18:19 PM

Suburban Atlanta District Invests in a Smarter School Bus Experience

Cobb County School District leverages Sourcewell to add school bus tracking software

Traffic in and around greater Atlanta is well known as some of the worst in the country, so parents around Cobb County - situated north of Atlanta proper - understand when buses run late or get caught up in unexpected congestion.

But in an era when connected mobile devices allow us to track the baking of a delivery pizza and the arrival of a rideshare, parents and administrators expect real-time information to alleviate the worry associated with late or even broken-down buses.

“We live in a different world now,” says Bryan Snyder, Director of Transportation at Cobb County Schools. “And we know we have to adapt to serve our community with the information they need to manage their lives well because so much depends on getting your child off to school safely and on time."

That's when Cobb County Schools adopted Synovia’s award-winning Here Comes The Bus mobile app, delivering real-time vehicle tracking as well as push notifications and email alerts when the bus is approaching a home or designated stop.


Combatting Traffic

With 78,000 students, 1,100 buses, and 1,500 employees, the team at the Cobb County School District’s Transportation Department faces a host of challenges every day as they manage one of North America’s largest and most dynamic school bus fleets.

One huge challenge: Combating some of the country’s most notorious traffic while transporting Georgia’s second largest group of students to and from school every day.

Other challenges include keeping safe and experienced drivers behind the wheel; ensuring students are well behaved aboard their buses; and keeping parents apprised as weather, traffic, and the occasional transportation curveball keeps the entire staff on their toes.

To help manage this diverse set of challenges, the Cobb County team relies on a well-trained, highly committed staff of transportation professionals. And those people rely on a host of technologies designed to keep students safe and to enhance fleet operations.

With so many students and a coverage area of approximately 400-square-miles, Cobb County turned to CalAmp to serve its GPS-powered Fleet Intelligence needs.

“It just works,” says Mike Warner, who has been managing maintenance fleets for private and public organizations for decades. “And our community has embraced it with more than 2,000 downloads in the first weeks it was released and thousands more since. Our goal is to have 70 percent penetration by the end of this school year and for every parent who needs it to have it.”

The app captured an Innovation Award from IHS Markit in 2019 for its intuitive user interface, reliability, and customer satisfaction. The app has garnered 4.6 stars on the Apple app store with more than 65,000 reviews, and has been downloaded more than 2 million times.

From helping mechanics in the garage remotely diagnose why a bus is broken down on the side of the road and assisting the dispatch team reroute buses around accidents, to delivering driver reports focused on improving driver behaviors and managing their payroll system, CalAmp has delivered a robust suite of solutions focused on improving operations and safety.

“The CalAmp software supports nearly every function of our operations and allows us to make more intelligent decisions,” explains Snyder. “The software is easy to use and delivers so much functionality that was clearly designed with the school bus fleet in mind. It’s a major part of our success formula.”

To the make the buying process simple, Cobb County leveraged the Sourcewell cooperative purchasing program. 

To Tow or Not to Tow?

When a check engine light is flashing and the vehicle is performing poorly, do you pull over and order a tow truck or push it a few miles hoping to get back home?

Whether you’re a transportation expert with decades of experience or a newly minted driver with only a month's worth of experience on the road, the problem remains the same: How serious is serious?

For the every day motorist driving a personal vehicle, the calculation is challenging but not overwhelming. Stressful but manageable.

But if you’ve got 35 elementary school children who may have to deboard the bus on a busy street and re-board another bus as traffic speeds by only feet away, the decision is fraught with peril.

That’s what makes Synovia’s engine diagnostics tool so powerful.

A driver can alert the garage of a check engine light in real time and the mechanic is able to quickly determine the type of fault and appropriate response.

Sometimes a rattling under the hood may seem more serious than the sound lets on, and the driver can safely complete their route and return to the yard for maintenance.

But another warning light – alerting an alternator ready to fail, perhaps – flashing while the vehicle operates without other distress symptoms is a cause for serious concern: Pull over somewhere safe before the bus is stranded in a more precarious location.

As the leader of the Cobb County maintenance department, Warner is grateful to have the remote access provided in the Synovia Fleet Intelligence solution.

“It’s hard to describe the peace of mind we get from the Engine Diagnostics tool, when you consider the position we were in previously,” Warner said. “A bus would be running poorly, and we just didn’t know, so we almost always had to err on the side of caution because we always have to put safety first. But we would get buses back to the garage and find minor issues that didn’t require such drastic maneuvering.”

Today, the fleet always has multiple sets of eyes ready to diagnose a problem, whether the bus is two miles from the yard or across the state transporting a sports team on an early Saturday morning.

“Knowing the issues in real time, and being able to communicate to the driver, to dispatch, and even to administrators if they need to know, is powerful and it’s improving the way we operate,” he said.

Sourcewell makes buying simple

Large school districts are sometimes required to issue a Request for Proposal to make a purchase as significant as a multi-year Fleet Intelligence solution that includes a school bus tracking app like Here Comes The Bus.

Since Sourcewell is a government agency and has already satisfied the RFP process, districts can simply purchase immediately off their competitively solicited contracts.

Sourcewell is one of the largest cooperative purchasing organizations in North America, and their rigorous RFP process often meets or exceeds local requirements. Synovia’s Fleet Intelligence offerings are available to school districts and contractors through established contract pricing from this open and fair RFP process.

Learn more about Here Comes the Bus at herecomesthebus.com (non-government site). 


Source: Article submitted by Synovia