Putting Dispatch Software To The Test
published on August 24, 2013 by Sonia Mastros
There are a lot of things which happen on a day-to-day basis which people take for granted. The mail carrier arrives to drop off and pick up the mail just as the weekly garbage truck comes by for your trash. So it is easy not to think about all those yellow school buses traveling around unless you’re stopped behind one. Few people wonder, as they wait, how do the schools know how many kids to pick up, where to pick them up and which drivers are trained for the appropriate ages of their passengers?
All of these are questions school districts, IT professionals and transportation coordinators often struggle with on a daily basis. Mostly because in the past much of the information needed to dispatch the buses properly was contained in multiple places and run by different groups. Now, however, with the proper software and GPS tracking units, it is possible to know who you students are, where they live, what school they go to and where all the buses needed to transport them are in real time. All of this is using the latest dispatch software.
Framing the Challenge
There are many basic issues facing a school district now matter where they are:
How many students do we have?
How many vehicles do we have to use?
How many drivers do we have?
What special needs do some students have?
How can we track travel routes to determine safest and most efficient routes?
The heart of putting all of this together comes from advances in Geographic Information System (GIS) mapping. Maps used to be static; fixed at the point of creation needing plastic overlays with information hand-drawn onto them to show new data. Now maps are dynamic, pulling information from multiple sources allowing them to be used for numerous applications simultaneously while automating certain previously manual data collection done by the drivers.
Drawing Information From All Sources
Now GIS software is used in numerous applications but dispatch is one which GIS mapping has had a tremendous positive impact on. Dispatch software using GIS mapping can now create a ‘smart map’ which means the map itself is not static. The base map can be taken from a variety of sources, usually the county’s own GIS system used to track property lines. This map has information encoded into boundaries, roads and the like.
What really makes GIS capable dispatch software work is how it pulls data from already existing databases. Student information, addresses, special needs and school calendars all can be taken from the original source and porting into the dispatch system. Data can then be managed to show whatever is needed. If children 14-18 in one school district are the only ones needed to be shown, the digital overlay will only show this.
By being able to manage multiple overlays, district officials and the transportation team can effectively manage their schedule because they now have a much better grasp of the who, where, and when regarding the students and buses.
Real Time Data
Dispatch software is made even more powerful when the buses themselves are equipped with GPS tracking monitors. Then the dispatch software can track where each bus is, collect data on time at each stop, total distance traveled and total time of the trip. This automates information which used to have to be manually collected, often by the driver which distracted from watching traffic and their passengers.
This data can then be analyzed to look for patterns which allows districts to make decisions on where to put new stops, moving old stops or changing routes due to traffic. It also pinpoints where a broken down vehicle is. All of these functions have many applications which allow all involved to better manage the data needed to get the buses to the right place at the right time every day of the week.