There is a lot of talk these days about on-board tablet solutions for the K-12 transportation industry. It sounds similar to the buzz a decade ago about GPS technology.

School transportation is what car manufacturers call a “follower” industry. That is, it follows the trends of the commercial vehicle market, only delayed by several years. There are necessary reasons for these delays: budgets, state approval, public perception, etc. But if the car companies are right, then maybe it’s only a matter of time before the public is demanding safety technology like backup cameras, proximity sensors, collision avoidance systems and touchscreen navigation.

So what should you look for if you’re considering on-board tablets for your buses?

  • Designed for the K-12 industry. Truck drivers are still the backbone of the economy, but that doesn’t mean their technology readily translates to a school bus. How many other industries have to consider accurate student load counts, stop integrity like right-side only, or having to split a run between drivers in the event of a shortage? Your K-12 tablet should.
  • Provides ancillary features. K-12 tablets should do more than give you turn-by-turns. Consider driver and monitor timekeeping, pre- and post-trip inspections, mandatory break logging, GPS capabilities, and onscreen student pictures to help identify those sometimes confused kindergartners.
  • Options for students with disabilities. A K-12 tablet should be able to give you accurate mileage and student count for state reporting. It should also allow drivers to easily and proactively skip stops in the common event that a special education student doesn’t ride that day. Tracking features should also allow for flexible student tracking using the touchscreen, so certain students don’t have to carry an RFID card.
  • Gets rugged. If you’re not asking a hardware vendor for specifications about things like temperature thresholds and shatter resistance, you should be.
  • Strong connectivity. Ask the right questions. Does the tablet operate with WiFi, a cellular connection, or both? If it loses its connection on the road, will it still get the driver to the next stop? You need to know.

When you’re reviewing the market, make sure to think like a business manager who’s concerned with seeing a return on investment. Look for features that prove efficiency. How easily can drivers use the tablet to split a run? Can a driver download runs not assigned to him/her instead of coming back to the office for a route sheet? And don’t forget the savings gained in driver recruitment and retention; many drivers are more comfortable with an on-board navigation system or more willing to work for an establishment that has one.

All in all, tablets should make your life easier. And an on-board tablet designed for your industry could be the next big thing for you.

Content contributions by Tyler Technologies solutions consultants Kim Rentner and Brant Gardner.

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