Henrico goes high-tech to track school buses

HENRICO, VA (WWBT) – Henrico County is going high-tech when it comes to keeping tabs on buses. The school district is looking to spend $250,000 to be able to answer, instantaneously, a common complaint: "Why is my child's bus late?"

The district will be buying GPS devices, which in this case are not so much navigation systems as they are little electronic problem solvers.

Ed Buzzelli is the assistant superintendent of operations.

"It's difficult when a parent calls in and says, 'The bus never came', or 'The bus was 10 minutes late'. It  becomes a discussion of what the driver said versus what the parent said, so we can resolve these types of issues quickly," Buzzelli said Tuesday.

And for a fleet that drives 10,000,000 miles a year, those issues come up often. But maybe, not for much longer. Once installed, the devices will allow central office staff to keep an eye on each and every bus, in real time.

It's like air traffic control - only for school buses instead of airplanes.

"You can sit in front of a computer and it'll show you where every bus on the road is," Buzzelli said.

At first, however, the technology will be in place only for the central office, and if certain buses were running late, staffers would put out a call. But the potential is there to one day let parents and students monitor the buses themselves via smartphone.

In addition, the GPS trackers will help drivers identify the most fuel-efficient routes, and, make sure there are no extracurricular road trips.

"The buses will be assigned to drive a certain number of miles per day, and if there's an abnormality you can  go in and look at why a bus drove 50 more miles than it was supposed to," Buzzelli said.

Henrico would be the first school system in the metro area to have the devices, though they are currently under consideration in Chesterfield County as well.

Henrico will soon be taking bids for the $250,000 dollar GPS contract. If all goes according to plan, the devices would be installed in January of next year.

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