Synovia Solutions Blog

THREE SCHOOL BUS SAFETY TRENDS WE’RE SEEING IN THE 2015-16 SCHOOL YEAR

Posted by Elizabeth James on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 @ 10:07 AM

School bus safety is always top of mind for parents, bus drivers, and administrators alike. It’s thschool bus safetye same way for us at Synovia Solutions as well. We’ve identified three trends in school bus safety that have dominated the first half of the 2015-16 school year. Let’s take a look at what’s happening – and how your school district could be affected.

THREE POINTS FOR SAFETY

In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officially endorsed and recommended three-point safety belts for all school buses. In the past, the NHTSA has maintained that belt-less buses were safe, and acknowledged that retrofitting buses with belts would be costly. Their stance has now changed.

"The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives," said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. "That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA's policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt."

Any rulemaking effort from the NHTSA will face opposition, though. Adding seat belts to buses is an expensive endeavor. It can cost around $500 per seat on a full-size bus, meaning a total cost between $7,000 and $15,000 per bus in many cases. When school districts around the country are already strapped for cash, that investment simply may not be feasible.

The fact remains that seat belts save lives, though, and some states and school districts are moving forward despite the cost. The Rhode Island general assembly will consider a bill in its next session that would require all new bus purchases to include seat belts. The Houston Independent School District has already implemented the same requirement. In both cases the rule applies only to new buses, meaning that older buses will not be retrofitted with belts. This will increase the cost of new buses, but the burden on districts will be lighter than if older buses were also required to have belts. This is likely the safest, easiest, and most cost-effective way forward.

SHOWING NEW DRIVERS THE ROPES

School districts nationwide are having issues finding, hiring, and keeping good bus drivers. Only six percent of contracting companies this year reported that they had enough drivers (down from 15 percent just last year). This is partly because the economy is stronger than in recent years, so fewer people are seeking part-time work. This shortage is also due to heavy regulation of drivers.

The strict requirements to become a driver are necessary to keep students, as well as everyone else on the road, safe; however, these stipulations can deter people from pursuing a bus driver position. As a result, many districts are desperate for new drivers. From Minnesota to Colorado to Virginia, school districts are creatively recruiting new drivers to minimize the shortage.

It’s critical, though, that standards and training are not sacrificed in an effort to fill out a driver roster. In fact, the desperation to find drivers makes training even more important, and it’s something no district can skimp on. When a new driver isn’t properly trained, it can cause major problems.

Due to this, districts are using newer and more modern training methods to give drivers experience in a variety of situations. Advanced simulators give drivers hands-on experience in maneuvers that they may not typically encounter. They also provide a safe situation for practicing more complex training exercises, without having to worry about damage to a bus or equipment. This way an inexperienced driver can safely and quickly become proficient before he picks up a single child.

Part of that training is learning routes, and that can’t be done in a simulator. It’s important for managers to be able to monitor routes to make sure drivers are hitting their stops and driving efficiently. A tool like Synovia’s Comparative Analysis compares planned routes to actual routes using GPS tracking data. This information can be used to show new drivers where they’re going wrong, and how they can improve. If someone’s routinely missing a turn or taking the long way, they may not even know – and information is key.

KEEPING WATCH

Internal cameras have been popular for years as a way to help with discipline, both for riders and drivers. Any incident that happens on a bus is recorded and can be dealt with in an objective manner. Many districts are also adding external cameras to deal with a growing issue – other drivers ignoring bus stop arms.

According to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, 70,000 vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses each day. When it happens, the bus driver’s first priority is to make sure students are safe. That means they’re not typically able to identify a license plate. As such, cameras which automatically activate when a bus’ stop arm is engaged are becoming more popular.

It’s not entirely clear whether they have much of an effect, though. One example is the Laramie County School District in Wyoming, where state law requires cameras to be installed on all buses by 2016. Although the law is well-publicized, drivers are still passing stopped buses. According to transportation director Merle Smith, the district is still seeing double digit violations on a daily basis. In other districts, though, a deterrent effect has been reported. When a district can afford them and the law permits it, external cameras are more likely than not to be a good idea.

