- A typical school bus costs between $45,000 and $90,000 to operate, and transportation costs can account for roughly 10%, of a school district budget, but rethinking routes for better efficiency can help school leaders trim those costs, reports District Administration.
- Bus routing software is usually worth the investment, and GPS sensors may be able to help improve efficiency on a daily basis as buses deal with changing traffic conditions — but some larger districts may require help from university super computers to calculate the best routes.
- School transportation officials need to involve local transportation officials in the planning process and also need to consider a variety of factors in planning, including the length of the route, the number of students picked up at each stop, and the amount of transiency neighborhoods on certain routes face.
As school districts face increasing demands on their dollars, they must use every cent as efficiently as possible. Transportation costs are often one of the most frustrating considerations because much of that money is literally burned away in fuel consumption. Administrators who can find ways to reduce unnecessary costs have more dollars to spend in areas that are more directly tied to meeting educational needs.
Technology can help in this area. Routing software can allow school transportation leaders to calculate travel possibilities in ways that are not possible by humans alone and are usually well worth the investment. GPS tracking can not only help buses deal with needed route changes because of wrecks or road work, but also allow buses to be tracked in cases of emergency. By increasing efficiency through automation, school districts can also save money on fuel, buses and drivers. In fact, some economists point to this increased efficiency as a danger to the economy because so much human capital can be saved.
Efficiency is not the only concern for school transportation officials, however. Safety should be the primary concern. Though school bus travel is still the safest mode of student transport, safety features, such as seat belts, need to be considered as well. The potential cost of the loss of a student life is measured in more than financial terms: It affects the reputation of a school district and the emotional well-being of students, families and staff.