Benefits of GIS Routing for School Bus Transportation

vMax Compass, Seon, school bus cameras, routing software
With the development and increased affordability of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology, transportation professionals all over the world discovered and embraced this tool for effective planning, and managing of transportation systems, that can solve complex route problems in minutes and dramatically increase efficiency. Today we asked our GIS expert, project manager Peter Klemm how GIS applications and software can help significantly optimize school bus fleet management and result in tangible savings.

Peter_Klemm

Remember the days of pins and string on a paper map mounted on a wall (for some school districts this is still the situation) where you had your routes laid out and buses assigned and a whole lot of disconnected paperwork for driver assignments and directions, bus servicing and general accounting? What you didn’t have was a handle on whether the routes were efficient, if your buses were racking up more mileage than they should or if there was too much idle or deadhead time. To calculate this would take way more time than you had because of the mountain of paperwork you were buried under on a daily basis.

Now let’s move forward when transportation moved into the digital world with spreadsheets and databases. You had student records in a database and you had stop, bus, and driver information in spreadsheets. It took a very special person (that is hard to find and even harder to replace) that could take this information and visualize it as a total routing solution on a map.

Now dial it forward to the present day transportation system where GPS student tracking, digital mapping and databases are brought together in one seamless interface on a computer screen. In this world of GIS the transportation specialist can easily plan routes with “what if” scenarios, track buses and students in real-time, compare planned vs. actual routes for potential deviations and even view secured live audio and video from their vehicles over a cellular network.

All-in-One Solution

The transportation specialist logs into the system from any device that uses a browser, because today everything is stored centrally “in the cloud” (which is a really a poetic term used to describe a server farm somewhere on the other end of the connection). Her screen is filled with all sorts of intelligent stuff; forms and tabs for changing, entering and querying a multitude of databases depending on the desired outcome, an intelligent interactive geographic mapping system that graphically displays the database queries or tracks vehicles live, and even a live view into a bus where a critical incident may be occurring.

With all this intelligence available to the transportation specialist she can spend more time planning more efficient routes, handle emergency situations faster, and in the end cut transportation costs.

This ‘all-in-one’ solution for school transportation is exactly what Seon’s vMax Compass web-based transportation application has to offer.  vMax Compass routing software was developed by US Computing and integrated with Seon’s fleet tracking and video technology to provide school districts with a single, complete view of their fleet operations.  Built on the ESRI platform, the global leader in GIS and mapping software, vMax Compass uses standard data formats that are easily accessible and shareable across school districts, local government departments.  Now on one screen vMax Compass users can plan safe, efficient routes, view the actual routes travelled on a map, follow a bus in real-time, and even tap into live video from on-board that bus.  That’s the power of GIS and mapping intelligence.

Return on Investment

We shouldn’t kid ourselves, all of this technology costs money up-front, but the return on investment in terms of fuel and labor savings will be worth it. And also if it’s not in the budget to invest in all of this technology at once, we can break it down into manageable pieces.

Simple routing

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to take all of your stop locations and put them into a mixing bowl, then add your fleet, schools and depots, turn on the mixer and produce a complete set of efficient routes that applies the right equipment to the stop requirements, uses the least number of vehicles, obeys all of the curb-side pickup requirements and adheres to the bell schedules. This is essentially what adding GIS to the mix does. Days, possibly weeks, of planning are reduced to hours. This frees up the department to pursue other things like producing “what if” scenarios or plan next year’s routing without disturbing the management of today’s routes. With all of this extra time the department can be more proactive in their endeavors vs. reactive which is beneficial to everyone, including their customers – the public. These advantages produces a reduction in driver time and the use of fewer vehicles directly translating into tangible savings.

GPS Tracking

The computerized routing system has the ability already built in to connect to tracking systems installed on the fleet vehicles. So it is just a matter of installing the equipment on the vehicles and configuring the routing to be able receive, digest, and display the GPS-enabled signals. This would track the time, location, direction, and speed of the vehicle in 20 – 30 second intervals. Depending on the equipment and sensors installed the information displayed could also include stop-arm extensions, signal lights, door openings and even video recording status. Having this information overlaid with your route plans on a map, you can instantly see route deviations and address them in a more timely fashion. Also having the ability to view this information with only a few clicks of the mouse you can address parental concerns as they occur rather than spending your valuable time doing detective work, again, saving time and money.

