Driving children to and from schools may appear simple, but not everyone can be a school bus driver – it is a challenging role that calls for some special set of driving and multi-tasking skills as well as a compassionate and helping nature.
At the same time, it is a part time job and does not match up to other driving jobs in terms of pay or perquisites. Hence recruiting and retaining good school bus drivers is a perennial problem for schools in most parts of the world.
The good news is, if you have invested in a school bus tracking system, the integrated GPS and telematics technologies can help to alleviate the drivers’ problems and even motivate them to perform better. Let’s see how:
1.Optimized Routes: The tracking system automatically calculates the most efficient routes taking cognizance of factors such as student addresses and desired trip duration; plus a multitude of local, on the ground factors that manual systems can never take into account.
Drivers get turn by turn navigation assistance. What’s more, the system adjusts for issues such as traffic jams, accidents, construction work, repairs etc. in real time. The end result – drivers have shorter, hassle free school trips.
2.Two-way Communication: With the introduction of cloud, wireless technology and apps, transport managers, school authorities and drivers can seamlessly communicate with each other via smart phones and tabs.
For the drivers, this eliminates guess work and unnecessary stress while driving. Any last-minute changes in student attendance or pick up / drop points is efficiently handled, and everyone concerned is on the same page.
3.Automated Safety Checks: Conducting pre and post trip checks of key safety features is a crucial responsibility for school bus drivers, but it can be a tiresome process to manually write and maintain these records.
With telematics, the process is streamlined and electronically verified with the help of sensors/ RFID technology, so drivers do not need to provide proof of inspection.
4.Camera Integration: Telematics empowers drivers by integrating with advanced 360° cameras with live-streaming and recording features that provide a high-resolution view of the inside as well as outside area of the bus, especially the part immediately in front and behind the bus, which are normally the ‘blind spots’ for drivers. This can help to avoid many accidents while driving and reverse parking.
Stop -arm cameras that are mounted below the stop arms are also extremely useful because they automatically record details of vehicles that drive past the stop sign, leaving the driver free to concentrate on the children boarding and de-boarding the bus.
5.Automated Student Attendance: The use of RFID technology in student attendance eliminates a lot of stress for drivers. Students have RFID embedded ID cards which get scanned every time they enter or alight from the bus, so drivers no longer need to manually check student attendance.
In case the student boards the wrong bus or alights at the wrong stop, school authorities and parents get instant alerts on their phones and drivers don’t need to unnecessarily get involved in any disputes.
6.Improved Driving Habits: Telematics can accurately track driving behavior and send timely in-vehicle alerts if the drivers are speeding, harsh braking, idling excessively or taking unnecessary risks while maneuvering the school bus. Drivers get hands-on training on the job, and get continuous feedback on driving habits that they need to work on. Over time, this instills a sense of accountability and helps them to become more accomplished, efficient and responsible drivers.
7.Advanced Driver Assistance Systems: Even with the best of drivers, accidents do happen, on account of negligence, rash driving or sheer fatigue.
Telematics technology can now integrate with advanced safety technologies such as Intelligent Speed Assistance, Lane departure warning and Lane Assist systems, Electronic Stability Control Systems and Collision Mitigation Systems, to help drivers avoid the dangers of excessive speeding, lane deviations, sudden turns, and tailgating respectively.
8.Predictive Maintenance: The system uses a network of sensors to record vehicle diagnostic and performance data. Analyzing current and historical data for trends, the system devises algorithms to predict performance issues and set maintenance schedules and reminders for drivers. This not only simplifies their job, but also helps to avoid major breakdowns and down times.
9.Filtered WIFI: Drivers also have to contend with unruly behavior and bullying on the bus. But thanks to technology, it is now possible for students to access filtered WiFi, which keeps them out of mischief, leaving the driver free to focus on the road ahead without distractions.
10.Unbiased Review and Reward Systems: The use of telematics ensures that driver appraisals and reward systems are factual, objective and based on hard data.
Telematics data recorded across a host of sensors is analyzed with driver performance data to create driver score cards. At any point in time, drivers get to know where they stand on important safety and efficiency metrics.
To make the review and reward system even more effective, telematics is going a step further by introducing gamification. This involves the use of a game-like interface on mobile phones and tabs, with points, badges, levels and prizes that also incorporate ongoing feedback and activity loops.
These systems go a long way to keep drivers engaged and interested in performing better to qualify for the rewards and incentives.
Investing in a school bus GPS tracking system with advanced telematics helps schools and transport providers reap the benefits of safer, more efficient and cost-effective operations.
Parallelly, telematics can also play a significant role in improving working conditions for drivers, instilling a sense of enthusiasm for the job, and simplifying their lives in general.
At the end of the day, unless school and transport authorities understand their drivers and their pain points, and take concrete steps to address them, no amount of signing bonuses can help to retain them for the long term.
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