Technology Rush

I love technology. It provides convenience, efficiency, and in some cases, improved safety. As I drove to work the morning I wrote this month’s column, my car provided a visual and audible alert to “Brake.”

I was approaching the vehicle ahead of me too fast, and the technology gave me valuable seconds of additional reaction time to avoid a crash. Additionally, as I attempted to change lanes, my side-view mirror alerted me to a car in my blind spot. Both of these safety features are invaluable. How did we ever live without them?

I’m sure you have some safety features on your school buses that you feel you or your drivers couldn’t live without, either. Technology has its place on school buses, and districts have more options available to them than ever before. However, there are still many more school buses on the road that do not have this technology, than do.

Ultimately, the goal is to improve safety and operational efficiency. By investing in these new types of technology, school transportation professionals can improve the end product of getting children to and from school safely each and every day. In doing so, school districts are also learning that the efficiencies they uncover by using the technology are saving them money, in the long run. The additional investments are returning big dividends.

In talking with numerous transportation professionals recently, technology inquiries and bids are as hot as ever, with major RFPs released in cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Dallas, plus the entire state of South Carolina. With an array of new or upgraded technology available—think mobile apps, video security equipment, GPS, Wi-Fi, transportation software and much more—you are sure to find something to benefit your operation. The myriad of technology suppliers can provide different features, functions and benefits that give you options when selecting the right partner.

“Safety is our No. 1 priority, and if using stop-arm camera technology can help prevent illegal passing, I’m for it,” said one director of transportation I spoke with recently at the California Association of School Transportation Officials Annual State Conference. Another attendee told me, “I’m planning on buying new school buses this year with video cameras, GPS and Wi-Fi.”

The good news is that new school buses are safer than ever. The addition of electronic stability control, known as ESC, is now standard equipment being offered by all three major school bus OEMs. Are you aware that ESC technology is the equivalent to anti-lock brakes on passenger cars? ESC technology uses speed sensors on each wheel and has the ability to brake individual wheels, which are the basis of anti-lock brake systems. Then, ESC automatically brakes the appropriate wheel to help the driver maintain control, which is especially important in adverse road and weather conditions.

Last year, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require that all new school buses be equipped with collision avoidance systems and automatic emergency braking. This recommendation was based on NTSB’s investigation of two fatal crashes involving school buses in 2016.

With the increasing adoption of new technology, administrators, transportation departments, students and their parents have constant access to data that creates an exhilarating environment for managing the school bus and its passengers. No matter what technology solution you choose to invest in, the systems will take time and people to implement, run and maintain them. There is no perfect solution, as everyone’s challenges, needs and conditions are different.

As you start your summer travel to conferences, be sure to chat with your vendor partners at the trade shows about the technology they offer. They can help make your operation and job a little more convenient, efficient and safe.

Editor’s Note: Reprinted from the May 2109 Publisher’s Corner