School Bus Technology Trends To Watch For In 2020


Technology in manufacturing school buses keeps improving and advancing each year to accommodate the increasing safety and security concerns of student transportation.

Better safety, lower costs, and simpler operations are the major reasons that drive technology to seek new methods or improvise on the existing.

Better safety, lower costs, and simpler operations are the major reasons that drive technology to seek new methods or improvise on the existing.

Read Also: School Bus Driver Safety – How Technology Can Play a Role

Information and computer technology has had a great influence on School transportation management systems. Innovative products have been developed to make unwieldy operations easier and to solve issues faced in student transportation.

Technology works with humans to create a secure and safer environment for students, enhance the rider and driver experience and increase the overall efficiency of operations.

Technology trends to watch for in 2020

1. Auto Routing

School buses use smart auto-routing algorithms simplifying the task of transport managers. School bus routing is challenging for transport managers as it consumes time and they have to keep an eye on school bus routes, check seat availability, etc. But auto-routing software makes the task easier. It automatically routes the path accurately. 

2. New Methods to stop Illegal Passing

One of the biggest threats facing by school buses safety is rash driving motorists. They often tend to ignore a school bus’s stop arm and speeding by while the children are entering or exiting from the bus. It can sometimes cause serious safety issues. The children are unpredictable, so other vehicles should be responsible for child safety. 

Stop-arm cameras are one option, but it is relatively expensive and cause public relation issues. So alternative method to prevent this is by adding more and bright lights is the most effective and friendly solution. 

3. Cutting-edge sensitivity

In school buses, the level of sensitivity varies as detection technology varies. The new AI-powered technology can detect even the faintest signs of movement, including even the minute signs of heartbeat and breathing. Though it was formally developed for passenger cars, this system partners with school bus telematics. Thus helping school bus drivers or fleet operators to diagnose if a child is left on board.

4. Alternative Fuels

The basic fact that the global petroleum reserves are depleting, forces one to look for alternatives. The environmental pollution and public health hazards caused due to emissions from diesel exhausts are very grave.


Prices of diesel and gasoline are extremely volatile and high. The efficiency level per gallon is low when compared to other fuels.

These factors compel a shift to electricity, CNG, propane, hydrogen, diesel-electric hybrid as fuel is envisaged in the coming years. These fuels offer better mileage. Their on-road operational costs are minimal compared to that of diesel-powered buses.

The initial cost of purchasing a new bus running on alternative fuel or retrofitting the current engine to suit alternate fuel requirements is high compared to that of diesel buses. But in the long run they prove viable with near-zero emissions and lower operational costs.

Electric school buses are considered to be the future of school bus transport. They are eco-friendly with zero emissions. They are quieter while in operation.

5. Timer-based Block Heating Mechanism

In cold countries, heating of the buses in the morning is a major issue. A smart timer attached to the block heater automatically starts the engine.

The timer is pre-programmed for the time at which the engine has to be started. This ensures that it is warm and ready when the driver arrives to start the trip.

The timer is pre-programmed for the time at which the engine has to be started. This ensures that it is warm and ready when the driver arrives to start the trip.

This cuts the cost of constant heating, which is impractical and eliminates the need to pay drivers for the extra warming hour in the morning. These timers help to save up to 80% of the costs depending on the weather conditions.

6. WiFi on buses

Wi-Fi on buses is a key factor enabling routing software and GPS tracking system to operate smoothly and effectively. Internet is a centralized device that ties together all the technological equipments aboard a bus.

Implementing Wi-Fi solutions helps in saving money and expanding the capabilities of the systems installed in the bus.

Students spend considerable time on the bus, travelling to and from school. Wi-Fi en-route will enable them to utilize their time on board productively, either studying or completing homework.

It will be helpful for students who lack proper internet access at their homes. Safe internet access with customized filters and data usage reporting ensure the students do not misuse the Wi-Fi for gaming or entertainment.

7. Student ID Cards

Bus identity cards are embedded with micro-chips. Radio frequency identification device (RFID) is used to record the place and time of entry and exit of students into the bus.

The RFID cards alert the parents informing them when their child has got on or off the bus. It updates school administrators on whether the child is on the right bus and at the right bus-stop.