GIVE PARENTS PEACE OF MIND

Parents can’t control what happens to their children once they get on the bus. That responsibility belongs to bus drivers and transportation administrators. As a parent, putting a child’s safety in someone else’s hands can be frightening. One way you can ease their concern is with Here Comes the Bus®.

With Here Comes the Bus, parents know exactly when their child’s bus is near, and can send them to the bus stop at just the right time. No more long waits at the bus stop, and no more missed buses. For parents, such a simple thing can mean a lot. Combined with Synovia GPS and Comparative Analysis, Here Comes the Bus is a powerful tool to keep students safe.

You’re always thinking about student safety. Keep an eye on these bus safety trends while you’re readying for the second semester. With the right knowledge and the right tools in place, you and your parents will be able to rest at ease.

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Tags: transportation directors, safety, k-12, here comes the bus, school bus

5% Guarantee: You save 5%. Or we pay 25%.

Posted by Bill Westerman on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 @ 09:24 AM

Managing a fleet of 75 or more vehicles can be a cumbersome and costly task. Synovia SolutSYN 5 Percent Guarantee 290x226ions can make your job more time and cost efficient, and we have the guarantee to prove it.

Here’s how our 5% Guarantee works:

To get started, customers are asked to record up to a 60-day baseline for fuel consumption and payroll inefficiencies.

Then, you’ll start using GPS tracking from Synovia Solutions. When you do, we fully expect you’ll see some meaningful improvements such as:

  • Reduced fuel consumption by limiting engine idle time
  • Improved driver behavior
  • Reduced excess mileage
  • Reduced vehicle wear and tear
  • Improved customer service
  • Increased number of calls in a day (depending on industry)
  • Reduced payroll inefficiencies
  • Smoother processes

In addition, our seasoned sales professionals have lots of savings tips and ideas.

If monthly audits from Synovia Solutions don’t show a 5% savings on fuel consumption or payroll over the first 12 months of use, you get 25% off your invoice for the balance of the term.

Get started with Synovia Solutions

To experience how Synovia Solution can make a difference in your business, we offer a free, no obligation trial. If you decide we’re exactly what your fleet needs, we’ll get you started with no upfront costs.

To learn more about Synovia Solutions, visit www.synoviasolutions.com or call 1-877-796-6842.

 

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Tags: transportation directors, fleet maintenance, fleet managers, GPS, fuel efficiency

Synsurance™ Ensures Your Success with Fleet Management Technology

Posted by Bill Westerman on Mon, Jul 27, 2015 @ 01:40 PM

describe the image

For most fleet managers, implementing a GPS tracking system isn’t a matter of choice. Rather, it all comes down to budget. And since many GPS-technology providers require a sizable upfront investment just to get started, it’s no wonder so many fleet management professionals are forced to forego the benefits of a proven fleet management system.

At Synovia Solutions, we decided to solve the cost and service-related issues that keep so many fleets from adopting GPS tracking technology by introducing Synsurance™. 

Available exclusively from Synovia Solutions, Synsurance is an all-inclusive, turnkey service plan that represents the ultimate in customer protection. With Synsurance, there are no upfront costs, so you can start experiencing the safety, savings and service benefits associated with Synovia Solutions GPS tracking technology right away. The program also includes performance guarantees (we pay if we don’t perform) that will also ensure success.   

With Synsurance, you get: 

No Upfront Costs

With Synsurance, there is no need to delay the implementation of fleet telematics due to budgeting or appropriations hurdles because it costs absolutely nothing to get started. 

Everything You Need to Track Your Fleet 

Synsurance provides all that is necessary to begin using Synovia Solutions GPS tracking technology, including hardware, software, installation, implementation, maps, hosting, replacement spares and more.

Price Protection

Choose Synsurance and your service plan is guaranteed not to increase in price for the entire length of your service agreement. In addition, you will never pay any hidden or extra costs – guaranteed.  

A Comprehensive Hardware Warranty That Never Expires

Every Synsurance service plan comes with a hardware warranty that lasts the duration of your service agreement. If Synovia Solutions-supplied vehicle hardware fails to perform, you’ll receive a replacement at no cost to you. 

Exceptional, Highly-Accessible Customer Support

With Synovia Solutions, you can track your fleet using an intuitive dashboard, complete with unlimited access to live customer support, online training, educational videos and on-site assistance as needed.

