Transparency: Why it matters and what to ask your alternative school transportation provider
Written by HopSkipDrive
In the complex world of managing student transportation, transparency is a necessity — not a nice-to-have.
It's a familiar scenario: A call comes in from a parent about a student who hasn’t arrived at their destination on time — but school transportation staff don't have immediate access to information from their transportation provider about the child’s whereabouts. It’s a stressful, scary situation for all involved, and the inability to get an update on the spot makes transportation staff feel caught off guard — and parents/caregivers feel helpless.
When a district or school evaluates any transportation partner, many features are important when it comes to maintaining an efficient, safe operation. Oversight into everything happening on a route is crucial to building trust with school staff and parents/caregivers alike.
Below, we share a list of sample questions that districts and schools should ask any potential alternative school transportation provider. We also provide relevant examples of how HopSkipDrive operates.
We hope these examples will show you what's possible and help guide your evaluation so you can identify the student transportation solution that's best for you and your staff, your district — and your students.
How and when will school transportation staff and parents know who is picking up a student?
Before a scheduled ride, schools and districts will want to have all information about a ride and driver in hand to facilitate real-time intel. Ideally, any alternative school transportation provider you work with will share details about who the driver is, where they are and when they will arrive.
School district and transportation staff will also need to know if and how parents are informed about ride status. When the burden of keeping parents updated is taken off of transportation staff, more time can be spent focusing on other issues and areas of operation.
How HopSkipDrive does it:
HopSkipDrive sends alerts — via text, email and in-app messaging — to Ride Organizers (education partners who schedule rides using HopSkipDrive) and parents/caregivers once a CareDriver (a driver who is certified to claim rides on the HopSkipDrive platform) has claimed a ride. Both parties will be able to see the CareDriver’s name, as well as a photo of the CareDriver and the CareDriver's vehicle.
From there, both Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers will have full visibility into the ride in real-time. As the ride progresses, they will receive additional status notifications, such as when the Rider is picked up or dropped off, or a change to the ride is made.
When a child is late arriving home, they often call their child's school o find out where their child is, and they understandably want an answer quickly. Often though, by the time the school contacts the transportation department — which then has to reach out to the transportation provider — the child has already arrived home.
HopSkipDrive removes all of these communication layers by providing transportation staff and the parent/caregiver with real-time visibility into the ride, and sending ongoing status update notifications.
HopSkipDrive simplifies the entire ride experience for all parties. When parents/caregivers and the transportation department are on the same page, it’s a win-win.
How do drivers know who they’re picking up, and what safety processes do they follow?
When you're partnering with an alternative school transportation provider, you want to ensure that drivers and students can find each other seamlessly, and that you always know what’s happening. Detailed pickup and drop-off information for every ride should ideally be built into the ride process so students aren't left waiting — and there's no last-minute scramble to coordinate the pickup or drop-off at the last minute.
For both efficiency and peace of mind, it's important to know there's a process in place to ensure drivers are picking up the correct students. Relevant instructions and shared images can help the driver find and recognize the student, and vice versa.
How HopSkipDrive does it:
HopSkipDrive CareDrivers always know which student to pick up thanks to ride notes provided by the Ride Organizer. Transportation staff won’t have to spend time on the phone instructing CareDrivers on where to go because they'll already know. And they'll also know what the Rider they're picking up looks like, thanks to a photo included in the Rider’s profile.
CareDrivers also get in-app notes about a child’s preferences and needs, such as things that may make a child feel comfortable and respond positively (e.g., making conversation on a certain topic, knowing when a child is shy, etc.).
In addition, CareDrivers must follow a two-factor authentication process prior to a Rider entering their vehicle. There is an exchange of a secret code word and the Rider’s birthday. Because parents or caregivers listed on a Rider's account know this information ahead of time, they can practice the authentication process with the Rider beforehand so everyone feels secure and prepared.
The safety-driven HopSkipDrive ride experience has been developed to create a consistent experience for all parties, from pickup to drop-off. The moment the Rider is picked up by a CareDriver, the Ride Organizer and parent/caregiver will receive a notification at the same time. This helps to keep everyone on the same page, reducing the amount of time transportation staff might otherwise spend tracking down answers.
What types of communication and notifications will student transportation staff receive when issues arise?
Transporting students is a complicated process with many moving pieces. When school transportation staff are not kept in the loop, it can lead to inefficiencies, necessitating a rapid shifting of priorities and increasing the likelihood of incoming phone calls from concerned parents. Most importantly, it could lead to a child being late — and a parent/caregiver losing trust.
Knowing how and when issues are communicated by a transportation provider s vital. School transportation staff must be in the know so issues can be solved quickly. Even better, working with a transportation provider that proactively solves issues as they arise can take some of the burden off of school transportation staff.