Student Tracking and Viewing

With all the money you save with automated routing and vehicle tracking you can now afford to bolster your safety efforts with regard to your drivers and students. If a bus breaks down, or the unthinkable happens, you have virtual eyes on the situation immediately. You can contact only parents of actual riders vs. going through the whole list of ‘likely’ riders. You will know exactly where the incident occurred rather than having to rely on radio contact and emergency services to supply you with this information third-hand. You cannot put a price on having the ability to know where your bus is and who is actually on the bus at any given moment in time.

Peter Klemm
Project Manager | Seon
Peter.Klemm@seon.com

 

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Top School Bus Safety Predictions for 2015

Top School Bus Safety Predictions for 2015, Seon

Every year at the beginning of January, we publish a brief overview of the mobile safety trends and technologies that will be on the rise in the school transportation industry in the next twelve months.

Last year, there was a lot of news about devastating accidents involving a school bus. The frequency of these stories in media indicates that safety and security are still top priorities for school transportation departments and that mobile surveillance solutions are indispensable for accident reconstruction and evidence. Keeping a finger on the pulse of the fleet also requires live video streaming, integrated routing and tracking software. These solutions can help address emergency or urgent situations, as well as prevent or solve issues of child bullying that very often happen on the school bus.

So, here are our safety predictions for 2015:

Prediction #1: For the safety of children and drivers, school transportation departments and organizations will pay more attention to prevention of bullying on the bus, by setting a special school bus code of conduct and investing in video surveillance equipment.

It’s well known, that school bus is an ideal location for bullies, since supervision is minimal and “victims” have no place to retreat. Bullying on board is dangerous for both children and the driver:  it can cause physical harm and damage to the self-esteem of a child, and at the same time distract the bus driver, increasing risk of a vehicle accident. Such incidents can result in injuries to other students, motorists, and pedestrians. As a rule, children report incidences of bullying to their parents, who then complain to the school’s administration. But it’s really hard to take any action against offenders without evidence and a special set of bus rules, which provide guidance for kids, school bus drivers, and administrators on what they should do if these situations happen.

We predict that in 2015 more and more school transportation departments will be investing in the installation of mobile surveillance solutions to help record bullying incidents. These actions will be supported by setting in place a bus code of conduct to regulate student behavior on board and address issues faster and more efficiently.

To help prevent bullying, Seon launched a “No Bullies on my Bus” campaign in October 2013 and created education kits for transportation departments, school administrators, teachers, and children. As we continue our work in this direction, you can read more about our initiatives and access free resources here.

Prediction #2: School districts and organizations will install more video surveillance cameras, especially of high-definition quality.

Statistics show, that thousands of vehicles continue to illegally pass stopped school buses. In 2014, 97,000 school bus drivers in 29 states participated in the stop-arm violation survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS). Results were devastating: a total of 75,966 stop-arm violations were committed in a single day. NASDPTS also reported that this data points to more than 13 million violations  in a 180-day school year. To provide evidence for criminal investigations in these cases, school districts need to have high-resolution cameras outside of the bus to capture key details of such infringements, including vehicle model and license plate.

How School Bus Cameras Can Help in Accident Reconstruction, Seon

In October, we published a story about an accident that happened with Clayton County bus driver Terry Pettiford. She had just dropped the children off after the volleyball game and was on her way back to the bus yard, when a red car crossed the center line and sent the bus off its track into a home. The video from Seon’s on-board windshield camera system helped prove the innocence of the driver: to avoid collision, Terry could go to the right, into the park which was full of kids, or turn left into the garage of a house, what she did. You can read the full story here.

The growing number of similar cases increases the need for video surveillance solutions with several cameras on board to show the scene from different views and angles, to record the behavior of the violator that can later serve as an evidence in the accident reconstruction. So, we predict that in 2015, there will be a significant growth in the installation of CCTV technologies with cameras of high-resolution quality.

Prediction #3: Demand will grow for integrated surveillance solutions allowing real-time vehicle tracking and live streaming.

Sometimes emergency situations happen and all that you want to know in that moment is where exactly your bus is located, who is on it, and whether you have any other vehicles around to provide assistance.