99% Uptime Guaranteed or We Pay

Should you experience downtime relating to the functionality of your software, Synovia Solutions will get you back up and running within four hours or you will be credited one day’s charge for your entire fleet.*

First Occurrence Fix or We Pay

Any support call you make related to Synovia Solutions software is considered a first occurrence until it is resolved. If the same issue requires another support call within the next 30 days, you will be credited one day’s charge for your entire fleet.

2% Spares on Site with Spare Replacement within 48 hours

If a piece of hardware fails, you’ll have the ability to replace it with a spare unit immediately. Afterward, just send us the defective unit and receive an additional spare within 48 hours.

Software as a Service (SaaS) Benefits

Because all Synovia Solutions GPS tracking tools are built on Silverlining™, our user-friendly web-based SaaS platform, we host the entire solution for you. What’s more, all software updates and upgrades are included. 

Flexible Payment Options

Pay monthly, quarterly, yearly or pre-pay and receive a discount. Government entities can take advantage of special municipal terms that allow for the cancellation of a Synsurance agreement without penalty if necessary funds are not appropriated.**

Synsurance – the simple, all-inclusive solution

With a highly scalable and affordable service plan, many Synovia Solutions’ customers have found Synsurance to be self-funding within 90 days! Contact Synovia Solutions today to learn more.

 

* An extraordinary event involving our data carrier would not qualify for this credit

** 36 or 60-month term agreement required 

 

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Tags: transportation directors, fleet managers, Synsurance

Electronic Time Tracking Can Help You Regain Control of Your Payroll System

Posted by Bill Westerman on Thu, Feb 12, 2015 @ 11:10 AM
GPS for payroll system

As a fleet manager, your responsibilities are seemingly endless, from safety issues and driver behavior, to route planning and fleet maintenance. What’s more, budget concerns remain a very real obstacle. Fortunately, GPS technology can help you do more with less while saving both time and money. Your payroll system is no exception. Read on to learn how Time and Attendance, a GPS-powered tool from Synovia Solutions, can help you better manage all aspects of your payroll system.

Time and Attendance Works with Your Current Payroll System

Time and Attendance is capable of integrating with your current setup so that all of the information captured through GPS tracking can be exported to the payroll system you’re already using quickly and easily.

Time and Attendance Allows You to Automate Time Collection

By using Time and Attendance to automate time collection, you can eliminate paper timesheets by having your drivers login from their vehicles rather than your facility. By tracking driver and employee time more effectively, you can ensure a one-hour route isn’t being logged as a two-hour job or a driver with a four-hour day isn’t being paid for six hours’ worth of work.

Time and Attendance Increases Payroll Accuracy

If your employees are logging their time by hand, chances are your payroll accuracy is suffering. By automating time collection, you can save quite a bit simply by eliminating inaccurate time entries. Even if you’re off by as little as one or two percent, that can have a significant effect on your overall payroll budget, no matter if you manage 20 vehicles or 2,000.

Time and Attendance Keeps You in the Know

One of the largest benefits associated with Time and Attendance is being able to accurately capture time for payroll purposes. If you’re paying your drivers based on time, it’s essential to know how much of that time is actually involved in a specific route or activity. Time and Attendance enables your drivers to log a job type with the same keypad they use to clock in from their vehicle, whether it’s their regular daily school route or a field trip.

Time and Attendance also lets you review and manage the time that is being collected. As your drivers log in, your GPS system is sending that data back to you through the Synovia Solutions platform, which you can review to see who’s logged in, what their time cards look like and more – all in real time. In addition, you can compare your existing route schedules from your planning system to the actual time being logged by your drivers, so if a driver assigned to a six hour shift is logging eight hours, you’ll know.

Time and Attendance Helps You Manage Healthcare Requirements

Even if you don’t pay your drivers based on time and instead use a daily or flat rate, accurate time capturing is incredibly important when it comes to healthcare, specifically the Affordable Care Act, which requires employees who work beyond 30 hours per week be provided health care benefits. If you’re not currently offering these types of benefits, the Affordable Care Act can present you with a rather large expense. That’s why it’s so important that you ensure the time you collect is accurate.

