School Bus Driver Shortage Harms Students' Well-Being
The entire country is being affected by the school bus driver shortage. This has led many school leaders to have to combine and scram routes to offer students sufficient transportation. As a result, many bus routes have been delayed and canceled, leaving countless middle and high school students waiting for buses that arrive way too late.
Read on and learn the negative impacts of long commutes on students, why school commutes have grown recently, and how you can reduce these harmful effects.
The Negative Impacts of Long Commutes
A recent study shows that students who spend a long time going to and from school get significantly less sleep and exercise. These two activities are the ones most students are likely to sacrifice to compensate for the extra time spent inside (or waiting for) a bus.
On average, a student spends 18 minutes commuting. Suppose this time is extended by only 12 minutes. In that case, a student will get an average of 26 fewer minutes to sleep and 40 minutes less exercise per day than a student with an average commute time.
Likewise, the more time students spend inside a bus, the more they are exposed to air pollution and high-stress levels. It becomes alarming when many students report commuting for more than an hour and a half daily.
Bus Driver Shortage Consequences
In the last few years, the still-ongoing school bus driver shortage has made commutes more stressful. For instance, the California, Maryland, and Texas school districts are having problems organizing school routes for their students. Transportation administrators have had to use one bus to cover more significant areas. This has resulted in inefficient bus routes and constant delays and cancellations, leaving students to wait at the school bus stop for more than an hour.
We know this sounds alarming, but here is where technology comes to our aid. Nowadays, great software exists in the market to make your life easier.
5 Simple Measures You Can Adopt to Solve this Problem
The following steps can help you solve the school bus driver shortage:
1. Choose an adaptable route-planning software
Nowadays, the best fleet software allows you to create routes in four ways:
• Manually: You create a route one step at a time. Since this option can be time-consuming and not efficient at all, the following options might be a better fit for you.
• Route recognition: Requires installing a GPS device in the bus to learn its stop pattern and translate it into the system.
• Integrating existing routes: You upload your current route information into a system, which automatically translates the data into readable information
• Letting the software come up with the best route: It implies entering specific guidelines into the system and letting it suggest you the routes that best suit the needs of the students.
With the driver shortage situation in mind, you would want to buy software that includes the last option. In other words, a system that optimizes your routes and makes commutes shorter and more efficient.
2. Get live GPS coverage
Knowing where your buses are at any given moment can help you alert parents of possible delays on their school route. As a result, you will only have students wait at the bus stop for the necessary time.
You can use GPS devices plugged into each bus in your fleet to tell you where your buses are in real-time.
When choosing a software provider, make sure you choose a reliable hardware provider.
3. Instantaneous Communication with Parents
Just as important as acquiring the correct information is having a way to communicate it to parents. Many districts still use outdated communication channels that make communication slow and inefficient. One way to ensure that students and parents receive information at the right time is to send it directly to their mobile device’s screens.
Find a software provider that can offer you a direct channel of communication with parents through an app that they can install on their mobile devices.
4. Handle Shifts and Timesheets
Since the school bus driver shortage problem began, many districts have had to fill these gaps with non-driving school staff. Many school leaders have needed help organizing the shifts each of the substitutes must take, creating employee confusion.
To solve this problem, it is a good idea to have an automated digital system that organizes and records each driver’s shifts through a clock-in and clock-out method.
This way, the software ensures that all routes have an assigned driver and that all buses pick up and drop off every kid at the right time.
5. Captivate Your Driving Staff
There’s a lot of finger-pointing as to why there’s a driver shortage. The reality is that bus driver jobs require specialized training and often consist of low-paying and short shifts. Although looking for new drivers is a good idea, keeping the ones you currently have is even better.
Make sure your drivers are satisfied with how you run operations.
Ask them how they feel, listen to their suggestions, and, if possible, offer them incentives for their excellent performance.
Another way to ensure the well-being of drivers is to monitor safety inside and outside the bus. Installing cameras, panic buttons, and any other alert system can make a big difference to drivers who always want to feel supported.
Summing up, school principals and administrators must look out for the welfare of students. Specifically, they must do their best to ensure students can lead healthy and stress-free lives. As we have seen, the well-being of all students is critical for them to live healthily.
Automated tools that suggest the best practices will help you offer fast and efficient transportation. In turn, this will allow you to reduce students’ commuting time and improve their school performance and, most importantly, their well-being.
Upgrade Your Routing Process
If you want a solution that includes all the features discussed, check out TripSpark’s solution. It is a one-stop-shop that offers you the following:
- GPS live coverage (the quickest in the market)
- Flexible routing and planning (including the four options mentioned before)
- Digital timesheets that allow you to track drivers’ working hours (with clock-in and clock-out information)
- A survey/compliance system that lets you ask drivers’ opinions on any topic you want.
- A self-service mobile app that makes communication with parents effortless, immediate, and efficient.
Lastly, we know the driver shortage problem has more variables you need to consider. Find other ways to solve it in our e-book “Retaining your driving staff with fleet technology.”