For instance, on December 3rd, 2014, school bus driver Kristine Behrman from Davenport, Florida, was driving the bus with students heading to Discovery Academy, when she noticed smoke coming from the back of the bus. She pulled over, evacuated the kids off the bus, and called 911. Fortunately, no one was hurt when in a matter of minutes the smoke turned to flames. Traffic road cameras alerted officials to send help to the bus immediately and showed which lanes needed to be shut down. (You can read the full story here.)

Imagine the same situation happening on your bus: even if the driver gave you a call, you would want instant fleet insight to address the situation immediately. With the development of mobile surveillance technology, more and more school districts and organizations invest in solutions that provide live video streaming. For example, Seon’s vMax® Live Plus system will not only pinpoint the exact location of the vehicle at the click of a button, but will also allow you to tap into a live feed of any installed bus camera in an emergency situation. As a result, it is easy to see the whole situation from the driver’s point of view and solve the issue accordingly.

These are our top 3 school bus safety trend predictions for 2015. We hope this forecast will help you ensure a safe and accident-free year ahead!

If you have any other predictions that you would like to share with other transportation industry professionals, let us know in the comments below or post your comments to our LinkedIn Discussion.

Vlada Terenina
Marketing Coordinator | Seon
vlada.terenina@seon.com

Vlada Terenina, Seon

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The Bus Operator Toolbox: Conflict Resolution and Communication Strategies That Can Save Lives (Part 2)

Transit Bus

Today we are glad to present the second part of our interview with Bill Parsons, a recognized expert and trainer in personal safety,  who shares the best strategies and techniques for prevention of on-board assaults. 

(See Part 1 of the interview here)

Bill Parsons, Roadworthy Communications, Seon, bus cameras, bus driver training, public transit

How can you assess when the conflict can be prevented and when it’s too late? When the situation gets physical?

During the training, we discuss the cues that indicate an assault is imminent and that the operator should prepare to defend themselves. These behaviors are:

  • 1000 yard stare
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Body Blade
  • Conspicuous ignoring and more

In addition, we talk about controlling the reactionary gap and relative positioning so the operator maintains control of the arc of movement.

The driver is also taught to use the surveillance systems on their bus to maximum advantage for both their personal safety and affirmative defense of their actions and the organization.

What self-defense techniques and practical tips would you like to share with our readers, and bus operators? 

The best advice is to use their fear management skills to:

  • Remain calm
  • Be observant and see what is really unfolding: if this situation is escalating or de-escalating and what can be said or done to de-escalate it
  • Choose words carefully
  • Act nice and think tough
  • Always maintain a good reactionary gap
  • Stop the bus and open the doors so the violator can exit and not say he was trapped
  • Present them with options, like “You are free to get off the bus, if you want me to call a supervisor I can do that”
  • Ask for compliance, do not demand it: “Could you do me a favor”
  • Keep your hands up and open as you communicate
  • Slow down the situation

Can you give us an example of a successful de-escalation of a conflict on a bus? 

A situation erupted on a bus just a few months after I had trained the operator. An intoxicated and belligerent individual got on the bus late at night and began calling the operator racial epithets. The driver later told me he remembered the tools we had talked about for controlling ego and emotional response to situations and used those techniques instead of blowing up and exacerbating the situation.  He calmly looked back at the passenger, who was continuing his verbal barrage, and said,

“If you will do me a favor and take a seat, I will make sure you have a pleasant ride and get home safely.”

The rider said, “Didn’t you hear what I said?”

The driver responded, “I heard you sir, but I am choosing to do the best job I can for you.”

A few days later the man got back on the bus and apologized to the operator for his intoxicated behavior.

The driver realized the encounter was verbal and not physical and that it was an attempt to get him to respond in a less than professional manner thus escalating the conflict and possibly turning it violent. In addition, other passengers rallied to the operator’s defense and told the drunken man to sit down and let the driver do his job.

Well, I think it’s a great example of how a good transit safety course and training can help save the lives and health of bus drivers. If we look from transit agencies’ perspective, what can an organization gain from introducing their operators to tactical communications and self-defense techniques?

This type of training helps to improve communications internally, reduce sick day usage, and increase public perception of the organization and customer satisfaction. The benefits even spread into the personal lives of operators as they carry these new skills into their personal relationships thus improving them as well.

The benefits of the operators and the organization communicating more clearly, effectively, and congruently both internally and externally cannot be overstated, and the customers benefit by getting a more pleasant and safe ride.

