With school startup about a month away, the South Carolina Department of Education is about ready to begin phase one of implementing new school bus routing software, GPS and tablets, with the hope that all county school districts will sign up for the technology over the coming years.
The SCDOE and Tyler Technologies announced the five-year, multimillion contract on July 22. In a statement, Tyler called it the first-ever statewide agreement for school routing software and telematics, and the deal represents the company’s largest transportation contract to date.
The contract is unique for additional reasons. South Carolina DOE owns, maintains and manages all 5,100 routed buses out of 42 facilities located across the Palmetto State. Under the partnership with Tyler, the state purchased the Traversa routing software, Tyler Telematic GPS units and Tyler Drive tablets and is making them available to all 79 county school districts. Participating counties also receive the Tyler Traversa Ride 360- parent app
Bill Tindal, the business and district services director for the South Carolina Department of Education’s central transportation office, explained last week to School Transportation News that the school districts can opt to use another technology provider or route by hand. All actual student transportation operations, including developing the routes and ongoing evaluation to ensure they are free of hazards, remain each school district’s responsibility.
If districts use another routing method, Tindal said they must still submit their routes along with related, specific data such as route time, which is tied to driver pay.
But the Tyler solutions are meant to streamline reports that filter to the state capital of Columbia.
“We’re actually trying to give districts tools to optimize their routes,” added David Stagg, an IT consultant to the DOE. “The districts are responsible for reporting routes back to us so we can analyze and make sure they are using the buses in the most optimal way, with the routing part of it making sure they have the tools to optimize instead of using paper-based maps.”
The technology will also capture student ridership, vehicle diagnostics and location, and driver behavior behind the wheel.
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Tyler said it hopes to eventually install GPS units on all school buses across South Carolina. But Stagg said only about one-third of South Carolina school buses will be equipped with the Tyler Drive tablet, which will also provide turn-by-turn navigation. Tindal pointed out these are dedicated wheelchair-lift buses that will serve special needs routes. The tablets will provide tracking information for the state to use to recoup eligible Medicaid expenses.
The road leading to the Tyler contract began with a formal RPF issued in 2017 for a statewide pilot. The DOE selected Traversa, Tyler GPS and Tyler Drive for use in three districts and added two more a year later.
While no school districts have signed on yet, Tindal said phase one will include implementing the technology on the first participating fleets and working with Tyler on developing training and policies. He added that the DOE initially planned to implement the offering earlier this year, but COVID-19 budget constraints impacted the timeline.
Editor’s Note: Read more on the integration of technology in the September edition of School Transportation News magazine.