For school bus drivers, being safe on the road is the result of good decision making. To support them in this effort with feedback and coaching, further enhancing safety, school transportation directors and managers can use telematics to monitor driver behavior and gather data on unsafe habits and use it to correct them. Conversely, safe habits can be detected, and then reinforced and rewarded.
“Telematics is the future of safety and efficiency in the school bus industry, including technologies that monitor bus performance and driving habits,” says Caley Edgerly, president and CEO of Thomas Built Buses. “Thomas Built Buses offers technologies such as Zonar that allow fleet managers to monitor driver behavior such as quick acceleration, abrupt braking, etc. We believe monitoring these behaviors allow fleets to reward safe drivers and correct unsafe or inefficient driving practices. Together, driver behavior insights, paired with our other BusWise technologies, such as Mobileye N.V., are making Thomas Built buses safer and even more efficient.”
Additionally, a number of companies that offer fleet telematics tools have created and adapted software and hardware to help school bus drivers maintain safe driving habits. Technology such as real-time GPS tracking, video integration, and driver behavior algorithms are used to create tools such as driver scorecards, reports, and alerts that make drivers and managers aware of behaviors, so they can correct unsafe ones and reinforce safe ones.
Jason Corbally, president of Edulog, notes a “gamification” aspect to the technology in cases where it is used as positive behavior reinforcement.
“Gamification, a process that takes required tasks and integrates game mechanics to make them fun and motivate engagement and participation, is growing in popularity,” he adds. “Technology companies are working to develop an efficiency and feedback model that creates driver incentives and friendly competitions, which should lead to improved performance.”
The Zonar V3 provides GPS vehicle tracking capabilities with real-time delivery of vehicle condition and performance data.
The collected data is transmitted to Zonar’s Ground Traffic Control, a web portal that tracks and reports fleet data, which can be accessed on any device with a web browser, says William Brinton, Jr., senior vice president and co-founder of Zonar.
The V3 combines data points such as exact location, time, odometer, and fuel consumption, which helps deliver precise performance information on driver behavior (e.g. speeds, routes, excessive idling, and vehicle stops.)
Another focus has been on delivering devices inside of school buses that can run driver behavior solutions, such as the Zonar 2020 tablet. One app that the Zonar 2020 can run is GreenRoad, a driver feedback and behavior monitoring app.
“GreenRoad sits there like a coach in the vehicle, and when the driver does something that we, [along] with the company, have decided is risky behavior, we alert the driver,” says David Rodriguez, chief marketing officer at GreenRoad.
Installing the Zonar 2020 tablet allows drivers to view, in real time, how they rank in several driving categories. On the tablet, drivers can see GreenRoad app reports, which highlight the driver’s score, based on their behavior in each category. This data is stored in the application’s cloud and is viewable by transportation department officials.
In GreenRoad, color is used to represent how a driver is performing in each category: green, when behavior is normal; yellow, when an issue is occurring; and red, for when the issue becomes a trend and requires addressing.
Driver behavior is not judged based on individual trips. The scores of each trip are collected and analyzed as a whole, Rodriguez says.
Tyler Telematics’ GPS (TTGPS) system, a Tyler Technologies transportation solution, is also supported with hardware, which in this case is the Geotab GO7.
Data collected by the TTGPS is sent to the GO7 via cellular technology to a fleet director’s database, where it is stored for review.
“With active (cellular) communication, the system provides for live indications of the position, navigation, and timing of a given vehicle, a selected group of vehicles, or an entire fleet of vehicles or any subset of vehicles a user may define,” says Ted Thien, senior vice president and general manager of Tyler’s Versatrans solution.
TTGPS’ onscreen software takes tracking information and places it in context with the school bus route, showing the planned route along with the actual route taken. The cumulative data of the behaviors are combined to create a scorecard for the driver that shows safety statistics. This allows transportation officials to compare drivers, offer performance reviews, and determine which aspects to improve.
Barry Sudduth, director of transportation for Stafford County (Va.) Public Schools, said his district uses the GO7 as a training tool to reinforce positive driving behaviors.