Operating a bus is much more complicated than just getting from point A to point B, it is a complex and demanding job that requires the operator to possess an entire toolbox of techniques and skills to handle the many challenges they face every day. That’s why possessing conflict resolution and assault prevention skills are a necessity. In the long run, everyone wins from it: communication between operators and their management improves, and the customers get a more pleasant and safe ride.

 

You can learn more about the training at www.roadworthycommunication.com where you can also request a free copy of the Road Worthy Communication book, which outlines the techniques discussed.

You can also contact Bill Parsons at parsonscommunicationsgroup@gmail.com

To learn more about Seon’s program “Stop Violence Agains Drivers” and get more great free resources like this, visit http://seon.com /safetransit

 

Vlada Terenina
Marketing Coordinator | Seon
vlada.terenina@seon.com

Vlada Terenina, Seon

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The Bus Operator Toolbox: Conflict Resolution and Communication Strategies That Can Save Lives (Part 1)

Public transit, Seon, bus driver trainingWhen we launched our Stop Violence Against Drivers campaign, many customers mentioned the importance of good bus driver training to help prevent on-board assaults. Today we have a very special guest on our blog – Bill Parsons, a recognized expert and trainer in personal safety, self-defense, and tactical communication, as well as the founder of the training company Roadworthy Communication. Bill is a former Dayton Police Officer who has survived dozens of high-risk encounters over his 26-year service career. As a Certified Personal Protection Specialist, he protected former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and other high profile corporate executives and VIPs. In the interview with Seon, Bill talks about challenges in bus driver training and shares the best de-escalation techniques for prevention of on-board assaults.

Bill Parsons, Roadworthy Communications, Seon, bus cameras, bus driver training, public transit

Bill, you have been coaching and training transit operators for over 20 years. What is, in your opinion, the biggest challenge for your clients when it comes to bus driver training? What do you focus on when coaching transit operators?

Let me begin by saying that most of the transit operators I have trained over the years have been very open to the training, because they know the tools and techniques in my program are street-tested, designed to increase their personal safety, practical, and work in real life.

With that said, I think that getting the drivers to understand what they do is important work that impacts people’s lives and the way they communicate with their passengers has a huge impact on not only their personal safety, but job satisfaction, customer service, and organizational perception.

So I focus on getting the operators to see that they have the power to choose their mindset and attitude towards service to others, and that this choice impacts how they are perceived and treated.  The decisions they make either enhance or lessen their ability to communicate in a powerful and effective way.

In Roadworthy Communication courses, you emphasize the importance of conflict avoidance. Can you share some insight and strategies for assault prevention that can be implemented by our readers?

The Road Worthy Communication Program is designed to be a comprehensive communication, safety, and customer service program all rolled into one. These three areas dovetail together very effectively, particularly for transit employees who deal with a very diverse customer base and face unique challenges every day. The Program gives the operator an effective set of tools to mitigate conflict and manage it when it arises by influencing the decisions that riders make in very subtle but noticeable ways.

The training is based on the Pareto 80/20 principle that governs our lives. 80 to 90% of the people on the bus are the same people operators deal with every day. By building rapport with this 80%, bus drivers will have overall passenger support when they need it.

So I teach the operators a series of communication strategies. One of them is The Similarity Accelerator which shows them how to seek, spot, and accent similarities to build rapport and trust with the customer (usually, a passenger). Another good strategy is The Noticing Game - learning to focus on others, not yourself, and spotting what is important to them. By using these two techniques the operator builds a foundation of trust and support with riders.

The increased awareness which these strategies foster is a key to personal safety, allowing the operator to have good situational awareness and be in mindset “Code Yellow”: alert for a non-specific threat, thus giving them valuable time to spot potential risk and avoid it, or formulate options for effectively dealing with it.

Speaking about potential risk, it brings up the question of driver motivation and fear. What can be done to help operators overcome psychological barriers and use the techniques that they learned?

The techniques and tools I teach are as I like to say “street-tested”: after twenty-six years of using them day in and day out on the street as an inner city metropolitan police officer I selected only those that were tested and worked in actual critical incidents. I have also taught these strategies to thousands of police officers, correction officers, private security professionals, EMS personnel, and transit professionals, and the feedback I got also helped to select the best tools for training.

