September 6, 2009 6:24:00 PM
Parents be comforted and errant students beware: The Columbus Municipal School District, in partnership with Waters Transportation Services, LLC, is tracking your every move to and from school.
According to the Mississippi Department of Education, nine school districts in the state -- including the West Point School District and the CMSD -- outsource their transportation needs.
"It''s going quite well," reported WPSD Assistant Superintendent of Operations Eluster Wicks. "We haven''t had any real problems this year. We''re getting off to a smooth start and so far it''s been working real well.
"We''ve seen some savings," he added, noting the district was projected to save around $200,000 by outsourcing transportation to First Student, Inc.
For the CMSD, outsourcing transportation to Waters Transportation Services, LLC has meant savings and increased accountability, noted CMSD Superintendent Dr. Del Phillips.
"We are more than pleased with our relationship with Waters Transportation," he said. "The (Global Positioning Satellite) systems that are installed on each bus gives us more accountability to parents and makes us more efficient. The digital cameras on each bus are very valuable tools to ensure safety.
"We anticipate seeing both short-term savings with more efficiency on routing, as well as long-term savings with a more rigorous maintenance schedule for the bus fleet," he added.
Routing efficiency and GPS electronic fleet management
With the Transfinder routing system and Zonar Systems GPS devices on all CMSD buses, officials can track nearly everything associated with delivering students to and from school.
Officials can track when bus drivers speed or go off-route, better inform drivers of unexpected routes or changes in the students picked up at each stop, ensure required pre- and post-use inspections are completed on each bus, and accurately track repairs needed and performed, among other things.
Drivers'' delays in starting or completing their routes are tracked, ensuring less idle time and increasing fuel efficiency.
"It''s all about efficiency," said Waters President Mike Waters. "Another big part of the transportation is student timeliness."
Now, if a student misses a school bus or is late to school, school officials and parents can tell if the student or the bus driver is at fault.
"This takes the subjective part out of all those questions," Waters said. "We''ll deal with the facts and we''ll respond to the facts and that''s a huge tool.
"The facts can incriminate the parent or the students, but it can do the same to us," he added. "Anytime you''re dealing with facts, you get a better level of service."
And the digital cameras on the buses also help schools and parents deal with disciplinary issues.
With audio provided, the cameras are of such quality the faces of students caught fighting or engaged in bad behavior on a school bus easily can be seen and identified.
The video and audio files, along with back-up copies, are provided, with school bus incident reports, to school officials and parents.
"It''s a very useful, high quality tool," Waters said of the video and audio capabilities. "(Teachers can) recognize troublemakers in the video and take discipline measures."
School districts in Gulf Port, Bay St. Louis, Natchez, Canton, Madison County, Yazoo County and Hinds County also outsource their transportation.
As an affiliate of Waters Truck and Tractor Co., the management of Waters Transportation Services has been selling, servicing, and managing school bus deliveries throughout the state for 20 years, with a market share of 70 percent of the total buses sold in the state, company officials said.
Of the 153 school districts in the state, Waters Transportation Services, LLC, has contracts with eight other school districts, Mike Waters noted.
"It''s been our view more and more school districts would start looking at this," he said of outsourcing transportation and the services provided by Waters Transportation, LLC. "We''re stepping deeper into it, taking on routing, drivers'' day-to-day management. It is a business we intend to grow in."
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