The Waxahachie ISD transportation department is headed toward the future, innovating the district’s bus fleet and incorporating real-time technology to better track students.
Eager to modernize the department with real-time technology and state-of-the-art buses, WISD Director of Transportation Philip Gurke is more than pleased with the district's bus fleet's newest edition.
In mid-November, the Thomas Bus Saf-T-Liner C2 — a bus that has earned a reputation for safety and efficiency — made its way to the bus barn.
This Thomas Bus offers outstanding maneuverability, driver ergonomics, and best-in-class visibility among Type C buses.
Gurke noted the newer bus has improved visibility of 25 percent. The hood's slope is shorter and allows better visibility in front of the bus, which helps drivers when monitoring students who cross the street in front of the bus. The bus features a PV360 multi-camera, which provides a 360-degree view of virtually everything surrounding the bus.
As Waxahachie ISD’s bus fleet diversifies, Gurke hopes to have a good mixture of buses in the future and possibly purchase an electric bus. Before the district invests more into the fleet, Gurke is focused on advancing the fleet management system to track maintenance of the vehicles and, even more importantly, be able to pinpoint student location in real-time.
This is the second year for WISD transportation to utilize Synovia, a vehicle fleet management system. The technology currently records students who arrive and depart from the bus and manages routes for drivers. This system ensures the correct student is dropped off at the right stop.
Even though the system serves as another layer of certainty, Gurke is searching for the next best thing — technology that is more viable and proficient for what the transportation department does daily. Live data is not as assessable at the moment with the current software, and Gurke is focused on finding the best technology to track students live and knowing precisely who is on what bus.
"The safety of our students is our first priority, and knowing where students are at all times is vital," Gurke emphasized. "Time is critical; therefore, you need live data."
When students swipe their badges, Gurke wants an image to pop up for the driver to see to provide better driver-student connection and confidence.
"That's powerful when you want to manage students," Gurke noted.
Another ideal component of a more innovative fleet management technology would have a parent portal where students can be tracked live by a legal guardian. Gurke explained this would be ideal for parents of special education and younger students.
"We want to reassure families that we are taking care of their kids," Gurke said