Survey finds parents want technology to track child's school bus

(September 9, 2021) SEATTLE, Wash. — Zonar, a leading provider of smart fleet solutions, has released a new national study as parents send their children back to school this fall. The findings show that three in four parents (75%) want a better way to track their child's journey to and from school on the bus.

In the study conducted online by The Harris Poll of 564 U.S. parents with children under age 18, one-third of them (33%) say they rely on school bus transportation 100% of the time (all school days, to and from school). With the return to in-person learning, parents, students, drivers and school district administrators may all be understandably nervous about school bus transportation as for many, it will be the first time back since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"From the minute they leave the bus stop and arrive at school, to the moment they're back home, parents are looking for better visibility into their child's school bus journey," said H. Kevin Mest, senior vice president of passenger services at Zonar.

"For 20 years, we have focused on the health and safety on school buses as our top priority – we understand the logistical challenges of transporting precious cargo and the concerns parents have with the return to in-person learning. With today's expectations and the ongoing need for accurate information, we also empathize with parents who lean on school transportation to make their lives a little easier."

Zonar commissioned this study to better understand parents' sentiment about school bus transportation safety in light of the pandemic and beyond. School bus transportation is a critical link in our society, making the advancements in transportation technology more important than ever to support the safety of student riders and bus drivers.

Parents want mobile apps to track more than just deliveries

As a primary mode of transportation for 26 million students across the country, it's no surprise that parents wish they could better anticipate school bus pick up and drop off times. In fact, three-quarters of parents want both a better way to track their children en route to and from school and to receive notifications via mobile app when their child is dropped off at the right location.

Today, Americans expect to be able to follow grocery or online shopping deliveries in progress, and school bus routes are no different. Over the last decade, districts have deployed mobile applications that provide parents with ridership alerts and visibility into the rider and bus location for greater transparency and peace of mind.

The school bus is expected to be one of the safest places for students — those surveyed agree. Among parents, 72% agree that the school bus is a safe and reliable option for their child's transportation to and/or from school. At Zonar, this includes vehicle health, driver focus and safe driving practices to ensure both driver and students get to and from school safely. In addition, parents and school districts gain assurance that the right students board the right bus and the wrong ones are redirected.

COVID-19 precautions in schools start on the drive there

It's evident today that schools opening for in-person learning put young and unvaccinated youth in a potential COVID-19 hotspot. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports cases among children are at levels not seen since the 2020-2021 winter surge with children accounting for 15% of all COVID-19 cases reported.

When given options of what they want regarding school bus transportation, parents want COVID-19 precautions on the school bus, including:

    •    Investments in sanitation procedures for school buses (46%)
    •    Health screening questionnaires for school bus drivers (41%)
    •    Contact tracing information for students that ride the school bus (38%)

With COVID-19 spreading rapidly among children, parents and community members in close proximity to schools should have some comfort that districts are deploying electronically verified sanitization and cleaning procedures as well as touchless solutions to protect drivers and student riders. By recording the date, time and school ID number of every student rider, districts know who rode which bus and when. In the event a rider or someone close to them tests positive for COVID-19, the appropriate driver and parents are quickly notified regarding potential exposure.

As parents of school-aged children are thinking about the school bus transportation their district provides, they also want to be informed of unforeseeable events beyond the school or driver's control. When given options of what is desired for their child's school bus transportation journey, parents want:

    •    Access to real-time school bus information in the event of an emergency (51%)
    •    Timely communication about transportation schedules and drop-off/pick-up details (50%)

Safety in the school bus transportation industry doesn't stop at GPS tracking of buses and students. Protecting riders requires safety checks inside the bus, such as vehicle diagnostics alerts that inform of issues before they become a problem and inspections that flag maintenance needs to keep the vehicle in top health. When given options of what they want regarding school bus transportation health and safety, parents want:

    •    Technology that helps maintain school bus fleets and avoid break downs (43%)
    •    Investments in school bus safety procedures (42%)

A school districts' highest priority is student safety. Knowing where students are, ensuring their safety onboard, and understanding what is delaying their arrival home is not an idea of the future. These tools are here today, many deployed across nearly 200,000 school buses nationwide  which improve the safety and security of student transportation for all involved in the journey.

About The Survey

This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Zonar from Aug. 19-23, 2021, among 564 U.S. parents defined as adults 18+ with children under age 18. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

About Zonar

Founded in 2001, Zonar has pioneered smart fleet management solutions throughout vocational, pupil, mass transit and commercial trucking industries. Zonar's mission is to enhance the safety, performance, and success of customers by transforming the delivery of innovative insights for commercial fleets around the world.