivers can easily clock in or out using the onboard tablet. The device sends this data to administrators, eliminating the need for in-office visits and manual logging.
Payroll integrations are vital. They enable employees to compile data and track payments on a single platform rather than juggling multiple tools and increasing the chances of human error.
The CalAmp K-12 Application integrates with most major fleet payroll systems, streamlining administrative work.
Onboard devices that track hours and routes also increase driver accountability and prevent false claims about work hours and pay.
7. Simplify fleet management
Managing a school bus fleet using a scattered system that relies on different documents and multiple apps can quickly become overwhelming and unproductive.
Operators, dispatchers, and administrators can handle all fleet-related data and activity on one platform with a unified fleet management application.
This enables them to focus on critical tasks that boost fleet operations instead of being bogged down by a scattered system.
For example, operators can focus on improving routes and keeping buses running punctually using a single dashboard instead of shifting between multiple tabs or apps to get the most basic GPS data.
Similarly, administrators can improve driver and student management when a dashboard shows all relevant data instead of looking through spreadsheets, manual attendance logs, and multiple student apps.
A uniform platform with plenty of integrations, like CalAmp, can make fleet management easier and quicker for school districts everywhere.
5 essential features of school bus routing software
Several key factors decide which K-12 telematics solution is right for your school bus fleet.
Whichever platform you choose, it must have these five crucial features:
1. Real-time GPS tracking
The most basic function of school bus management apps is GPS tracking. However, you need a tool that shows operators the location of all buses in one window and in real time.
When operators can see where every bus is and if it’s following the designated route, they can get an accurate estimate of how long it takes to complete each route.
Real-time tracking also allows them to act quickly in emergencies or delays. For example, operators can quickly adjust drivers and routes when a breakdown occurs so that students still reach their destinations on time or with a minor delay.
The benefits of tracking also apply to parents who use apps like CalAmp’s Here Comes The Bus, which uses GPS-based technology to alert parents and guardians when their child’s bus is near their designated stop.
2. Comparative analysis
Comparative analysis uses current and historical data to better understand and improve your fleet routing. These reports help operators and school administrators gain insights and encourage informed decision-making.
Operators can use comparative analysis to create better routes, either in terms of route completion time or fuel efficiency. For example, they can see if a bus takes shorter time to complete the trip if it drives down Street A instead of Street B.
Comparing and modifying every little detail like this is crucial for school bus fleets, which often operate on limited budgets where every dollar makes a difference.
Improving routes also benefits drivers by reducing fatigue. Comparative analysis can also be used to reinforce proper driver management practices.
For example, fleet managers can use CalAmp’s driver performance reports to track driver behavior and coach their actions. Since rash driving actions like speeding or harsh braking can impact student safety, the ability to monitor and improve driver behavior is vital for school fleet operators.
So, comprehensive reports and analyses can save time and money while improving driver behavior and fleet safety.
3. Student safety
Every K-12 telematics solution must have features that help keep students safe on their journey to and from school. This is why CalAmp offers Here Comes The Bus and the Student Ridership module.
Both these features keep operators, drivers, parents, and administrators updated on student departure and boarding activities in real time.
Here Comes The Bus helps parents and guardians to drop off and pick up their kids at the bus stop on time. It also ensures kids don’t spend too long waiting by themselves for the bus to arrive. The Student Ridership module ensures students board and depart at their designated stops.
Additionally, school bus telematics improves safety by allowing direct communication between dispatchers, parents, and drivers. So everyone is updated instantly in case of emergencies or delays.
4. School bus and white fleet maintenance
Whether an operator has to manage five buses or 20, maintenance is always a big concern. Poorly maintained vehicles drive up costs in terms of fuel consumption and can also lead to breakdowns or delays.
Since repairing school buses is not cheap or quick, it’s better to practice preventive maintenance that ensures all buses are regularly serviced and stay in good condition.
Your school bus fleet management solution must automate maintenance using pre-planned scheduled maintenance reminders. It must also send instant alerts when a vehicle faces road issues, so operators and drivers can work together to find a solution quickly.
School bus fleet management involves many crucial tasks such as routing, scheduling, safety, and payroll. Using a different app for all these functions can overwhelm operators, owners, and school administrators.
Your school bus routing software must integrate with other crucial apps for these tasks to handle all fleet operations on one intuitive platform.
CalAmp integrates with an impressive list of partners in the K-12 industry to deliver a seamless school bus fleet management experience for everyone involved. Operators can manage everything from routing to tracking, logging, and payroll on a unified platform.
School bus routing software can help schools, contractors, and operators gain end-to-end visibility into and more efficiently manage their bus fleets.
Besides route planning, schools need a real-time solution to track buses, improve student safety, keep parents informed, and enable more effective driver management. These are just some of the features that the CalAmp Application offers.
If you’re looking for an all-in-one school bus routing solution, the CalAmp Application for K-12 fleet management is the best choice. Request a demo today to see how it can work wonders for your school bus fleet.