How HopSkipDrive does it:
The HopSkipDrive Safe Ride Support System provides end-to-end visibility, giving transportation staff full transparency into rides-in-progress. In addition, our Safe Ride Support team monitors each ride in real-time, and is always standing by ready to address any problems. Ride status changes are communicated to Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers immediately, so no one is ever left in the dark.
In fact, Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers receive multiple notifications throughout the course of a HopSkipDrive ride. A text notification is sent to both parties once a ride is claimed by a CareDriver, and an email introduces the parent/caregiver to the CareDriver. Status updates are sent when the CareDriver has departed, when they are arriving at the pickup destination, when they leave the pickup location with the Rider, and when the Rider has been dropped off at their destination. A final message is also sent confirming the ride has been safely completed.
Frequent communications from HopSkipDrive streamline information across all parties so everyone is on the same page throughout the entire ride. And, of course, our team is always standing by, ready to jump in to help with unexpected issues such as when a CareDriver takes the wrong route or is not able to locate a Rider at pickup.
Can student transportation staff and parents securely communicate with the driver?
Any alternative transportation provider that works with school districts should be readily available to communicate with both transportation staff and drivers. Transportation staff and parents/caregivers should also have the ability to communicate directly with drivers if necessary. It's important to keep in mind that some transportation providers that subcontract with their drivers may have complicated, time-consuming communication processes.
Getting answers can sometimes involve a game of phone tag: School transportation staff call the transportation provider, they call the subcontracted company, which then calls the driver. This multilayered process can take more time than it should, and is especially inefficient when a driver is on the road. When parents/caregivers want to know where their child is, time is of the essence.
How HopSkipDrive does it:
HopSkipDrive has a direct line to CareDrivers and vice versa. Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers listed on a Rider’s account can directly contact HopSkipDrive — and also have the ability to communicate directly with CareDrivers.
It's important to note that all communications are masked, meaning school staff or parents can call a CareDriver (or they can call you) without any personal information and phone numbers being revealed.
What technology will school transportation staff use to monitor rides?
To help safely and efficiently manage your transportation needs, it is important to have powerful, intuitive and easy-to-use resources at your fingertips during the ride.
Potential alternative transportation providers should put school transportation staff in the driver's seat by giving them real-time visibility into rides so they can stay informed of changes and communicate with relevant parties with ease.
How HopSkipDrive does it:
With the HopSkipDrive RideIQ platform, Ride Organizers can view information about an individual ride on the Ride Details page. Transportation staff can also view upcoming rides and sort by date to get a snapshot of all the rides that are planned for each day.
The Ride Details page provides transparency into the status of the ride (en route, arrived, departed, and dropped off), location details for pickup and drop-off, the CareDriver profile, as well as the make and model of the CareDriver’s vehicle. Having all of this information on one page allows for an inside view of what the HopSkipDrive Safe Ride Support team sees.
Visibility into the ride as it’s happening provides reassurance for Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers listed on the Rider's HopSkipDrive account.
What types of data and performance reports does transportation staff have access to?
Knowledge is power. To better understand how effective your transportation provider is in supporting your district's needs, you’ll need data on rides, financials, cancellations, etc. This will help you pinpoint any inefficiencies that may be occurring.
With school transportation, budgeting is always top of mind so knowing what types of metrics and data your alternative school transportation provider shares — and how and when they share it — is crucial.
How HopSkipDrive does it:
HopSkipDrive shares monthly ride performance reports with our school and district partners. The report is proactive and transparent, and highlights metrics that are critical for our partners’ success. Included in the report is a summary of the number of students safely transported, spend per completed ride, our on-time rate, and more.
This information empowers Transportation Directors and other school staff to track and measure performance and spend over time, while holding us accountable as a transportation partner.
For example, one item our performance report highlights is "spend on cancelled rides." While some transportation providers count on revenue from frequently cancelled rides, we aim to help you minimize this operational expense. Doing so not only does helps identify cost savings opportunities for our partner schools but it also empowers schools to work directly with parents or caregivers to identify reasons for frequent cancellations so they can be avoided in the future.
Let’s revisit the scenario of receiving a call about a student who hasn’t arrived on time. As a HopSkipDrive partner, the school's transportation staff:
- Will have already been notified by HopSkipDrive;
- Can view the Ride Details page to see the ride status in real-time;
- Can contact HopSkipDrive directly to inquire about details of the delay; and
- Can rest easy knowing that HopSkipDrive has already been in contact with the parent/caregiver and the CareDriver to ensure all parties are aware of the updated status of the ride
From real-time ride visibility, streamlined communication processes and performance reports to enhance overall school transportation operations, HopSkipDrive provides transparency as an alternative school transportation partner that is always on your side.
Want to learn more about how partnering with HopSkipDrive can help take the lift off your transportation staff by optimizing your transportation plans?