How to Use School Bus Technology to Drive Funding and Enhance Student Safety

Insights gleaned from smart fleet management platforms are helping savvy districts save money and lobby for more resources.

How to Use School Bus Technology to Drive Funding and Enhance Student Safety

Photo: Tu Olles, Adobe Stock

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety.

Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) dollars are running out as school districts across the nation vie for grants scaled back to pre-pandemic numbers. Advocating for federal, state, and local government resources has never been more competitive.

Campus safety and security procedures and technology are must-haves for all schools — they can’t be relegated to “nice-to-have” status, even when funding is limited. School districts need comprehensive data insights to inform expense reports, supplement their grant proposals, prove their needs, and demonstrate solutions with evidence, not anecdotes.

To that end, district leaders have an unlikely ally in bus technology.

Identify Gaps in Safety Programs

Modern fleet technology can deliver richer, deeper data that improves efficiency, safety, and uptime. Ridership data, crash data, and stop-arm camera footage provided by comprehensive smart fleet management platforms can illuminate weaknesses in campus security perimeters extending to the bus.

A typical school bus serves as many as 70 students across various routes, campuses, and bell schedules. That information, all consolidated in a single in-cab tablet and relayed to dispatch in real-time, provides critical intelligence for campus safety. For instance, detailed data about bus routes, schedules, and ridership can help determine the safest locations for routes and stops. It can also support funding requests to bolster safety programs and improve security protocol.

But without this information, many school districts can’t accurately account for who is on a bus, where and when students are dropped off, and where the bus is at any given moment.

Safeguard Students with Smart Technology

In many school districts, the work it takes to get students to and from school is a growing challenge. Buses are crowded, routes keep changing, driver shortages impact almost every district, and state funding doesn’t cover the rising costs of transporting students safely. Staying on schedule and keeping parents informed becomes increasingly challenging when districts are struggling to make ends meet.

School leaders should empower their districts to ask for the resources they need. Organizations like the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE) and the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services/ Office of Special Education Programs (OSERS/OSEP) offer grant programs to help schools prioritize improvements to safety infrastructure and operations — and evaluate whether proposed changes will optimally support students. This is a prime opportunity for school districts to apply for grants and back their submission with smart fleet insights.

Data from technologies like passive RFID card readers can strengthen a proposal by capturing the real number of riders served, miles traveled, and fuel consumed, among other figures. Ridership data also increases confidence in the security of school transportation programs among administrators, district leaders, guardians, and students alike.

Identify Places to Save and Spend

Every dollar a district saves on transportation puts more funds directly into classrooms and student safety. Today’s smart fleet management systems seamlessly capture and consolidate real-time data on ridership, routes, mid-trip, and pre- and post-trip inspection data to help districts make more informed decisions about how to maximize the resources they do have. Often, they also uncover new efficiencies in spending.

For example, state-of-the-art GPS technology maximizes routes, shares live locations to dispatch, and helps avoid road hazards as they arise. This also reduces time spent idling and simplifies the process of keeping drivers on the appropriate route, ultimately helping with overall fuel economy. Similarly, verifiable, paperless pre- and post-inspection systems help ensure compliance and streamline processes for busy drivers, keeping buses running longer and catching small mechanical issues before they become threats to student safety.

Savings illuminated through smart fleet management platforms can be redirected to campus threat-assessment and risk-assessment procedures, including crisis plan updates, anonymous reporting system implementation, key control strengthening, and indoor and outdoor monitoring and supervision tool adoption. Together, these systems build a more comprehensive case for districts’ needs and provide a realistic roadmap for improved safety.

Get Everyone on Board

There’s a saying in education: what gets measured gets managed. It’s also what gets funded. Savvy school districts are implementing modern technologies to keep students safer and more secure. They want to identify which students are on which bus at any given time, give the district visibility into bus locations and ETAs, and keep parents informed about their child’s ride. And they want their solutions to be cost-effective.

In addition to gaining state and local government buy-in, the community should be confident in their school district’s existing safety protocol. That confidence goes a long way in fortifying campus security.

Districts can partner with bus technology providers to leverage data, gather more resources and funding, and make strong, actionable updates to their safety regimen — without any hidden expenses getting in the way.

Tim Ammon is Vice President and GM of Passenger Services at Zonar.

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