South Carolina school buses will get a high-tech enhancement that officials say will help improve bus safety, routing, efficiency and maintenance. The state Department of Education plans to install special GPS units on each of the more than 5700 buses. Transportation Director Don Tudor says the devices will be wired into the vehicle to track speed, location, engine data, and how the bus is operated.
“To monitor the everyday use of the bus and work with the districts and the school bus drivers to not excessively idle the bus, to not operate the bus on a route that’s not been pre-approved, to not add stops when they’re not necessary and those kinds of things. And we believe that will both save the state money as far as fuel, and will eliminate emissions as well.”
Tudor says there’s also an option to monitor such data in real time. It will cost $3 million to eventually equip the more than 57-hundred buses in the state’s fleet, but Tudor says the projected savings in the cost of fuel and operating the buses should pay for the system in a year and a half.
Two Midlands school districts have been chosen for a pilot project to equip school buses with devices that track their every move and how they operate. Special GPS units will be installed on 15 buses each in Richland Two and Lexington Two school districts. Tudor says the devices will monitor bus speed, braking, acceleration, and overall performance.
“Did the bus driver operate the bus stop properly? Did the driver go through the procedure they were supposed to when they approached a railroad track? Did they wait properly when loading the students? I mean, it literally tracks all of this information and captures it in a recording device as part of the GPS. Then when the bus comes in for fuel, that data is automatically downloaded to our central server in the Department of Education. And then the districts will be able to look at what their bus did.”