A new, flexible driver supply for school transportation
Written by Karen Sampson
The education system in the United States has evolved significantly over the past 40 years. Many of the changes have come about as a means to address educational inequities and to meet the varying needs of different populations of students.
School transportation, however, has not kept pace.
Educational advances have changed how, when and where students are learning
From accommodations for students with disabilities to open enrollment, the creation of charter schools and mandated school-of-origin transportation for students experiencing homelessness and students in foster care, education policy and practices have adapted to reflect the changing needs and diverse life experiences of all students.
Student transportation needs to catch up
The yellow school bus as we know it today became commonplace in the 1930s, when school buses began to be used on a regular basis as a way to “give children access to better education, and to save money,” according to the National Museum of American History.
The traditional yellow school bus has been an integral part of the educational experience in the U.S. since then, with minimal changes and adaptations along the way. Many of the changes that have happened in the industry have largely been focused on yellow bus enhancements and technology-related updates, which have brought with them increased industry regulation and oversight.
While technology has been integrated into student transportation practices in certain ways, the modes and methods of transport have not been adequately modified to address the varied and widespread needs of students today. Regulatory limitations and industry resistance to change have, in many ways, stopped the evolution of school transportation in its tracks.
A fixed-route, yellow bus transportation model worked well when every kid in the neighborhood went to the same school. But that is no longer the case. This old way of doing things is not working anymore because it is not aligned with the modern-day educational landscape. All students — including those with IEPs or special needs, those who live in geographically isolated areas, and those in foster care or experiencing homelessless — need a reliable and easy way to get to and from school and other activities, safely and on time.
When schools use the traditional yellow bus model to try to meet these types of individualized transportation needs, the inefficient result is that many school buses are utilized when they are only half-full or, at times, nearly empty. Another unfortunate side effect of this mismatch between student needs and available resources is an overall decline in school bus ridership, as many parents and caregivers are left with no choice but to provide transportation for their children themselves.
Employment trends have impacted school transportation
The employment landscape in the United States is always changing, and it, too, has changed drastically over the last few decades. Perhaps one of the biggest developments has been the shift towards independent and gig economy work, which provides the highly desirable perk of being able to set your own schedule and perform the responsibilities of your job where, when and how you want to. Even before the pandemic hit it was estimated that by 2023, 52% of the workforce will have worked or will be working independently, according to Forbes.
Meanwhile, the typical school bus driver job has not changed at all — which is one of many things feeding into the ongoing school bus driver shortage. Those who choose to drive a school bus have been forced to accept a rigid, split-shift schedule; low wages and relatively flat wage growth; a lengthy certification process to become a driver; and a high bar in terms of performance expectations given all of the responsibilities that come with supervising dozens of students while operating a commercial vehicle.
And the pandemic, of course, has only complicated things. COVID-related school shutdowns and layoffs left many school bus drivers out of work. Those who remained on the job have faced increased health and safety risks while taking on even more responsibilities — such as cleaning procedures and social distancing or mask wearing enforcement.
The unavoidable result is that fewer and fewer people are interested in being a school bus driver. And existing school bus drivers — as well as anyone else who goes through the time-consuming process of getting their CDL — are realizing they can make more money, and have a better work experience overall, by working as a driver in another industry.
A new, dynamic driver supply can bring school transportation up to speed
HopSkipDrive works with school districts to provide innovative, technology-driven transportation solutions that are adaptable, reliable, safe and efficient. School districts that partner with HopSkipDrive gain much-needed flexibility when it comes to driver supply by adding a new resource — a network of highly vetted HopSkipDrive CareDrivers — to their student transportation options.
By tapping directly into a school district’s community to recruit CareDrivers for the HopSkipDrive platform, driver supply can be adjusted and managed to meet demand. HopSkipDrive CareDrivers are required to undergo a rigorous 15-step certification process, which ensures that every CareDriver has at least 5 years of caregiving experience and undergoes extensive initial and ongoing background checks with various agencies, including the FBI.
New driver supply helps school districts optimize resources while minimizing cost
HopSkipDrive helps school districts “right-size” their transportation operations so they can get the most out of the bus fleets and CDL bus drivers they already have. HopSkipDrive CareDrivers drive their own personal vehicles, which must pass annual inspections and be less than 10 years old.
The benefits of this new driver supply for school districts include:
Paying for only the seats they need
Decreased dependence on CDL drivers
Elimination of the need for bus depots, fleet maintenance and district-provided insurance
Utilization of cutting-edge technology to surpass existing safety standards
Parent and school district visibility into real-time ride status, reducing calls to — and burden on — schools
Multi-modal optimization gives school districts results they can count on
HopSkipDrive identifies hardest-to-serve opportunities and utilizes technology to optimize existing resources.
Working with HopSkipDrive to optimize transportation plans and take advantage of all transportation modes can:
Reduce the need for buses and CDL drivers by 20%
Reduce travel time for the top decile students by 50%
Save up to 40% per student when there are 12 students or fewer on a bus
Alleviate challenges caused by bus driver shortages
Reduce capital required for additional buses
Dramatically shorten travel time for students
Serve more students at no extra cost
Partnering with HopSkipDrive is a win-win for everyone
Our comprehensive technology-based transportation solution creates opportunity for everyone who uses the HopSkipDrive platform.
School districts that partner with HopSkipDrive can better serve the transportation needs of more students while optimizing resources and minimizing cost.
“HopSkipDrive is not only 60% less expensive than our previous car service solution, but it is also far more reliable. We had worked with HopSkipDrive for only a few weeks before we quadrupled the number of students riding with their CareDrivers, and we’ll continue to expand district ridership with them.”
—HopSkipDrive education partner
Parents have real-time visibility into where their child is at, easing worries and relieving stress.
“The software is set up to easily provide specific instructions for CareDrivers, and they managed to track my 8-year-old down with ease. My daughter loves the independence of riding on her own and beams with her own sense of accomplishment every single day she rides with HopSkipDrive.”
Students get to and from school and extracurricular activities safely and on time.
“All of the CareDrivers are super friendly, and it’s always been a really positive experience. I was able to gain more stability, make more friends, be the old me and be happy, smiling and excited to go to school. HopSkipDrive definitely made a positive impact in my life.”
CareDrivers set their own schedule and earn good money while helping children and families in their community.
“I’ve been a HopSkipDrive CareDriver for a bit over a year now. I can’t express the gratification I receive from both children and parents. I’m so happy to be able to assist these families in need. I’m also able to make my own schedule so I know in advance weeks prior to scheduling with my other job.”
Interested in learning more about how HopSkipDrive can help with general education, McKinney-Vento, IEP and other types of student transportation needs? Contact us and get a free quote here.