2023: A new era in school transportation
Written by Karen Sampson
For district leadership and school transportation staff, 2023 can be the start of a new approach to efficient and cost-effective student transportation. As a supplement to the established yellow bus model, innovative technology-based solutions can serve to improve communication practices, simplify logistics, increase driver supply and streamline processes.
By embracing new technology and integrating cutting-edge tools into existing transportation operations, districts can make the most of their resources so school transportation staff are no longer left feeling like there is too much to do and never enough hours in the school day.
The beginning of a new year is a great time to reevaluate established routines and commit to trying different ways of doing things. In honor of the new year, HopSkipDrive would like to suggest a few resolutions specific to the school transportation industry.
In 2023, school districts can resolve to. . .
1. Optimize bus routes
With an increase of students with individualized needs, the traditional fixed-route school transportation model has been experiencing added pressure. Exacerbated by the pandemic, the bus driver shortage has brought further complications. With a limited supply of drivers, districts and schools have been forced to consolidate bus routes in order to meet the transportation needs of all students.
Some of these challenges are new, while others are evolving. Given open enrollment and school of choice trends, now may be the ideal time for districts and schools to explore new transportation models and solutions that have been specifically designed to optimize bus routes and maximize asset utilization.
Utilizing data science and operational expertise, HopSkipDrive’s RideIQ Solutions technology helps school districts identify the best rider and route combinations. Districts that supplement their transportation fleet with HopSkipDrive rides are able to reserve their bus drivers for the busiest routes, thereby minimizing costs and maximizing resources.
HopSkipDrive has been proven, in fact, to save an average of 40% per student when a school bus route has 12 students or fewer.
2. Simplify transportation scheduling and processes
On the way out in 2023: Outdated, inefficient technology involving unnecessary layers and processes when making changes, scheduling or canceling rides, and communicating status updates.
On the way in: Technology aligned with school district needs that puts the power in the hands of school transportation staff, enabling them to add, edit and cancel rides easily. The ability to communicate directly with drivers and automatically update caregivers/parents should also be a given in 2023.
These types of unique school transportation needs can be met with HopSkipDrive’s RideIQ technology, which was developed in direct response to feedback from school districts. With just the click of a button, RideIQ allows for customization of such things as pickup details, communication preferences, wait times and caregiver/parent permissions.
3. Secure real-time visibility into ride progress
In 2023, say goodbye to frantic calls from parents/caregivers asking where their child is at — as well as the numerous (and often time-consuming) steps involved in getting and communicating the answer. Today’s school transportation technology solutions can make the handling of this pressure-laden, time-sensitive situation much easier for everyone involved.
Permission-based access and visibility into ride progress is available for all users on a student’s account in HopSkipDrive’s RideIQ. Ride status can be followed visually in the HopSkipDrive mobile app or on the RideIQ platform, and real-time updates are also communicated via SMS/text messaging.
This tech-enabled transparency streamlines communication while providing peace of mind for both schools and parents/caregivers.
4. Explore alternative solutions to the bus driver shortage
The school bus driver shortage is a much-discussed, long-standing issue that has been impacting school transportation operations for years. The COVID-19 pandemic only served to make matters worse. The driver shortage has had far-reaching implications, and districts have demonstrated real dedication and resourcefulness by trying many different things to offset the lack of resources.
Districts that remain open to the idea of doing things differently in 2023 can benefit greatly from out-of-the box, creative solutions that are based on new approaches to this enduring problem.
With HopSkipDrive’s highly vetted network of CareDrivers (each of whom have at least five years of experience working with children and/or caring for others), for instance, school districts can add a scalable and flexible driver supply to their current student transportation options.
HopSkipDrive CareDrivers undergo a rigorous 15-step certification process that includes the same background checks schools do for bus drivers, such as driving record checks, fingerprinting, and child abuse and neglect screening (CANS).
CareDrivers also add diversity to a district’s asset mix by driving their own vehicles, which must meet strict requirements such as annual inspections and being less than 10 years old.
5. Maintain safety as the number-one priority
There is nothing more important than protecting the well-being and privacy of students, which is why safety is the number-one consideration when it comes to school transportation. Whether districts are using their own transportation resources or working with alternative transportation partners, following established safety processes and procedures — many of which are dictated by state and federal law — is imperative.
We understand these concerns well here at HopSkipDrive, as safety drives everything we do. In each state in which we operate, we are licensed as a Transportation Network Company (TNC) and are highly regulated by either public utilities or state transportation commissions (depending on the state). In all of our service areas, we meet all state and federal requirements — including state Department of Education requirements when applicable.
School districts looking to work with a dependable transportation partner in 2023 — one that takes safety as seriously as they do — need to look no further. Simply put: There is no end to the things we do for safety at HopSkipDrive. Take, for example, our proprietary Safe Ride Support System, our Safety Advisory Board, our COVID-Safe Ride Standards — and our annual Safety Report.
There are just a few examples of the many ways in which we not only meet but consistently exceed regulatory requirements and TNC standards.
6. Work only with transportation partners you can rely on
Districts can move their school transportation plans forward in 2023 with both certainty and confidence by choosing the right transportation partner. By working with credible, trusted transportation solutions, rides being canceled at the last minute — and scheduling rides that can’t be fulfilled — will be things of the past.
When districts partner with HopSkipDrive, we leave no room for doubt. All rides booked by HopSkipDrive education partners are guaranteed.
And when last-minute and emergency transportation needs arise, HopSkipDrive’s RideIQ offers on-demand access to HopSkipDrive’s CareDriver community for our education partners.
Are you ready to make 2023 the year when your school district starts working with HopSkipDrive — and stops accepting the school transportation status quo?