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Leveraging AI To Solve School Bus Driver Shortages

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This year, managers and district staff can take spring and summer vacations, knowing that bus routing emergencies caused by driver shortages will not interrupt their plans.

A national driver shortage is lingering, even as the U.S. distances itself from COVID-19. Driver shortages can cause a great deal of upheaval for a district – staff and teachers fill in to keep busses running, some routes have no drivers, and others have drivers “double-up” by combing two runs into one, which results in buses being late. In some states, National Guard troops are taking the wheel to help ease the effect of a driver shortage.

What’s the answer to solving this chronic issue? How can districts make parents feel that the transportation system is dependable and safe? How do administrators manage constantly shifting driver availability, capacity requirements, and schedule changes?

Better route management is critical.

A more efficient routing process reduces the possibility of bus delays. Even minor changes in routes can cause a cascading effect of buses running behind schedule. The TravelTracker – Routing Software evaluates existing routes and makes suggested efficiency changes. Users can evaluate various scenarios to determine how to best utilize the staff and buses available.

Communicate with Parents, Drivers, and Staff Easily

Software systems like TravelTracker-Routing enable simple, automated communication with parents. Transportation staff can reach parents faster to explain any potential changes to the bus schedule, new or modified routes, or why a new or different driver picks up their student.

Cleveland City (Tenn.) Schools Training and Safety Coordinator April Miller knows first-hand the importance of communication. Her responsibilities include dispatch and occasionally driving a bus herself to cover an open route.

“When I know that a driver is not showing up, whether it’s the night before or the morning of, I immediately let the parents know if we have to cancel the route or if we have an extra driver and that the bus is coming, but it may be late,” she explains.

Miller is sharing more insights into how TravelTracker – Routing helps her district manage driver shortages. Attend the School Transportation News live webinar “Stop and Go: How AI Helps Transportation Overcome Driver Shortages” on March 10.

Part of the safety and reliability aspect of transportation is ensuring the right student is on the right bus. Miller reviews bus rosters daily. When she sees a new student signs up to ride a bus or if a student moves and their pick-up location changes, she can assign the student to a bus and update the roster for that bus in moments, without having to organize calls, emails, and multiple resources.

AI Enables “Smart Route” Suggestions and Time Savings – No Map Loading, Polygons, or Endless Clicks

Derrick Campbell, director of transportation for the Del Norte Unified School District in northern California, says TravelTracker gives his department the visibility to make routes as efficient as possible, but more importantly, as safe as possible.

“As soon as I saw TravelTracker– Routing, I knew it was right for us.”

– Derrick Campbell, Director of Transportation, Del Norte Unified School District (Calif.)

He appreciates the control given to him through the software. Smart Route suggestions and automatic map updates give him more time to evaluate routes. TravelTracker automates the process of creating routes.

Campbell says by using technology, he guarantees his parents that students are safer when riding the bus.

“For example, in the past, we might not have realized that a certain stop could have led to potential safety issues, such as the need for young students to cross a busy highway,” he says.

Sandboxes Make Responding to Driver Shortages, Emergencies, and Annual Planning Easy

Campbell reports that TravelTracker cuts his admin time spent on managing routes every week by half, leaving him with time to address other areas of transportation service.

Combinations of routes with multiple stops can be made and adjusted before finalizing them. Current routes are never impacted, making for better analysis and decisions on new routes.

Campbell only needs to enter routing information once and can adjust routes before finalizing them and making them available to any bus driver on a tablet. Del Norte’s drivers still have traditional information such as a route sheet, but now the TravelTracker information gives them turn-by-turn navigation and the students’ name at each stop.

Sandbox capabilities also help when planning for driver shortages, hybrid learning schedules, and annual planning. Routes can be “published” from the sandbox environment easily, for a single date, a range of dates, or permanently, allowing the district to be proactive and efficiently reactive when necessary.

Choose Software Built by Routing Experts

Unlike other solutions, TravelTracker – Routing was designed and built by a unique team of professionals with direct experience working in K12 transportation, including former K12 transportation directors, routing staff, and developers with advanced degrees in cartography who support K12 routing departments in their unique routing needs.

With a focus on student safety, the team has designed many unique features, including the ability to:

  • Publish one time or ongoing route changes
  • Make a route adjustment for a day, a short period, or a permanent adjustment
  • Evaluate smart suggestions for route efficiency
  • Draw on routes to create custom hazard zones to avoid
  • Communicate to parents, drivers, and staff, informing them of changes
  • Leverage an intuitive sandbox to plan routing alternatives
  • Single click-combination of routes
  • Drawing on routes to create custom hazard zones to avoid
  • Update bus rosters as new students start riding the bus or transition to a new pick-up location
  • No charges for updated maps

With over 28 years of serving K-12 administrators, districts across North America trust TravelTracker to provide transportation automation and exceptional customer service.

“As soon as I saw TravelTracker– Routing, I knew it was right for us,” explains Campbell. “The combination of price, comprehensive product capabilities, and their exceptional customer service made it an easy decision.”

Contact us to see first-hand how TravelTracker – Routing is an easy, effective, and more efficient way of managing your routes and parent communications.

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