“While there was initial resistance from our drivers regarding GPS, they now see that it protects them when accusations of speeding have been made by the motoring public,” he explains.
TTGPS can also detect when a driving rule is about to be broken, and will indicate to the driver with an audible warning, Thien says. The system will grant the driver a user-defined number of seconds before a rule is considered broken and then logged into the software as such.
The Routefinder Pro, an online solution that allows fleet directors the ability to manage and analyze bus drivers and their routes, also offers driver behavioral tracking with a subset feature called the Busfinder.
“Transfinder seamlessly integrates telematic and GPS data into its routing and fleet maintenance solutions,” said Frank Gazeley, vice president of client relations. “We use information provided by these solutions to update routes, create efficiencies, and manage pre- and post-bus inspections. Transfinder recently introduced Viewfinder, a browser based solution, that further enhances the information these systems capture to allow stakeholders across the district to monitor on time arrivals, student ridership and inappropriate driving behavior. It is basically a transportation dashboard.”
The vMax Live Plus solution is integrated with the GPS of a school bus’ surveillance system.
“We believe that telematics, in combination with video, provides that additional context when an incident happens or when you need to review an incident to address a driver concern or driver behavior,” says Lori Jetha, Seon’s marketing manager.
Live streaming is also an available feature included in the solution.
vMax Live Plus features triggering alarms that end up in an alarms history report, which can be used by officials for coaching purposes.
Reid Oyster, executive vice president for Apple Bus Company, attests to the benefits of using the solution as a tool to promote better driving behavior.
“We are not actively using driver habit management as a way to punish drivers who are idling too long or speeding; rather, we are using vMax Live Plus to help us identify and reward good habits very publicly, so that these tendencies are positively reinforced,” Oyster says.
Synovia Solutions GPS, offered exclusively on new Blue Bird Buses, allows users to set parameters and track driving habits, integrating with multiple sensors that can inform transportation directors if correct protocol is being followed.
The reports and alerts gathered from the GPS can be viewed by the transportation director on Silverlining, Synovia’s software tool.
Transportation directors can also receive alerts and auto-generated reports on any event that Synovia Solutions tracks, which can be used for teaching and reviewing a driver’s performance, for their own protection as well as education.
“[The drivers] have learned to appreciate the positive feedback that they can get,” says Janet Petrisin, director of transportation for Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township in Indianapolis, of Synovia Solutions GPS. “When I say, ‘A parent was really concerned. I want you to know I looked it up. I found out that you did everything exactly that you were supposed to do.’ They like that they have somebody that can verify that they really were doing the right things.”
MotoTrax, an online surveillance manager that reads the status of a vehicle and its mobile surveillance systems, features a module called Driver Behavior, which can instantly identify risky driving behavior.
With the help of MotoTrax’s driver behavior algorithms, transportation directors can track in real time if drivers are distracted or are driving aggressively.
Additionally, any incident noted by the system automatically has 10 seconds of video downloaded and sent to the transportation director. This can be used to supplement documented behaviors.
The system is also able to rank the 10 best and 10 riskiest drivers.
“Each driver receives a score on a daily basis and the scores are accumulated over a month. Then you can see the trend of how they’re driving each day,” says Richie Howard, AngelTrax president and CEO.
Edulog’s GPS system provides real-time tracking information on speed, location, idling, and hard braking, and allows for reporting of stop locations and diagnostic information.
When connected to a tablet, Edulog’s Driver Time and Attendance (eDTA) software integrates with GPS and planned routing data, providing information about when a driver should log in, when he or she actually logs in, and the departure time from the bus garage. The full solution gives transportation professionals information about when a driver gets to the bus, punches in, performs pre-trip inspection, and how he or she performs on their routes.
When paired with Edulog’s routing system, GPS allows for comparison between what the driver is scheduled to do based on the plan and what they acually do, which opens up the ability to conduct performance reporting, Corbally says.
Driver Time and Attendance works on multiple clock-in devices on board the bus, including Zonar and CalAmp tablets.