The operators clearly see the parallel between what I did as a police officer and what they do every day. They deal with the same risky people I did – individuals who are intoxicated, high, dealing with mental issues, or just plain criminal elements. Through sharing real life stories and encounters, they quickly see how these tools will work for them.

I have hundreds of occasions where operators will say “I wish I would have known this a few months ago” or directly relate how they inadvertently stumbled onto and used a technique I have just taught them to save the day. In addition, we discuss how fear affects the body and mind and how to manage it effectively using the following techniques:

- 4×4 breathing

- Combat Communication

- Survival why & survival switch

- Combat Focus

- Imagery

Can you share with us some examples when your clients successfully implemented conflict prevention strategies and avoided assaults on the bus?

I had an operator use a technique I teach on breaking and interrupting patterns one day when two belligerent young men got on his bus playing their radio too loudly. Now you have to get a clear mental picture of this operator who is an elderly gentleman about 5’6” tall and a little on the pudgy side with a ring of white hair atop his head and a white walrus-like mustache. As the two riders stepped on to the bus he said, “If you guys don’t turn that music down, I am gonna have to start break dancing.” They immediately stopped, looked at him in a startled way, laughed and said, “Man your crazy”, but they turned down the music as a result of that exchange. Now he has lasting rapport with two former troublemakers who since then have aided him in dealing with other disorderly passengers.

End of Part 1 of the interview. Read Part 2 on our blog on Thursday. 

You can learn more about the training at www.roadworthycommunication.com where you can also request a free copy of the Road Worthy Communication book, which outlines the techniques discussed.

You can also contact Bill Parsons at parsonscommunicationsgroup@gmail.com

To learn more about Seon’s program “Stop Violence Agains Drivers” and get more great free resources like this, visit http://seon.com /safetransit

 

Vlada Terenina
Marketing Coordinator | Seon
vlada.terenina@seon.com

Vlada Terenina, Seon

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We Are 15!

We are proud and happy to announce that this month Seon celebrates an important milestone in its history – its 15 year anniversary. The company that started as a small local business with humble beginnings grew to become the leading manufacturer of video surveillance and fleet management solutions for school and transit buses.

Seon_Anniversary

Seon was founded in 1999 with a mission to keep students and drivers safe on the road through the installation of video surveillance cameras on school buses. Six years later, we successfully presented our equipment and solutions to the public transit market and expanded our customer base. As Seon further developed its’ product portfolio to include school bus routing software, student ridership tracking hardware, and live video streaming, our company has seen tremendous growth.

Over 180 000 systems have been delivered and installed to help our customers increase the safety and efficiency of their fleets. More than 4,000 school districts and transit agencies in North America have benefited from our mobile surveillance solutions. And, for the last six consecutive years, from 2007 to 2013, Seon has been ranked as the #1 provider of mobile surveillance equipment to the bus and coach industry by IHS Group, Independent research firm.

None of these achievements would be possible without all of our Seon employees, past and present, who brought their passion and talents into building a strong company that successfully serves the transportation industry. Today we have a great team of more than 100 professionals in engineering, marketing, sales and operations.

In September 2014, Seon became a part of the Safe Fleet family whose portfolio of brands include such successful companies as ROM, Bustin, Prime Design, FRC, Specialty Manufacturing (SMI), Pretoria, Transpec, and FoamPro. Joining forces with such strong partners, we are continuing to improve and develop the product line to meet not only present, but also future needs of our customers.

“It’s amazing to see Seon growing: we are proud of what has been achieved during these 15 years and of where we stand today, and we are looking forward to new accomplishments and successes,” says Terry Akiyama, Seon’s Co-Founder and President. “We are greatly thankful to all our customers for partnering with us along the way and having trust in us. As we continue to develop our products to increase the mobile safety of school and transit buses, we look to foster relationships with our clients for the years to come”.

Seon will start 2015 with a new President, current Chief Operating Officer, Tom Gill, as Terry Akiyama will transition into the role of Chairman to provide continued guidance and leadership.

We thank everyone who has joined us on our journey over the last 15 years and we look forward to accomplishing much more in the coming years together.

Seon, mobile surveillance, public transportation, school bus camera

Want to learn more about Seon’s mobile surveillance systems? Visit our web site or call us at 1.877.630.7366.

Vlada Terenina
Marketing Coordinator | Seon
vlada.terenina@seon.com

Vlada Terenina

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