Technology allows Dubuque to track school buses

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - The school bus driver cautiously drove students home on an unfamiliar route.

Despite the driver’s best efforts, the bus found itself caught in a snow drift along Laudeville Road.

The Telegraph Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1elVU8X ) new technology installed in 124 Dubuque Community School District vehicles allowed multiple vehicles to be dispatched to the exact location of the incident a couple weeks ago. In years past, the substitute driver would have used the radio to communicate with officials and guessed where the bus was stuck.

Kris Hall, the district’s transportation manager, said the Geotab GPS unit installed on the bus immediately showed officials its location on a computer-generated map. After the vehicles were dispatched, officials then watched a screen as the vehicles converged on scene and another bus brought students home.

The snowy incident is just one example of how the plug-and-play technology from Tyler Technologies, as well as other software, has benefited the district this school year.

“We’ve been extremely pleased with all three facets of our new software,” Hall said.

Not only does the software track and re-create vehicle trips, but it also offers engine diagnostics, alerts that monitor factors such as speed and other driving reports on a variety of topics.

Sue Shaull, the district’s assistant transportation manager, said she enjoys verifying information with the software and analyzing the various reports.

More than 250 daily routes are displayed as green lines with red lines whenever there is an alert, such as speeding more than 8 miles per hour over the speed limit or idling too long.

Hall emphasized the system is not meant to be a punitive tool.

“We’re trying to stay very positive with the software as a learning and teaching tool,” Hall said.

If officials see patterns with a driver, the driver is brought in for a discussion on how those negative patterns could be changed.

Hall said the units have been most beneficial in helping families wondering when a bus will be at a stop or, if the bus has passed, how long and when the bus was at a stop.

“It’s very nice, quick and handy,” said Rachel Reeg-Kernall, a dispatcher who handles phone calls each morning.

Previously, she would have to radio the driver to determine where the bus was located instead of now simply looking at a screen that is updated every 15 seconds.

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