Operational Optimization: Planning Ahead

School Buses,, student bus transportation, Yellow School Bus

shutterstock_90569596When school districts want to - or need to - reduce the costs of their transportation system, one of the best options is to optimize their bus routes. It's rare for a district to have perfect route optimization, and just about any updates they can make will result in cost savings down the road. In best cases, they may even be able to entirely eliminate one or more routes, drastically reducing costs as well as reducing the harm done by the ongoing school bus driver shortage. However, proper route optimization is more than just running routes through smart bus route planning software. School districts should plan ahead to get the best results!

Five Factors To Consider Before Optimizing Your Bus Routes

1. Make Sure Your Student Info Database Is Up-to-Date

When is the last time you audited addresses to ensure your student database is as accurate as possible? Bus routing software is going to be pulling from that database to build its routes, so any incorrect addresses will introduce costly inefficiencies into your bus routes.

2. Contact City Hall To Learn About Upcoming Plans

Is your town going to be making any major new road renovations in the upcoming months? Are there any new housing developments about to open up? Are there any other major plans which might affect your bus routing in the near future? A call to your city hall, city planning office, or another applicable office can potentially head off future problems.

3. Are There Any Areas Where the Buses Should Not Go?

Good bus routing software can utilize blacklists of roads or neighborhoods that the bus should not be sent into. This could be for reasons ranging from high crime rates to poorly maintained or narrow roads that would be unsuitable for buses. You might even consider doing a direct inspection of your district, looking for places that bus routes should avoid.

4. Is Avoiding Left Turns an Option?

Courier companies like UPS and FedEx have a secret trick to optimizing their delivery routes: their drivers almost never turn left unless there's truly no other option. Waiting for left-turn signals burns up a lot of gas and wastes time, on top of being the most dangerous type of turn. Making multiple right turns to avoid a left is genuinely more cost-efficient in the long run.  

5. Are You Considering a Green Bus Upgrade?

Now is a great time to invest in alternative engine types, such as electric or natural gas-powered engines. However, they have different performance profiles. If a major upgrade is in the near future, you may want to hold off on route optimization until your new buses come in.

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Do your school districts have any tricks for achieving better route optimization? Let us know in the comments!