Transparency: Why it matters and questions to ask your alternative transportation provider
Written by Lauren Rueger
In the complex world of managing student transportation, transparency is a necessity, not a nice-to-have.
You’ve probably heard this story, or experienced it yourself: a Transportation Director receives a call about a student who hasn’t arrived at their destination on time, but isn’t equipped with any information from their transportation partner about the child’s whereabouts. It’s a stressful, scary situation for all involved, and the lack of information makes transportation staff feel caught off guard and caregivers feel helpless.
When you’re evaluating any transportation partner, many features are important to maintain an efficient, safe operation — and oversight into everything happening in a route is crucial to building trust with caregivers and school staff alike.
In this sample FAQ, we’ll share the questions you should ask any potential alternative transportation partner, as well as examples of how HopSkipDrive provides full transparency and oversight in real-time as well as after the route. Our examples can guide your questions and show you what’s possible.
How and when will school transportation staff know who is picking up a Rider? What will a caregiver see on their end in order to give them peace of mind? Will I have to inform the caregiver myself, or will they have transparency into the process?
Before a ride, you’ll want to have all the information in order to facilitate real-time intel. Does your alternative transportation partner share who the driver is, where they are and how long it will take until they get there? How do they inform caregivers? Will you have to inform caregivers yourself, or does your partner provide that information automatically so you can spend your time on the other parts of ride organization?
How HopSkipDrive does it:
HopSkipDrive alerts, via text, email and in-app messaging, Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers when a CareDriver has claimed a ride. Both parties will be able to see the CareDriver’s name, photo of the CareDriver and a photo of the driver’s car. From there, both parties have visibility into the trip details and ride in real-time and will receive additional status notifications, such as the Rider has been picked up and the Rider has been dropped off, or if a change to the ride has been made.
Often, a caregiver will call the school because their child hasn’t arrived home after school and understandably wants an answer quickly. But, by the time the school contacts the transportation department, who then has to reach out to the transportation partner, the child has already arrived at home. HopSkipDrive removes all of those steps by providing you and the caregiver with real-time visibility into the ride, notifications along the way and when a change in plans has come up.
HopSkipDrive simplifies the entire ride experience for all parties. When caregivers and the transportation department are on the same page, it’s a win-win.
How do alternative transportation solution drivers know who they’re picking up and how do you ensure that the right driver is picking up the right child? What safety processes are built in?
You want to ensure that drivers and students find each other seamlessly, and that you know what’s happening in real-time. Detailed pick-up and drop-off notes should be built into the app and processes so Riders don’t have to wait, and you don’t have to be on the phone facilitating the pick-up and drop-off.
You’ll also want to ensure, for both efficiency and peace of mind, that drivers are picking up the correct child.
Does the alternative transportation partner offer in-app notes to ensure the child recognizes the driver and vice-versa (e.g. pictures of the child, notes on the child’s preferences, exact pick-up spot with pictures?) Do they offer safety procedures so the student gets in the right car? How will the transportation partner provide information to caregivers so that they can rest easy knowing students are protected from potentially dangerous situations in which a child gets in the wrong car?
How HopSkipDrive does it:
CareDrivers know which student to pick up based on the trip notes provided by the Ride Organizer. You won’t have to spend time on the phone with drivers because they’ll know where to go, such as picking the child up in a certain parking lot, and what the child looks like thanks to a photo included in the Rider’s profile. Going further than this, CareDrivers get in-app notes about a child’s certain preferences and needs, such as how the child may respond best (e.g., making conversation on a certain topic, knowing when a child is shy, etc.)
CareDrivers must follow a two factor authentication with the student prior to entering the car: an exchange of a secret password and the Rider’s birthday. Because caregivers know this information ahead of time, they can practice the authentication process with the child so everyone feels secure and knowledgeable.
The system is developed to create a consistent experience for all parties, from pickup to drop-off. The moment the Rider is picked up by the CareDriver, you and the caregiver will receive a notification at the same time. This step helps alleviate questions the school and caregivers might have about the correct CareDriver picking up the correct Rider, therefore reducing the amount of time you’re spending tracking down the answers.
What types of communication and notifications will student transportation staff receive when issues come up?
Being caught off guard leads to inefficiencies, rapid shifting of your priorities, and the potential for your phone to ring with a concerned parent or other school staff members who know about an issue before you do. Most importantly, this could lead to situations from the child being late to school, to a caregiver losing trust in your transportation systems. Ask how issues are communicated and how they ensure you’re in the know first so you can solve the issue. When are you informed? Immediately, or after the fact? How can you watch a ride? Also, how does the partner try to solve issues, and how can you communicate directly with them?
