Transportation Panelists Share How to Find Dollars Through Technology

May 13, 2019 by Sara McGrath

Transportation Panelists Share How to Find Dollars Through Technology

In school transportation, it’s par for the course to deal with tight budgets, struggle to get buy-in for new ideas from administration, and dig to find grants to improve operations. Three transportation professionals recently joined together as a panel to discuss how districts can use technology to overcome these challenges, drive efficiency, and enhance service without compromising safety.

The resulting webinar, Finding Needed Dollars by Reducing Operating Costs, featured the following experts:

  • Tim Shannon, Director of Transportation, Twin Rivers USD, CA
  • Jason Nelson, Transportation Supervisor, Kyrene School District, AZ
  • Joe Dives, Executive Director of Support Services, Magnolia ISD, TX

These three leading practitioners shared experiences and offered valuable insight into the ways they have successfully increased efficiency and reduced operating costs. Here are some of the highlights:

Efficiencies Through Tech

For Tim Shannon, a willingness to change and to adopt modern systems is key. “You have to be data-driven and willing to change,” he noted. “You have to look at modernizing in this industry.” Shannon is using the insight gleaned from data through modern technology to find opportunities for efficiency such as route paring.

He is also leveraging technology with new electric bus products and infrastructure management. He used Tyler software to collect the data needed to win a grant that has led to Twin Rivers having the largest electric yellow fleet in the nation. And analyzing available data will inform decisions around how and when he charges the buses, and for how long, for optimal cost efficiency. In the near future, he plans to use his modern software to target reductions in general education busing. “We want to save a million dollars,” Shannon said. “You couldn’t do it without software to analyze your operation. Everything we do has to be based on data-driven decisions.”

A Personal Touch

Joe Dives takes his research into the field. “A few times a month, I sit out in the bus lot and take times of when buses are coming in and leaving,” he noted. He sees for himself how many students are riding and looks for opportunities where he can be of help. “Sometimes, I pick a random bus and I get on and let the driver be in the passenger seat,” Dives said. He follows the route sheet and gauges student reactions to ensure the bus isn’t normally traveling extra miles or making extra stops.

Finding Savings

Jason Nelson noted that finding savings isn’t just about reducing overall costs; it’s about putting money back in the district and back with the students, where it matters most. To garner the support of his superintendent, he illustrated savings scenarios and explained how each would benefit all stakeholders.

“By using our routing software, we can explore different options and find out what efficiencies we can find,” Nelson noted, “without compromising safety or our routes.” Nelson’s team devised a three-bell option that stands to save the district nearly $700,000.

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