Time and Attendance Makes Life Easier for Your Employees

Time and Attendance also includes an employee portal, which allows drivers to log in and view how many hours they’ve logged. The employee portal also allows non-drivers or dual-role employees (someone who may drive in the mornings and work as an office employee during the day) to log time spent on activities that don’t involve operating a vehicle. This can be done from a computer, so both time spent on the road and in the office can all be captured on one time card.

Even if one of your drivers forgets to log in or out, GPS data will provide you with a full picture of that driver’s day, from when that driver left to time they returned. There are no “he said, she said” arguments over time discrepancies because all of the data is right there in front of you.

Time and Attendance Saves You Money. Period.

The example below shows a timecard representing a week’s worth of work, which alerts you to the fact that the amount of time logged exceeds the time allotted for a particular route or shift, enabling you to investigate and subsequently correct the situation.

Below that you can see weekly totals representing logged activities, including time spent per day. Having this information helps you better manage your employee payroll and reduce time spent on specific shifts or activities where possible, leading to significant overall cost savings. 

payroll system

Using a K-12 fleet as an example, you can see the results North Carolina’s Lincoln County Schools have experienced after integrating their payroll system with Time and Attendance: 

Lincoln County Schools

 

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Tags: transportation directors, Time and Attendance, GPS, Payroll

3 Reasons City Maintenance Managers Love Engine Diagnostics

Posted by Bill Westerman on Fri, Jul 25, 2014 @ 11:13 AM
remote engine diagnostics

Real-time vehicle information on the health of your city’s fleet – from police cars to bulldozers to ambulances – allows you to make informed decisions. This equips your team to perform preventative maintenance and often times dispatch mechanics before they are even requested. Without a remote diagnostics solution like Synovia, cities have to touch check every vehicle and preventable maintenance is overlooked or forgotten due to workload. This results in more downtime for your workers and costlier repairs to the vehicles. That’s why remote diagnostics technology can be a vital tool for a municipal maintenance manager.

Remote vehicle diagnostics pulls information every minute the vehicle is in use and gives you visibility into the vehicles’ performance. The vehicles are tracked by the vehicle identification numbers (VIN). Diagnostics such as odometer readings, fuel economy, and fault codes feed into our software. This data empowers a maintenance manager to act on real-time information and proactively manage the department.

1. Improve scheduling of preventative maintenance.

When you rely on a driver to report mileages, or maintenance staff members to check them, there will be inconsistencies in the data. Someone forgets to report the numbers, or writes down the wrong odometer reading. With direct data from remote diagnostics, human error is at its absolute minimum.

2. Accurately track your fleet’s health and driver behavior.

Fuel consumption and fault codes are useful indicators to review both the vehicle health and driver behavior. For example, unexpectedly high fuel usage can be an indication of a leak or perhaps reckless driving. You can also audit city-issued credit cards to ensure they aren’t being used for personal use. Without up-to-date and accurate information, a situation can go unnoticed for quite some time before it’s caught.

3. Provide damage control and be proactive to vehicle issues.

Every driver won’t react instantly to something like a temperature light. If a problem is severe, that delayed response can cause major damage to the vehicle. With remote diagnostics, the maintenance manager can receive a text or an email alert so that the team can act quickly to certain fault codes.

Knowledge is power, and a deeper insight into the status of a city’s vehicle fleet can preserve vehicles’ lives and save money. This allows you to provide better service and help your team do its job.

Free Trial - Try Synovia Free. No commitment!

Tags: transportation directors, fuel efficiency

How to handle a weather-related delay or cancellation

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 @ 02:11 PM

bus covered in snowAs a Transportation Director, it's your job to make sure changes to the bus schedule schedule are clearly communicated to everyone involved, and we realize that it's no small undertaking. That's why we've compiled this list for how to handle a weather-related delay or cancellation.  

Your goal is to ensure the safety of your students, and in order to give advance notice of a change in schedule, it sometimes means making a decision based on the best information you have available in time to provide notice.

Monitor weather conditions

If weather conditions exist, are predicted, or have the potential to impact school operations, conditions should be closely monitored and information gathered from multiple sources. Be in touch with local meteorologists. Administrators should consult school maintenance and custodial staff who are responsible for clearing and treating school parking lots and sidewalks to check on conditions at the site. 

