April Miller is the training and safety coordinator at Cleveland City School District in Tennessee, which has 36 buses running 28 routes. During a March 10 webinar sponsored by TransAct, she spoke on the pandemic-related difficulties at her district, including many drivers who chose to leave because of COVID-19 concerns.
“The driver shortages have impacted everyone — the transportation department, parents, students, schools…we’re having to change our day-to-day operations,” she stated.
Cassidy Beam, account representative for TransAct, explained that the TravelTracker software, includes features that allow for easy rerouting, notifications and a parent portal. It is built to assist districts with adapting and changing to the constantly changing situations that transportation staff are faced with.
Miller confirmed that having the means to clearly communicate with parents using TravelTracker reduces confusion and helps both staff and students be prepared for the daily transportation operations. She said that communication within the software has nearly eliminated the many phone calls from parents every time there was a scheduling change.
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Buttons Cheely, a customer success specialist at TransAct, said the parental notifications are based on contact information from the SIS, or student information system, which means transportation departments don’t have to worry about constantly updating parent information.
Cheely continued that the parent portal allows parents to easily track their children, including when and where they got on and off the bus.
Miller said she “loves everything about TravelTracker” and has found it to be beneficial for keeping routes updated, giving instant information to substitute drivers, updating drivers on a new student or bus stop, or informing parents of changes in routes or bus numbers.
TravelTracker also keeps updated rosters accessible to drivers. In the event of an accident, Miller said, emergency responders are instantly notified as to which students are on the bus.
Routing consolidation and turn-by-turn navigation are two more beneficial features that Miller said have greatly helped drivers, especially substitute drivers who may not be as familiar with the route.
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Cheely and Beam highlighted TravelTracker’s Sandbox feature, which allows districts to plan routes specific to a group of students or a varying schedule, without affecting the current routes or live data. They can then choose to add the routes when needed. Miller encouraged districts to see a live demo.
Instead of spending summers planning routes by hand and making individual phone calls to parents or drivers, Miller said she has been able to send over 194,000 messages instantly through the TravelTracker software.
“I have many roles I play. I train, assign routes, [and] handle safety. I don’t have to work late planning routes anymore because the software has taken 70 percent of my workload off,” she explained.
With the time saved, she said she can focus more on training and safety, which is invaluable for student transportation staff.
Beam spoke on the benefits of the unlimited user license, which Miller said has allowed district staff beyond just the transportation department to stay informed on school bus routing changes.
Miller concluded by saying that she considers programs based on their customer service.
“If a program doesn’t have good customer service, is it worth it?” she queried, adding that it’s been two years since her district implemented the software, and she can still count on timely responses from the TransAct support team.
“Regardless of what product you utilize, our goal is to help grow and improve the efficiency of your district,” Beam summarized.
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