8. Motion Detectors

The motion sensors detect any movement on a moving and stationary bus. Movements as slight as a child moving under a blanket can be detected. Use of these detectors will eliminate the chances of accidental child abandonment which happens when students sleep off without alighting from the buses.

General purpose Input/output (GP I/O) devices or sensors alert the drivers when the door is left open, when windows or hatches are opened, stop arm notifications work etc.

9. Live camera feed

The live feed cameras are installed inside and outside the buses. The internal cameras enable the drivers to view the students inside the moving school bus.

Read Also: 6 Ways Technology has Changed Student Transportation

Student behavior, seating, safety issues can be monitored and managed conveniently on a console in front of the driver. This aids the driver in regulating student discipline without having to leave his seat.

Live cameras are installed on stop arms which extend out when buses stop. This camera is of help to record errant drivers on the road who do not obey the stop warning.

10. Video Mirrors

Video mirrors are used to overcome the dangers arising from the blind spots that the large school buses have. Four cameras are fixed, in different directions, so as to provide the driver with a 360 degree view.

The view is automatically adjusted at turns and curves and switches to rear-view once the bus goes into reverse mode.

11. In-Wheel Alcohol detection

Habitual drinkers and intoxicated drivers are difficult to determine on sight. The new alcohol detection sensor detectsalcohol based on a driver’s skin oils. As the sensor is integrated into the steering wheel, it locks down the bus before it is on road thus preventing unsafe driving.

12. GPS Bus Routing Software Solutions

Planning and scheduling of school bus routes manually is time consuming, costly and stressful.GPS enabled bus routing software helps in faster implementation and optimization of bus routes which is the key factor in reducing operational expenses and fuel costs.

 The system creates routes based on accurate maps, determines time and distance factors on each route, detects traffic blocks and hazards on routes, monitors the mileage etc.

The individual GPS system of each bus is connected to central routing software enabling the school to keep track of every bus in the fleet, receive real-time updates on student locations and route deviations.

Auto-routing determines the routes based on bus seat capacity, number of bus-stops, students at each bus-stop using algorithms.

13. GPS tracking systems

Tracking software solutions make fleet management easier with more control of safety.

  • Trip and Student tracking systems– which can be integrated into the software will provide exact locations of the bus fleet. The precise and accurate data aids school management in taking well-informed decisions quickly saving time, cost and resources.
  • School bus attendance tracker – provides notifications to parents when their child boards or alight the bus. This tracker is extremely beneficial to the school in knowing the number of students in attendance in school on a particular day.
  • Tracking App for parents– helps them to track the bus and reach the bus stop in time. Parents concern of safety in transportation is addressed to a large extent by using this tracker app.
  • Manifest feature -This feature produces daily student passenger list, pick up details with timing, route diagram showing pick up locations. If a student has applied for leave of absence on a day, his name will not appear on the pick-up list for that particular day. This saves the time of the driver and students.
  • Geo-fencing– This App allows parents and schools to set boundaries. This restricts movement of the bus to specified areas. When a bus enters a restricted area the parents and the school receive alerts. The geo-fencing app can be used by parents to receive alerts when the school bus is nearing their wards bus-stop.

14. Driver Tablet

Drivers traditionally use paper printed instructions and maintain files pertaining to students, vehicle performance and maintenance details. Providing drivers with an in-vehicle tablet will reduce paper work.

All information can be recorded on the spot and can be retrieved by all departments concerned. This reduces the work load of drivers and school administrators.

15. Telematics

Telematics automate many of the manual and disconnected tasks. Telematics connects all the electronic equipment in the bus and transmits the entire data to the fleet manager.

It tracks fuel consumption, preventive maintenance schedules and the engine diagnostics of the bus. Telematics has the capability to make the transportation system more efficient and easier to maintain at lower costs.

Read Also: Impact of Anti-Collision Technology on School Buses

Technology has transformed the classrooms and now this transformation is being extended to school buses. Technology gives us new ways to optimize, maximize and automate the different functionsof school bus operations.  All of these technological applications strive to make school buses the best and the safest mode of transportation for students.

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