Preparing for the School Year Ahead with School Bus Trackers

June 12, 2019

As school security continues to top the list of growing concerns for private and public schools alike, school districts look to bus tracking systems as a viable way to extend the reach of their safety programs beyond the classroom. But how exactly do bus trackers offer parents and students peace of mind? And beyond safety, how can bus trackers provide school transportation departments with more control over their operations?

To help your school district successfully implement a bus tracking system, we've created a guide to understanding how the technology can benefit students, teachers, and parents.

Know where school buses and students are at all times

Perhaps the largest advantage of a bus tracking system is that it provides school districts more visibility into where a child's bus is and if drivers are operating vehicles safely. School bus trackers use GPS tracking technology to detect late and missed stops in real time, identify stop paddle and emergency lights usage, and mitigate risky driving.

Shannon Barnett is the Director of KWRL Transportation Cooperative, the largest transportation group in Washington, responsible for keeping upward of a hundred school buses and bus drivers safe and on schedule across four school districts. Barnett uses Samsara GPS bus tracking to ensure safety and efficiency across all the school bus fleets he oversees. “Now I have the most accurate information to make the best, safest decisions for our student riders,” he said. “The information we need most often is available at our fingertips… This saves us hours.”

Samsara’s live-to-the-second tracking provides schools with the information they need to make confident decisions about passenger safety, driver performance, and overall bus fleet efficiency.

Optimize bus routes

School transportation departments are often tasked with coordinating bus schedules and routes across multiple schools within a district. In order to stay organized and ensure routes are as efficient as possible, schools can rely on school bus tracking to assess performance, identify areas for improvement, and plan passenger loads.

Samsara helps schools improve routes through route integration tools that import existing routes into the Samsara dashboard. From there, schools can measure route performance and solve for recurring incidents like bus delays. In the scenario that a driver makes a wrong turn or gets lost, Samsara can provide live-to-the-second, real-time locations to keep schools and parents up to date. This is imperative for getting drivers back on their routes so students can get to their destination as quickly and safely as possible.

Respond to parent concerns about school bus locations

When transporting students, safety and accountability are paramount no matter if a child is in middle school or high school.

If a child’s school bus is running behind schedule and slated to miss its arrival time at a designated bus stop along its route, what is the best way to communicate the bus location to a parent? This is a common occurrence among K-12 schools and can be a source of tension between school administrators and parents.

Luckily, bus tracking systems make it easy to keep guardians in the loop and save school administrators from fielding parent questions about the location of the bus. Bus tracking not only provides parents with school bus routes ahead of time, but can also show bus arrival times for more seamless pickups and drop-offs. Certain GPS tracking devices even include push notification functionality so an alert is automatically sent to a parent if a bus is running late.

Additionally, Samsara’s school bus tracking shares real-time bus locations and ETAs via a parent portal, automatically alerting parents if a bus is running late. This can help schools get ahead of parent inquiries and resolve questions about delays, missed stops, and driving incidents with real-time data. And because Samsara’s GPS tracking is in real time, (unlike other GPS tracking devices that only provide breadcrumb-style trails with location updates that refresh every several minutes) schools and parents can always see the exact location of a bus. Samsara also integrates seamlessly with popular school bus tracking apps like SafeStop and ClassDojo at no extra cost, so schools can keep the mobile apps that already give them peace of mind.

Beyond tracking systems: Dash cams and NFC card readers

If you want to equip your school buses with safety features that extend beyond GPS tracking, consider implementing dash cams or NFC card readers for added security.

Samsara multi-cam systems provide schools with 360-degree visibility into their entire school bus fleet. These can be particularly helpful in instances of rowdy behavior or even in the case of a missing child. The cameras capture every angle and automatically upload footage—even while a bus is still moving—to quickly determine whether or not a student boarded the bus or if there was any foul play. Video footage is stored for up to 30 days in the Samsara cloud, making it easy to retrieve in the future.

The Samsara ID Card Reader is another way schools can help boost bus transit security in terms of student location, particularly in the case of a missing child. The ID card, which leverages near-field communication (NFC) technology, can provide increased visibility into school bus fleets and student safety. Students are issued an ID card with a unique student ID number that they simply tap against the card reader on the bus when boarding and disembarking to signal they safely boarded or exited the vehicle.

To learn more about Samsara's school bus fleet management system, reach out for a free demo or trial today.

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