On a typical day, the public school system in St. Paul is responsible for transporting an average of 38,000 students. The school’s transportation department often receive dozens of calls a day from parents complaining that the bus never picked up their child. Until recently, before the
GPS systems were installed, it was the school bus driver’s word against the parent’s. That has all changed since the school district installed a GPS fleet tracking system in every one of the school district’s 300 buses.
The St. Paul School District, which contracts with five bus companies, is now heavily relying on the GPS tracking data, because the data is so reliable and and accurate. The GPS tracking data simply cannot be disputed in a he-said she-said argument. According to Harold Turnquist, transportation director, “it gives us a medium to access where the bus is located at all times. If we get a parent that says we missed a stop, we know immediately if that’s in fact true.”
According to transportation coordinator Gary Cox, on a recent morning, he used the program to track a new bus driver who had gotten lost the day before. When that happens, supervisors are notified so they can get drivers back on track and avoid future problems. Until recently, they would have to dispatch a supervisor to a bus stop to make sure the bus was making its scheduled stops. That’s no longer necessary.
The district tested the GPS fleet tracking system for about 12 months on a handful of buses and then decided last year to purchase the GPS devices for its entire fleet. The school transportation department can now track the buses’ speed and location as well as the time it waited for a student. “The GPS tracking devices cost around $360 per unit,” Turnquist said. “That cost, along with a $1,400 per month tracking fee, is folded into the district’s contract with the companies.”