Tought Leader

Knowledge Made Possible by Enhanced Communications Equals Power


cientia potentia est,” Latin for “knowl- edge is power,” is an adage every trans- portation director should take to heart. When an incident report involving a

bus comes in, we try to collect as much information as possible. Such efforts allow us to control a situation quickly and effectively. Modern technology, like Global Positioning Systems (GPS) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID), can be a tremendous asset in the pursuit of information if we understand how to make the best use of it. Knowing the who, what, when, where and why of an incident, quick- ly, can be invaluable in the decision-making process. Traditionally, the primary technology used by di-

rectors to acquire knowledge has been two-way radios. Today, that consists of narrow-band digital radios. A driver with a radio can communicate the five W’s of an incident to the extent they know it. But what if the driv- er is incapacitated? How will the director get the needed information to make good decisions? GPS can provide pinpoint positions of a school bus, to within 10 meters, providing the where. GPS centered tracking applications can supply a director their bus locations at any given moment. Tese systems can also provide, among other things: • Engine telemetry • Speed • Braking • Use of amber lights • Stop-arm deployments

Modern systems can provide tremendous amounts of data in real-time that can support driver behavior, bus maintenance and other operational management efforts. Scientia potentia est!

Combining RFID technology with GPS can provide critical information during an emergency. Te primary objective of school staff is the safety of students. Know- ing which of them is on a bus during an incident is vital. Access to real-time data, identifying which students are on a bus, can be the difference between a quick success- ful resolution and a protracted nightmare. Te information new technologies provide during emergency situations is vital, but this new technology can also be useful in the management of an organization. GPS and tracking systems, like bar codes, can supply

26 School Transportation News • JUNE 2016

real-time data to monitor bus mileage, fuel usage, parts inventory and maintenance schedules, all of which increase efficiency.

Te GPS and RFID technologies that track student counts on buses can also identify the nearest bus, or buses, that have the capacity to transport students when there is an accident or breakdown. Alternatively, GPS systems can be used to re-route buses away from problem areas. Unfortunately, this technology is not free and no one’s budget is unlimited. Technology costs can be daunting, especially with recurring subscription costs for some software. Individual fleets should consider setting up technology as a capital investment, or look for grants to cover some, if not all, costs. An important consideration in any budget outlay is the

return on investment (ROI). Software can often produce cost savings in man-hours and material usage. More efficient routing can lower overtime and fuel costs. Parts and maintenance tracking can reduce inventory and repair costs. Identifying applications with the best ROI requires an understanding of data-driven decision-making. Technology is not a magic wand that will make every- thing work. A bad organization will remain a bad organi- zation. Technology can’t fix poor procedures and ineffec- tive policies. What technology does is give quick access to lots of data. If an organization isn’t using the information they collect now, then automating that data collection will just give them a lot more data they’ll not use. You’re much better off making sure you have effective

procedures before implementing new technology, other- wise it will make any implementation more difficult and costly to setup and get working if you don’t. To help ensure you get the data you need, and get the most effective use of it, first consult the people who’ll use it. Have them help identify needs and develop a plan be- forehand. You also don’t have to get everything at once. Determine what gives you the biggest bang for the buck and then work from there as you realize the savings once a system is operational. Scientia potentia est. If you’re smart, you’ll use it wisely. ●

Stephen Satterly is the director of transportation and school safety of a a public school district in central Indiana. He is co-author of Staying Alive: How to Act Fast and Survive Deadly Encounters.

Stephen Satterly is a director of transportation and school safety.

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