Selecting a School Bus Routing Solution

December 10, 2020 by Ryan Smithson & Kim Rentner

Selecting a School Bus Routing Solution

So you’re on the market for new routing software. You need a solution that can handle the complexities of transporting K-12 students today, including variant schedules, shuttles, transfers, seating charts, and now even reliable contact tracing. Maybe you’re looking for GPS hardware or tablets. Or maybe you’re a contractor looking for a solution that can scale with your growing business. Add to this the student ridership solutions and parent applications your constituents are demanding. The possibilities seem endless and complicated. In addition, you need to be mindful of the cost and the budget while seeking to maintain or improve safety and service. The implementation timeline. Project management. Procurement processes. Where do you even start?

Tyler Technologies understands this evaluation process can be intimidating, so we’ve compiled a list of the most important things to consider when shopping for routing software.

1. Start shopping in the fall.

A software demonstration is an hour or two, and always worth your time. If you want to be up and running for next school year, for example, you cannot afford to wait until May to start looking. Think about the length of your procurement process alone — board approval, legal negotiations, maybe even an RFP. If you wait until spring to start the buying process, then don’t put too much stock in being ready for start of school. You don’t want to still be training in the software a week before school starts. You need routes built so your drivers can conduct dry runs. And really, you need routes a month before that so you can mail parent letters. You want your team to be comfortable and proficient in the software well before the first few weeks of school. If you start shopping in the fall, then this January when your superintendent asks what other solutions are out there, you can be educated and one step ahead.

2. Invite stakeholders to the very first demo.

This can include routers (who almost always have the most insightful questions), your maintenance manager, and high-level administrators. Maybe your superintendent doesn’t need to sit through the entire demonstration, but they should at least watch the vendor overview so they can analyze the company’s financial strength and market stance — obsolescence protection is vital to such decision-makers.

3. Drive the product demo.

Come prepared with questions. Salespeople have years of experience behind their demo. So cut through the spin by asking to see the process live in action. What does it actually look like to route a new student? To change a student’s address? To set up a transfer run? Don’t settle for “yes, it can do that.” Make them show you how it does that — live — in the actual software and not a PowerPoint slide. Your team will need to see the actual workflow to make an informed decision about how this might streamline their processes. Your routers can help come up with specific questions about your operation and your students’ needs for the demonstration. There are many similarities in this industry, but every operation is different. And, you want to make sure this will be the right fit.

4. Talk to references.

A representative from the software company is one perspective, but an actual client of theirs is another. Call them prepared with a list of questions. Write down your observations from the demo and get specific with other districts or contractors using the solution you saw. You will get a pretty good idea of the point-and-click in the software from the demo, but only a current client can give you the realities of the company’s training and support processes.

5. Circle back.

It can be very difficult to compare apples to apples when it comes to the needs of a K-12 transportation department and the solutions that are available. After you have seen demos with a few vendors, take time to circle back and ask questions to clarify any information on functionality, pricing, etc.

6. A little homework goes a long way.

Google search the vendors you are considering. How long have they been in business? How many clients do they have? How well do they understand the K-12 industry? With all the safety factors and regulations you must meet, you want to partner with someone who understands your operational needs.

7. Trust your gut and your team.

This is a very critical partnership. Having the perspective of others who were at the demonstration will be very helpful. Ask that they be prepared to debrief after the meeting and document any feedback and questions.

This decision can set your operation up for future success. It is such an important one because it all starts with the planned information in the software, and then you can build on that to enhance your operation — so you must start with the right tools. In addition to that, the goal is to only make this decision once!

If any of this is important or interesting to you, please call or email Tyler Technologies at 800.433.5530 or for a free product demonstration.

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