When SafeStop app launched last fall, it was a first in many ways for student transportation, especially Student Transportation Inc.
As more and more parents asked for notifications on the location and arrival time of their children's school buses, school bus and charter contractor company saw an opportunity, said Patrick Gallagher, director of sales.
"It's a product for any transportation provider or school district that runs an operation or a fleet to provide a higher level of customer service for their parents and a higher level of communication," he told STN.
There are several similar apps currently on the market, but Gallagher said SafeStop is the only product that shows predictive arrival time by marrying the scheduled arrival time of the school bus versus the actual GPS data from the vehicle. He also said that beyond vehicle location SafeStop, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and Google Play, provides parents and students alerts via smartphone, table or desktop computer as to changes in bus arrival times and, perhaps more importantly, the reason for the delay in the first place.
"We feel it's not only important to let parents know the bus is going to be early, or late or on time but most of the time the parents want to know why," he said, adding that the ability for student transporters to be more proactive in communicating traffic conditions and weather delays increases the customer service component.
Launched last August, SafeStop is initially available to parents and students in select school districts in Florida, South Carolina, California and Illinois for this school year. Gallagher said the company plans to roll out to more locations over the next year, as well as introduce RFID-based student tracking and parent-pay options. SafeStop is also product agnostic when it comes to the GPS or routing software solution used by the transportation provider. Gallagher said customers are provided with access to a dedicated SafeStop website to set up their routes and stops.
While the app is a part of the STI family, it's a completely separate entity from school bus contractor operations at Student Transportation of America, Student Transportation of Canada and parent-pay, school-bus and charter service via SchoolWheels Direct. Gallagher said other school bus contractors nationwide that would normally be competitors of STI are now clients in addition to individual school districts.
But, more so, he explained that SafeStop is designed with parents in mind. He said all the company's data shows that parents feel they are under-communicated with when it comes to their children's transportation.
"It's a change in vision of who really are our customers. Of course it's the schools who pay for our contracts, but our end-users really are the parents," he added. " Every bus stop that we always went to and every parent we always talked to the first thing that comes up always was "I wish we could know in real-time when the bus was coming and where the bus is. A light bulb went off."