A dozen junior high track athletes are injured when their school bus overturns on an Idaho highway.
Today’s GPS solutions can do much more than help pupil transporters keep track of where their buses are. Users can monitor driver speed and idling, and they can compare planned and actual routes. Many systems can be integrated with other useful tools, such as onboard video surveillance and child-check systems.
Here are features of the latest products from seven companies.
247Security’s MiniTrack solution can be used as a standalone GPS or it can be incorporated into the company’s wireless management solution, Touchdown, according to Vice President Robert Scott.
When integrated with Touchdown, MiniTrack provides a variety of information, including all bus activity from previous days, such as the path of a bus, speed, location and time of stops, idling and parking events.
Scott notes that whether it is incorporated with Touchdown or used as a standalone solution, MiniTrack can help to reduce staff time dealing with routine fleet-related inquiries, and it can improve analysis of fleet performance, which can lead to cost reductions.
“MiniTrack has no user fees, which makes it a cost-effective option in the long run,” he adds.
Moreover, MiniTrack’s ability to integrate with Touchdown through its interface differentiates it from other systems, according to Scott, since users have access to comprehensive tools that allow for the manipulation of GPS, G Force and video data to create a multitude of reports and analysis.
AngelTrax’s GPS is integrated into a new video surveillance management tool, MOTOTrax.
“Vehicle tracking, AVL and a live view inside vehicles are among the functions available through MOTOTrax,” says Vice President of Sales Mark Moore.
The system’s AVL features include monitoring total drive time, distance traveled, idle time and overspeed cost.
With Route Rewind, users can play back a vehicle’s entire trip from the operator’s perspective. The Geofencing option allows users to outline a specific area on a map and receive alerts if a vehicle breaches that area.
AngelTrax also offers Virtual Synchronized Mapping (VSM). This technology embeds the GPS map in the video data footage so that during playback with AngelTrax’s FlexPlay software, the recorded data is synchronized with the GPS mapping data. This creates a permanent location record that can’t be altered during web-based map updates.
VSM also displays the street address of the vehicle, so users will see the stop’s address, not just the GPS coordinates. Vehicle speed and direction are displayed as well.
Child Check-Mate System Inc.
Child Check-Mate System’s EP2 has the ability to work with any GPS platform.
President Gordon Both says that Child Check-Mate is working with two GPS companies and is in discussion with a third to integrate the EP2 with their offerings.
“Everyday Solutions has done that and is currently up and running with the communication of our two products,” Both says, adding that the company hopes to work with all GPS providers to the school bus market.
When the EP2 is integrated with a GPS system, managers can receive text messages or e-mail alerts when the child-check alarm has been activated, with location information, as well as notification of when and where the driver performed the check.
Officials can also receive verification that the EP2 system is operating daily, and Both says detailed reports can be generated to help monitor the child-check procedures of each bus driver.
Everyday Solutions Inc.
Everyday Solutions Inc. (ESI) offers numerous GPS-based products.
The ESI Total Solution for School Transportation Management includes GPS tracking that incorporates proprietary bus movement algorithms to perform school bus-specific calculations on the vehicle before transmitting the information over the air to a central database, according to Vice President of Marketing Bill Westerman.
“Accurate location information is captured every second, and consolidated data packets are transmitted in customer-specified intervals,” he adds.
EveryChildCheck™ is an interface between ESI’s GPS system and the Child Check-Mate system. In addition to the functions that Gordon Both mentioned, Westerman says it enables a school district to manage their entire fleet of Child Check-Mate-equipped school buses from a central location.
ESI’s BusPadPro™ mobile data terminal is connected to the GPS transceiver on a school bus. The device is installed in the bus’ cockpit and provides the driver with applications that are designed to streamline operations and enhance services. Applications include rider attendance, vehicle inspection, emergency alert and address navigation.
Radio Engineering Industries (REI)
REI’s ARMOR GPS solution can be used as a standalone system, but Chris Shigley, sales manager for bus/transit, says that ARMOR is generally most beneficial when it is integrated with REI’s Bus-Watch video surveillance system because it reduces installation work and equipment costs.
“We’ve taken the longitude and latitude data from our video surveillance solution and we’re passing that via a cellular router and sending it to a single server environment for a true computerized dispatch/AVL solution,” Shigley explains. “You can do real-time vehicle location, Geofences, determine whether drivers are on their routes, if they’ve deployed the bus’ stop arm, etc.”
Moreover, a number of reports can be generated and alerts can be sent out if a driver is speeding, idling the bus too long or engaging in other undesirable behavior.
A new option for the company’s GPS solution is the ability to make bus arrival times available to parents who have a smartphone with Internet capability.
The transportation department provides a link on the district’s website, which parents can access.
“The system is constantly updating to determine when the bus is going to be at the next stop,” Shigley says.
“Reports are more user-friendly,” he adds. “A school district will have a menu of 30 key performance indicators, and they can choose which ones they want.”
Beyond its Silverlining Suite of Solutions, Synovia is offering customers a guarantee package called Synsurance.
“With all GPS, there’s a certain amount of hardware that goes into it,” King explains. “With Synsurance, the customer gets a lifetime warranty on all of that hardware. We also guarantee a certain level of uptime, we host the solution, we guarantee a fixed price and we give the customer a certain number of software updates annually.”
Barbara Kane Pilliod, vice president of marketing, says RouteBuilder is Transfinder’s GPS implementation service that is free to new clients — they receive GPS units that create routes while drivers are on their runs.
The routes are imported into Transfinder’s Routefinder Pro system. Pilliod says RouteBuilder enables pupil transporters to experience the benefits of GPS without the capital expense of initially outfitting all of their buses.
“Users can generate route sheets on the first day, and observe where buses are traveling, where drivers are stopping and when stops are occurring — all at no cost,” she adds.
Busfinder is GPS integration software that can read data from units supplied by most GPS hardware vendors.
With Busfinder, users can track actual versus planned routes.
“In some instances, this enables clients to make an assessment of any variances to see if the routes a driver took make more sense due to changing road conditions,” Pilliod explains. “Then the transportation manager can make an adjustment to the planned routes. In other cases, the transportation manager may instruct drivers not to deviate from the planned routes to ensure safety or efficiency.”
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