Make a decision ASAP

In the event of inclement weather, your goal should be to provide as much notice as possible of closings, early releases, or delays to our parents, students, and employees. Sometimes however, conditions catch everyone by surprise and you must make a decision much closer to the occurrence. Because of the uncertainty of each event, no exact time of each notification can be provided.

Determine if road conditions are safe for travel

When weather events occur or are forecasted, consideration is given to all transportation methods to include student walkers, teen drivers, and bus transportation.  In the event of winter weather, a lot of Transportation Directors or Assistant Superintendents drive bus routes in all areas of the county to check on conditions first hand. In some cases, conditions in some areas of the county may be more dangerous than in other areas. (Better safe than sorry, we say!)

Because your school system likely covers a large geographic area, weather conditions can vary dramatically in different locations around the area. Often, major roads are in good driving condition, but the neighborhood streets are extremely dangerous. In situations such as these, the decision to delay or cancel school is made in the best interest of EVERY student.

Notify parents, students, and staff

The more vehicles you can use to do this, the better. You never can overcommunicate a change of this magnitude. That being said, parents and staff should be notified by telephone. Use an automated notification system like ParentLink to make this easier. If you utilize ParentLink, updates will be sent for passing along further weather information.

Update the school's home page on the website. Call local radio and TV stations to announce the delay or cancellation as well.  

Announce after school activities

You can't forget about the games and practices that are likely on the calendar. As you communicate changes in schedule, make sure you communicate whether these activities will continue. Parents (and students) will, no doubt, be wondering!

Update your master calendar

Don't forget to plan for make up days if you end up canceling school altogether. Potential make up days should be built into your calendar for this very reason - teacher workdays and holidays are often sacrificed. 

By monitoring weather, deciding ASAP, determining if roads are safe for travel, notifying parents and staff, announcing after school activities and updating your master calendar, you are well on your way to handling a weather-related delay or cancellation with ease. 

Click here to download the free guide

Tags: transportation directors

How to optimize school transportation [WEBINAR]

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Jun 11, 2013 @ 10:45 AM

As a transportation director, superintendent, or anyone else responsible for operating a smoothly-running school transportation environment, your top priorities are safety, efficiency, and cost savings.

We recently conducted a free webinar in which we cover the following topics:

  • Going from a reactive to a proactive environment
  • How GPS can improve route performance and efficiency
  • Key performance indicators
  • How to reduce fuel costs
  • Real world case studies

View the webinar below to see how these issues can be addressed in your school system.

No time for the full webinar or want a supplemental guide to take with you? Download our ebook on school bus safety below.

 

How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: transportation directors, safety, route efficiency, GPS, fuel efficiency

Effectively communicating a policy change

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 @ 10:04 AM

policy changeIf you are a Transportation Director, we understand the difficulties of communicating a policy change. You likely worry that someone won’t hear the news - or that they will disagree. In order to effectively communicate changes within your school corporation or company, it’s important to consider the following guidelines:

Communicate 3x (at least!)
The key to any change is to communicate, re-communicate, and then communicate again. You want to make sure that you over communicate as opposed to under communicate the change so that people have multiple opportunities to hear the news. We live in a busy world, and people are bombarded with so many messages that we have learned to tune them out. Make sure you communicate it early and often!

Use multiple channels
If the change only affects a handful of people, we recommend you tell them face to face. However, if you need to get the word out to a large audience about a policy change, use all the communication channels you can. Contact the local newspaper to see if they will run a story (or at least the notes from the school board meeting when it was passed). Put the news on Facebook. Update the school’s web site to reflect the change. Tweet about it. Share the updated news with students in their announcements (however those are communicated). If you’re communicating to young children, send home the information in a newsletter or flier. Use every communications medium you can think of, even flying a banner behind an airplane if you think that might work. :)

Explain why, how, and when
Whatever the policy change, we encourage you to be open about why the policy changed. People want to be informed. If they understand your logic, then most likely they will support the decision. Also share with them how this affects them. Oftentimes, people simply want to know the bottom line:how this will change their life/routine. Finally, make sure people know when the policy will be implemented so that they know when to expect the changes.

We can’t guarantee a flawless transmission of your changes - or how people might respond - but your audience is more likely to be supportive if they are aware and understand the why, how, and when.

How to Increase School Bus Safety

Tags: transportation directors, policy change