How HopSkipDrive does it:
The HopSkipDrive Safe Ride Support system provides end-to-end visibility, with both you and our team monitoring each ride in real-time and proactively addressing any issues. We communicate status changes to you and caregivers immediately, so you’re never in the dark.
Multiple notifications are sent to Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers throughout a ride. A text notification is sent to both parties once a ride is claimed and an email introducing you and the caregiver to the CareDriver. Messages are sent when the CareDriver has departed, when they are arriving at the pickup destination, when they leave the pickup location with the Rider, when the Rider has been dropped off at their destination, and a final email to confirm the ride has been completed.
Frequent communications streamline information across all parties so everyone is on the same page throughout the entire ride. Our team can jump in and solve any issues, such as the driver taking the wrong route or not being able to find the student at pickup – you and caregivers can communicate directly with us or the driver in order to be proactive when issues like these come up.
Will student transportation staff be able to communicate directly with the driver? Will caregivers? How safe are my communications?
An alternative transportation partner should be able to directly communicate with you and drivers. You and caregivers should also have the ability to communicate with drivers if need be. Some alternative transportation providers, who sub-contract with their drivers, make you go through layers of communication.
You have to call them, then they have to call the sub-contracted company, who then calls the driver, an extremely inefficient process. This stilted communication is especially inefficient when the driver is on the road. In addition, how does it look to caregivers when they call you, you call the company, they call the driver, etc.?
How HopSkipDrive does it:
HopSkipDrive has a direct line to CareDrivers and vice-versa. Ride Organizers and users associated with a Rider’s account can also directly contact HopSkipDrive and the CareDriver.
Ride Organizers and parents/caregivers do have the ability to communicate directly with the CareDriver as well, but many have noted it is more efficient to streamline communication through HopSkipDrive first.
In addition, all communications are masked, meaning you can call a CareDriver or they can call you without revealing phone numbers.
What technology tools will school transportation staff have available to monitor non-routine rides in real time?
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.
How does your potential alternative transportation partner enable you to monitor rides? Do they have an app where you can watch rides as they’re happening? Is all the information at your fingertips in one technology platform? Or are you reliant on calling the partner when you need information?
In addition, how much can you manage in the platform? Even if they provide information regarding future drives, are you able to know where a driver and student is at all times? Can you communicate in the platform?
How HopSkipDrive does it:
With the HopSkipDrive Platform, Ride Organizers can view information about an individual ride on the Trip Details page. You can also view upcoming trips, and sort by day, to get a snapshot of total rides planned for each day.
The Trip Details page provides transparency into timing of the ride (en route, arrived, departed, and drop off), location details for pickup and drop off, the CareDriver profile for that ride, as well as the make and model of the CareDriver’s vehicle. Having all of this information on one page provides an insider view to what the HopSkipDrive Safe Ride Support system sees, and makes day-to-day operations smoother.
Our Platform enables Ride Organizers to view the ride as it’s happening. Parents and caregivers on the child’s account have visibility into the ride for additional reassurance and safety measures as well.
What types of data and performance reports does your potential alternative school transportation partner share with you?
Knowledge is power. To better understand how effective your transportation provider is in supporting your needs, you’ll need data on rides, the spend, cancellations, etc. This will help you look at any inefficiencies, budgets and see where cancellations are occurring.
What does your alternative transportation provider share with you? How easy is it to find and understand is this information? Does the potential provider show you the most crucial metrics? Or do you get a mess of data? Or none at all? How often is data shared?
In addition, will they proactively show you areas where they and you can improve? How accountable are they to the partnership?
How HopSkipDrive does it:
HopSkipDrive shares monthly ride performance reports with our school partners. The report is proactive and transparent and highlights metrics that are critical for our partners’ success. It provides a summary of the number of students safely transported, spend per completed ride, our on time rate, and more. This information empowers Transportation Directors to track and measure performance and spend, over time, and holds us accountable as a transportation partner.
For example, one item the report features is how much is spent each month on cancelled rides. While some transportation providers count on revenue from frequently cancelled rides, we take aim to help you minimize this operational expense. Not only does it help identify opportunities for cost savings for your department, It also empowers schools to partner with parents or caregivers to identify reasons for frequent cancellations and minimize them going forward.
Let’s revisit the Transportation Director who received a call about a student who hasn’t arrived on time. Since deciding to partner with HopSkipDrive, the Transportation Director:
- has already been notified by HopSkipDrive,
- can view the Trip Details page to see the ride status in real-time,
- can contact HopSkipDrive directly to inquire about details of the delay, and they
- can rest easy knowing HopSkipDrive has already been in contact with the parent/caregiver and CareDriver to ensure all parties have the updated status of the ride.
From highly detailed communication, end-to-end visibility and performance reports to enhance your overall operation, HopSkipDrive provides the most transparency, of any company, throughout the entire journey.
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