On-the-Fly Routing: Navigating Challenges When School Buses or Drivers Are Unavailable

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Far too many school districts have difficulty recruiting and keeping bus drivers, often making do with a bare minimum number of drivers. This creates challenges in the best of times but can pose a serious problem if a driver is absent and no backup is available. Similar issues can arise if a bus has a major mechanical issue that can’t be fixed before the next route.school-bus-driver-1

Does your district have plans or policies in place for dealing with missing drivers or buses? With pre-planning and technology investments, it is possible to complete all routes with minimal disruption.

Preparing for Missing Drivers or Buses 

1. Maintain a list of emergency backup drivers

Outreach can be beneficial. There could easily be people in your community who have the necessary credentials to drive a school bus. Even if they aren’t interested in bus driving as a career, they may be willing to act as on-call substitutes in emergencies.

This can be easier depending on your state’s school bus licensing requirements. For example, in states like Florida with minimal requirements, any CDL-licensed driver could potentially substitute for a bus driver.

2. Invest in robust bus route mapping software

If you’re missing one or more drivers and have no backups, you’re probably going to reconfigure your routes – quickly. Bus routing software is a great tool for a variety of reasons, but it can be a true timesaver here! The mapping system can build entirely new routes in seconds, allowing you to quickly adjust ridership and get everyone onto a bus.

3. Use in-cab technology to communicate route changes

If you’re making significant changes to the routes and riders, drivers need to have as much information as possible. Tablets or other devices tied to the mapping system will let you instantly update a driver’s route. It also informs them which students will/won’t be riding based on the new emergency maps. These can even be updated over the air in the middle of a route, if necessary.

4. Parents need to be informed too

If possible, parents and guardians should be informed of the ad-hoc route changes, particularly if the changes will significantly affect their student’s departure or arrival times. Parental notification apps make this easy, allowing you to quickly broadcast an alert or SMS to all affected families with the necessary information. This will also reduce “Where’s my kid?” calls to the office.

5. Consider partnering with a 3rd party transport provider

If you seem to constantly have issues providing enough buses and drivers, it may be time to seek a transportation partner. Larger bus companies have far more resources, and will typically be in a better position to provide backups when needed. In some cases, outsourcing can even be less expensive than running your own buses.

Fast Action Keeps Your Buses Running

When you suddenly find yourself lacking a driver or bus, it is possible to keep your buses running on schedule. Just keep your head and leverage modern technology to quickly make the needed changes.

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Has your district faced a similar situation lately? Please share your experiences and tips in the comments!