A good investment

Sep. 02, 2013 @ 03:50 PM

It’s tough, if not impossible, to find a downside to Durham Public Schools’ decision to begin using a GPS system to keep track of buses.
The beauty of the system is its robustness, and how much it does besides track routes and locations.
Scott Denton, DPS executive director of auxiliary services, told Herald-Sun reporter Jamica Ashley, “This is probably the most revolutionary thing we’ve had in school buses in a long time.”
The technology has been available for several years, but Denton said the district held off on installing it until it found a system with accurate data and few glitches.
Beyond the ability to keep track of where buses are as they deliver about 18,000 students over about 4 million miles this school year, the system holds promise for savings. While Denton said the system would at least break even, given the capabilities of the information the system provides, it seems that there might be hope for broader savings.
Staff will spend less time moving back and forth to see which buses have left, which have returned and how long it takes to run particular routes. The system also will show how much time a bus spends at each stop, which could lead to more efficiencies.
One of the best features (and perhaps the one with most room for potential savings) is that the system shows how long buses spend idling. It’s an easy oversight for drivers. Perhaps for some it becomes habit to leave the engine running because the driver expects to have to turn it back on in a few minutes. But if you have a reminder showing how much time you spend idling, it makes you more aware of just how much fuel you are burning.
When you look at DPS’ consumption of 700,000 gallons of fuel annually, costing $2.1 million, it seems that there might be room there to decrease spending as awareness increases about where and when buses might be running unnecessarily. The system already has seen an impact. “Our idling dropped on our buses to next to nothing,” Denton reported.
In a climate where it’s hard to justify new spending, DPS has done well to invest in this system, which will help with efficiencies and reductions.