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A Smooth School Startup Requires Great Planning

How districts can overcome route, driver and bus challenges at the start of school

What are the top transportation challenges at school startup?

The biggest challenges are routes, drivers and buses. School bus routing is more complex than other routing. District routes can be affected by ongoing school enrollment and by families moving. During the summer, districts experience higher turnover in bus drivers, which can impact startup. Lastly, readying vehicles for service after sitting through the summer and preparing new incoming vehicles for service presents additional challenges.

What are some keys to success?

A key to having routes ready for the start of school is getting student data early so that drivers can do dry-runs and give feedback. At First Student, our dedicated routing group, First Planning Solutions, supports our operations and our customers as they’re getting ready for startup. It’s also critical to never stop engaging with drivers and to continuously recruit and train new drivers. Another key is implementing a rigorous preventative maintenance program to ensure buses are operationally ready when school starts.

What makes First Student different when it comes to school startup?

Shutting down a large transportation system and starting it up three months later is a huge challenge. We do this over 1,100 times every year. First Student recognizes the challenges, including planning and operations, such as a rigorous start-up plan for fleets, drivers, routes, facilities, communications and more. Our First Planning Solutions group gets routes updated and ready for startup. Engaging our drivers all summer is a rule that First Student lives by. First Student hosts recruiting events throughout the country, and we leverage technology for communications, dispatch operations, maintenance, fleet telematics and routing.

Can you give an example of a successful startup?

We are an important education partner with districts. Prior to last year, East Aurora School District in Illinois provided transportation only for its special needs students, but not for its other students. This was a new startup and customer, and it was a whole new transportation system. There was a true sense of partnership that led to a tremendous startup. We had strong communication with the district and they communicated well with the community as we leveraged our rigorous start-up plan. We recruited new drivers and engaged with the community to find drivers for these routes. The result was amazing—the district experienced a 31 percent decrease in truancy. It was a shining moment for all of us. 

For more information and school start-up tips, please visit DAmag.me/startup-success