Every day, an estimated 23,500 students ride the bus to and from schools in Carroll County Public Schools (CCPS) district in Maryland. Many routes in the school district cover rural roads, including steep valleys and hills with limited visibility.
Mike Hardesty acts as Director of Transportation at CCPS. Over the last few years, he’s been working to improve school bus communication and safety for the district. BusPatrol’s full fleet, all-in-one, turnkey safety program was the perfect solution to modernize his entire fleet with advanced school bus technology and provide safety benefits to all student riders.
The Challenge – Enforcing School Bus Stopping Laws on Rural Roads
CCPS school buses often travel on rural roads with low traffic volume. Despite the small number of passing vehicles, these buses would still witness a high number of violations with drivers traveling at high speeds and not expecting to see a school bus. Mike explained: “On one school day, we had an average of 112 stop-arm violations. When you multiply that by 180 school days, you can see the magnitude of the problem here in Carroll County.”
Before partnering with BusPatrol, the school district had difficulty enforcing school bus stopping laws: “Bus drivers were constantly telling us about areas that were prone to flybys. But bus drivers very rarely reported these incidents because it is very difficult to capture a license plate and a description of the vehicle while driving a school bus. We knew that it was happening, but it was almost impossible to prosecute the violation.”
The Solution – BusPatrol’s Full Fleet School Bus Safety Program
In October 2020, CCPS implemented the BusPatrol School Bus Safety Program, following neighboring districts Montgomery Countyand Howard County.
All 311 buses in the school district’s fleet were equipped with technology from BusPatrol, and its partners FirstNet, Zonar, and Transfinder at no cost. According to Mike, having every bus equipped with the technology was one of the most important features of the program: “One of the things we really liked about the BusPatrol program was having cameras on every one of our buses. This means that we are sure of capturing [stop-arm violations] no matter where they occur, whether it’s a rural part of the county or in a more congested part of downtown Westminster, for instance. We’re going to capture them all with cameras on every bus.”
It also allowed the district to continue working with independent bus contractors. CCPS works with around 40 different contractors so is not able to switch buses and routes as is required when only some buses are equipped with cameras.
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Going Beyond Enforcement – BusPatrol’s $0 School Bus Technology Program Add-Ons
Not only was the school board’s safety and security council looking to implement a stop-arm camera program, but it was also searching for a school bus communication and GPS solution. The BusPatrol School Bus Safety Program was able to answer all of the school district’s safety and communication needs within one package.
According to Mike, the school bus technology from FirstNet has already made a positive impact: “The FirstNet communication system has been excellent. It allows us to talk to a specific bus driver, a bus driver talk to us, or we can talk to the entire fleet or any number of groups that we set up.” The system was also easy to implement: “We haven’t had had to add any additional staff we’ve just retrained existing staff and it’s really gone very well.”
Anita Stubenrauch, the Supervisor of Operational Performance in Transportation at Carroll County Public Schools, is also grateful for the additional school bus technology included in the program. She added: “After years of searching for radio solutions for communication and other GPS solutions, we were thrilled when we had an opportunity to have this push-to-talk communication system through FirstNet, and have our GPS needs met through Zonar, all part of the BusPatrol agreement.”
The Zonar technology has also helped CCPS to improve its communication with parents and the school. Anita explained: “The Zonar technology is incredibly wonderful to have. It has made daily operations so much more efficient. Our customer service level has gone up because we can answer those questions like: Where’s the bus? When’s it getting here?”
She continued: “A lot of parents call the school to ask about late buses or buses not stopping. Zoner really makes all of that go away because we can say the bus was here at this time or the bus was not.”
The BusPatrol program has been well received by almost everyone at the school district, including bus drivers. CCPS bus drivers are also thrilled to have cameras on the school bus, as they can be sure that whenever a driver does blow past their stop-arm, they will receive a citation and learn from their behavior.
Not only did BusPatrol meet the safety and communication needs of the District, but its team of safety specialists is always on hand to help navigate any student transportation challenges: “The level of customer service and the responsiveness of the teams is excellent, and that goes all the way up to the top of the ladder with Jean (BusPatrol CEO & Founder).”
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