I get the chance to talk to lots of transportation staff from districts across the U.S. and Canada, and I’ve found that across the board, the highly successful student transportation departments have something in common: they stop and look around. It’s harder than it sounds. Student transportation is a crazy business, with many tasks always needing urgent attention. But when district leadership makes time for the team to stop and review their processes, that’s when they try new things and improve operations.
That’s just what I saw when I spoke with staff from the Newton County School System pupil transportation team. In 2013, they undertook a strategic planning process to review their key performance indicators and define goals for the future. “The goals included safe, timely, and reliable transportation for students, efficient operational processes, and effective communication with all customers,” explained Michael Barr, executive director of operations for the district. Although they knew their goals, they realized that they did not have a good way to know how well they were meeting those goals. They needed new tools to gather this data and analyze it.
Although a long-time customer of Versatrans, the Newton County School System team reviewed all the options available to them in the transportation technology market. After their assessment, they realized that they wanted to stay with Versatrans, but that they could make some changes and additions to increase its effectiveness. “We quickly realized the need for GPS and the crucial role it could play to increase both the effectiveness and response time of staff decision making,” said Kelly Smith, operations technology coordinator.
GPS hardware was installed on every vehicle in the Newton County School System fleet, and the district also implemented additional Versatrans solutions to improve their software management capabilities. Smith told me that it made all the difference: “Drivers can be confident they are paid for all time worked. Information is more quickly disseminated to school staff. Administrators can address parental concerns regarding bus stops. And students and parents can track their bus in real time on the Versatrans My Stop app.” Because they stopped to look around, the district now has total oversight over their pupil transportation department.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. You can hear their story for yourself from Cynthia Hudson, a routing specialist for the district, who I spoke with this year. Check out her interview below.