Don’t you hate it when you are at a conference or in a meeting and someone uses an acronym that you have never heard before? You look around the room to gauge whether you are the only person who has no idea what the speaker was referencing. If you are really brave then as soon as the meeting is over you might actually ask the person what the acronym stands for. Hopefully you don’t lose your job for asking!

So when the school solution team at Tyler contacted me to contribute to their new blog and told me that the first transportation topic was KPI’s, I decided I would start right at the beginning and actually define the acronym KPI. Maybe you’re an old hat and feel like you know all you need to know about KPI’s. But I’m betting there’s more than a few of you out there who would not only need the definition but who could get real benefit from learning how KPI’s can improve their transportation program. In this post I’ll simply define KPI and give some examples of the types of KPI’s that are important in the student transportation industry. In coming posts I’ll delve more thoroughly into ways you can improve your transportation costs by measuring and analyzing KPI’s.

The acronym KPI stands for Key Performance Indicators. For some of you out there, that probably didn’t help all that much. You might still be scratching your head and wondering what that really means when it comes to school bus fleets. Part of the confusion is that the term KPI can be used across many different industries and technologies.

A key performance indicator is simply defined as measure of performance. Let’s face it, what organization doesn’t need to measure things? We all need to gauge the success or failure of programs and policies. What could be more important than getting concrete evidence? In the world of shrinking budgets and the already-stretched tax dollars, anything that can be measured can become crucial leverage for transportation officials.

In the school bus transportation world there are many different KPI’s. These are measurements you can and should be taking so that you can pull the numbers out of your pocket whenever you need to discuss your fleet. Do you know the average age of your buses? How many alternatively-fueled buses do you manage? How many buses are equipped with GPS technology, student tracking systems, three-point harnesses, and video cameras? What is your district’s ratio of buses maintained per mechanic, daily buses as percentage of total buses, or engine fault code mean-time-to-repair? What is your excessive idling cost per minute? There are so many more I could list: the first time pass rate for bus inspections, percentage of fleet in service, miles per gallon by bus type, post-trip exception count, pre-trip exception count, or the ratio of regular buses versus spare buses.

Are you measuring these KPI’s? Do you have these numbers at-hand, frequently updated and ready to use? If not, why not?

Feel free to comment on your experience.

5 thoughts on “Key Performance Indicators 101

  1. This article is so incredibly timely. Much of what we do at Tyler with the Pulse product is to give Teachers, Department Heads, Principles, and Administrative Staff Key student data in real time to make critical decisions everyday. This key data when easily delivered to everyone involved can empower a school district to easily identify issues and avoid potential risks. The data Pulse uses come from multiple data sources providing the district a total picture of how theyre doing that typically can take hundreds of hours to analyze.

  2. KPI’s are also very useful in tracking routing efficiency and cost effectiveness. Data such as cost, miles and time per bus and per passenger can be very helpful, both for comparing your system to other systems with similar geography and demographics, as well as for periodic comparisons with benchmarks of your own system’s efficiency levels. If, for example, your cost per student goes up significantly between school start-up and mid-semester, this information can prompt you to look for causes and possible solutions before it negatively impacts your budget.

    All good concepts and healthy discussion. I look forward to hearing more.

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