The last time you took a summer vacation somewhere new, where did you stop to purchase your atlas?

That’s your laughably rhetorical question for the day. Whether you’re reacting with nostalgia, or you’re wondering what an atlas is, you agree that it’s a pretty absurd thought these days.

Disruption.

That’s the word we use when we talk about new technology. But sit back and reflect on the connotation of that word. Blockbuster (if they were still around) would probably call Netflix’s paradigm “disruptive.” But Netflix would probably just call it “a better business model.” Really, business has always been change or die. 21st century tech is simply quickening the pace.

Thomas Edison didn’t invent the light bulb in order to crush the match and candlestick industry. Henry Ford didn’t build the Model T in order to put horse handlers out of business. But the results were the same: a tectonic shift in modes of production and expectations for all sorts of industries. The Model T created opportunities by the tenfold, opportunities that are still growing and evolving today, opportunities that include getting more students to school safer and quicker than ever before.

Is your operation evolving with new technology, or is it being left behind?

Just like in the commercial sector, web-based GPS technology is changing the status quo of K-12 transportation. This change is saving districts valuable labor time, maintenance costs, and scores of paper.

But GPS is already becoming an accepted part of student transportation. Let’s look ahead to the next “disruptive” technology: tablets on school buses. If you want to evolve with the market — instead of letting it disrupt you somewhere down the road — you should take a look at the options available today and learn about where this technology is heading.

To help you find the best fit for your operation, we’ve compiled a list of important questions to ask yourself (and vendors):

  • What are the most important, must-have features? Whether you’re looking for student ridership management, paperless routes, driver timekeeping, inspection tracking, or something else, how you prioritize your needs will affect which tablet you choose. Ask where the routing data comes from. Is the tablet directly integrated with your routing software, or is it a cumbersome import process?
  • Is it scalable, with add-on functionality? You may only want route navigation today, but the public may demand student tracking tomorrow. An all-in-one solution that can grow with your operation is a wiser investment than a cheaper, more limited one.
  • How does it account for safety? Importing the stops from your routing software is a nice start, but it shouldn’t end there. If a tablet is a glorified commercial GPS device using a bunch of waypoints, what happens when a driver misses a stop and has to backtrack? Will it maintain stop integrity? Your students deserve a tablet that will route to avoid that too-sharp corner or maintain right-side only, even if it means going the long way.
  • How flexible is it for driver shortages? While they’re out on the road, do drivers have access to any run, or are they limited to their own? Can two drivers easily split another driver’s run in the event of a callout or emergency?
  • How paperless is it, really? Obviously, a tablet should eliminate the need for drivers to have paper directions while driving. But do you still have to print a list of students for each stop? Can inspections be conducted electronically? Especially for park outs, can driver timekeeping be paperless via the tablet?

Evolving with the times.

Smart technology on school buses is just ramping up, and its success will depend on technology vendors and school districts working together to continue crafting a vision for the future. As Henry Ford put it, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

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

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