When it comes to flashy new technologies such as 5G cell networks, it can be easy to focus on what comes next, without realizing the disruption that can occur in student transportation when we leave behind older technology.
The advent of 5G comes with the sunset of the 3G network which is relied on by many GPS devices in use on school fleets today. Some 3G network providers will end support for the networks by the end of 2021, making it urgently important that replacement plans are put in place for the coming school year.
Technology providers in the student transportation industry should support student transportation professionals to help navigate the changes to these networks, and minimize disruption both today and when the next big change comes down the road.
Tyler Technologies recently held a webinar for transportation professionals to help guide through these changes, where they discussed the best ways to create a long-term plan for GPS technology.
During the online event, telematics experts described how transportation programs should take advantage of the disruption to ensure they are aligned with the right kind of GPS technology vendor. They outlined a few key technology qualities transportation professionals should look for as they choose a company to partner with for the long-term:
1. Location Services
The core of GPS is location, but not all devices are the same. Districts should first ask vendors how often their devices send location updates. The more frequently updates are sent, the better tracking capabilities become – which can help provide more accurate information for parent communication apps, emergency services, and more.
Additionally, devices should function on the fastest available network: if they are on an older network, they may need to be replaced sooner.
2. Engine Diagnostics
Investment in modern GPS can add years to the life of a fleet by enabling proactive maintenance. Engine diagnostic alerts from modern GPS devices can be sent back to transportation management software. With the right programs in place, they can automatically generate work orders, create alerts, and more.
Districts should ask whether the vendor’s GPS device can track anything engines have codes for – including low battery voltage, idling warnings, seatbelt sensors, low fuel, and more.
3. Accident Recreation and Driver Behavior
Accident recreation is a feature of GPS districts hope never to use, but it can be crucial in the follow up to any incidents to protect both drivers and transportation operations. An accident could be caused by an illegally passing vehicle, a driver going over the speed limit, or an issue with the vehicle. Another question to ask is whether GPS devices will provide the data to get the whole picture.
To drive safety, program directors should ask if GPS devices have built-in G-force measurement, which can be used to track behaviors such as harsh braking or cornering, rapid accelerations, and idling time.
Transportation managers can use GPS devices to set benchmarks for their drivers and use this data to help with training. Additionally, certain GPS devices can alert drivers when a specific limit is nearing a threshold, such time spent idling.
4. End-to-End Technology
Today’s technology vendors shouldn’t be limited to only offering point solutions, leaving transportation directors or district IT staff with the burden of integrating multiple third-party solutions and pulling data out from multiple sources.
Asking whether a vendor offers a complete transportation management solution including routing software, fleet maintenance software, and more can ensure that the selected technology grows and changes in lockstep, hardware and software working together to deliver safety and efficiency.
5. Long-term Adaptability
The sunset of the 3G network isn’t the first time the student transportation industry has been asked to keep up with externally imposed changes requiring new technology investment, and it won’t be the last time either.
The most important question to ask a vendor is how they plan to help their clients face future disruption.
Maintenance plans which guarantee that hardware will be supported and upgraded over the years can smooth out budget planning and ensure zero technology gaps.
Finally, the vendor should offer stability and a track record of long-term success to prove that they are the right company to rely on through the technology changes to come.
Learn more in the on-demand presentation offered by Tyler Technologies.