-  Image Courtesy of HopSkipDrive

Image Courtesy of HopSkipDrive

Looking back on the history of the student transportation industry in the U.S., its important to acknowledge that we all stand on the shoulders of those who pushed the boundaries of safety forward, such as Dr. Frank Cyr and his 1939 Conference for School Bus Standards that produced the 44 original national safety standards (including the color yellow for buses).

While we admire these leaders, we can also empathize with them because of the challenges they faced. For example, it was not only difficult for them to communicate quickly and easily, but there was also limited information available to them — particularly data. They were challenged with ensuring road safety without any actual way of knowing what was occurring on the road.

The lack of real-time visibility into vehicle operations meant the most logical way to mitigate risk was to propose broad, general policies regarding which drivers could transport kids and what vehicles they must use, and then stand back and observe how these policies played out on the road. This approach, though well-intentioned, led us into an endless cycle of trying to minimize risk by excluding sources of risk.

This era of exclusion” has resulted in generations of potential drivers and extremely safe vehicles being overlooked as integral components of school transportation — and thousands of kids being left waiting for a ride to school, extracurriculars, support services, and other critical parts of childhood. In the pursuit of minimizing risk, we inadvertently created a nationwide crisis of inequitable access to transportation and opportunity.

Fortunately, were in a new era of safety, where we have access to more types of information gleaned from modern technology including smartphones, GPS tracking, and even artificial intelligence. This translates to even higher levels of accountability, where we are no longer constrained by the limitations of the past.

Our ability to evaluate key performance indicators like driving behavior, impairment, and vehicle operations in real-time has redefined safety measurement, enabling us to develop new and better ways of minimizing risk. We are no longer beholden to just up-front screenings or rigid checklists to gauge safety. Our systems enable us to track and respond to things like route deviations or driving patterns as they happen, providing an unprecedented level of insight and intervention.

This paradigm shift from a model of exclusion to one of real-time accountability is more than just a technological leap; it symbolizes a fundamental change in the entire transportation industrys opportunity to raise the bar on safety. By focusing on actual, measurable safety practices rather than mere compliance with pre-set standards, we not only enhance the safety of our roads and protect our most precious passengers, but we also open doors to resolving the bus driver shortage crisis and advancing transportation equity.

Embracing this era of accountability” means we can focus on actual safety performance. This change is pivotal for ensuring the safety of our children, and it represents a significant step forward in the journey toward a safer, more equitable, and more efficient future.

Learn more about how HopSkipDrive is setting a new standard for school transportation safety and transparency by reading the 2023 HopSkipDrive Safety Report.