Can your home to school transport system keep up with changing demand?

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The world as we know it in 2020 has experienced significant change and we’ve seen the transport landscape rapidly evolve over a short period of time. The important question that councils are now asking is, can our transport management process support us through these changes and adapt to our evolving requirements? In only a short matter of weeks, children and young adults will be returning to school and it’s never been more important to have robust real-time management systems in place to manage the transport of special educational needs students as well as mainstream school transport. Here we’ll discuss the key elements required to appropriately service SEN and home to school transport requirements.

Paper-based systems & whiteboards vs a digital system

Does a paper-based system really offer you the level of detail, security, and auditability required with the complex needs of home to school transportation? Switching to a digital system offers instant benefits for security and auditability, providing information at the fingertips of each stakeholder. A recent government study estimated that home to school transport will extend to a cost of £1.2b in the next five years; we are now seeing significant movement in councils who are identifying they can ill afford not to have a system in place with the ability to deal with large scale requirements.

Now is the time to invest in smart technologies that can create time and cost savings Current statistics show that there are over 270k children in the UK with special educational needs, effecting their travel to and from a mainstream or specialist school. It is important that councils have a strong system in place that can handle the individual complex requirements of each service user. Using the 365 Smart Platform, a care plan can be attached to the record for each passenger, meaning that when needed (and appropriate), the driver can access key information on special requirements or instructions relating to the care of the pupil while in transit.

How smart is your route planning?

Although the government has allocated councils an additional £180m funding for high needs, research shows that councils are facing a shortfall of £889m and this can only mean one thing – efficiencies need to be made. Now is the time to invest in smart technologies that can create time and cost savings through increased planning and a reduction in time spent performing manual tasks.

Using the latest technologies offers great flexibility and supports the long-term needs of councils. Investing in technology not only provides benefits for the needs of service users, but also supports the joined-up working of teams striving to meet one shared goal – putting the safety and comfort of every passenger at the heart of any transport strategy.

A key challenge facing local authorities today, is the rising population growth and the changing school landscape, particularly with the increasing complexities of children with special educational needs and disabilities. With that in mind, any actions that can help control the costs of planning and facilitate the joined-up collaboration of parents / guardians, local authorities, schools, drivers, and service users can bring long term benefits.

Utilising a smart route planning tool allows the council to maximise their resources and ensure the fastest, most cost-efficient route is taken for all journeys, bringing cost savings in the long run. By adopting a digital service, computer aided dispatch can offer a level of flexibility that allows the most timely journey to be planned, with the ability to amend as necessary depending on how requirements change; transport is of course a dynamic environment and it needs a dynamic system to manage it.

Using the 365 Smart Platform, a hybrid approach can be taken, using computer aided dispatch for automated route planning, with the ability to manually alter or plan ad-hoc journeys. This offers complete flexibility when it comes to journey planning and provides time and cost savings with little to no requirement for back office scheduling tasks. Integrated mapping shows a live picture of where all resources are and schedules efficient routes for the best time and fuel efficiencies, giving complete control to the council.

Why choose cloud-based software?

Implementing a cloud-based solution removes the need for costly and bulky servers and allows for a remote installation; something of importance during these times.  A solution that offers remote access allows staff to make changes quickly and gives the ability to digitally alter schedules, invoices, and routes, whilst giving complete control over daily operations and visibility of the full fleet.

Communication is key

Real-time communication is paramount when dealing with minors and vulnerable service users. Disseminating information via post or keeping track of phone calls made, can pose a number of risks and lost information.

The 365 Smart Platform features real-time messaging, contained securely within the platform without the need for costly SMS, that allows all stakeholders to share vital information and keep up to date with relevant news and activities. The solution provides a platform for drivers, service users, parents / guardians, back-office staff, and schools to securely share information such as a change to schedule times or routes. The live functionality also gives the ability for service users and parents / guardians and approved school administrators to see the location of the driver and give immediate knowledge of where the passenger is at all times. This reduces anxiety for families and calls to schools, transport operators, and council teams in turn, improving efficiency and reducing complaints.

Transparency and open communication are of great importance to calm parental or guardian anxiety and alleviate concerns that service users, families or guardians may have regarding travel plans. Clear communication channels are also vital for facilitating information across multiple bases, between all relevant parties.

How scalable is your system?

With the rising demand on councils to provide safe and secure home to school transportation, it is important to have a system in place that can cope with the new pressures we now all face. Changing routes, reducing passenger capacity, supporting rapid changes, closures, and managing the risk of the new COVID19 impact is now virtually impossible to do manually. Implementing a digital system that can grow as your needs grow, and adapt as your needs adapt – down to the day to day changes and year on year trends – will offer long term benefits and keep costs down in the short run. Managing safely at scale has never been more important and the 365 Smart Platform is built to change with you every step of the way.

Information at your fingertips

Detailed reporting and analysis brings great opportunity for creating quality improvements and further efficiency savings. The use of real-time data can highlight quality, operational, and delivery gaps and bring attention to issues or trends that may not have been brought to light with a manual process. Digital technologies can provide enhanced data that supports staff in tracking, meeting KPIs, and monitoring compliance.

The 365 Smart Platform offers comprehensive reports and the ability to export data, in addition to bespoke reporting that can be configured as per your requirements. A full compliance module as part of the system can monitor all of the real-time information for training and compliance, provide alerts for insurance renewals, driver license updates, deep clean inspections, vehicle types, mobility, and access information, staff, volunteer and passenger guide reporting, etc. These elements can provide insight into areas of high spending and enable authorities to appropriately assign resources.

Commissioning transport providers – how efficient is your process?

The transport industry is filled with competition, but should price be the most important factor? When searching for transport suppliers the process can be lengthy and time-consuming. Does this provider meet all of your requirements? Do they have all the right checks and protocols in place to meet your needs? Finding a solutions provider that has an integrated platform that supports your own procurement process, with a varied list of suppliers will go a long way to supporting your team and reducing manual onboarding tasks.

The 365 Response eProcure is built upon your own framework or DPS ensuring your own standards are met but managed digitally end to end. eProcure offers a cloud based, secure platform for procuring, managing and booking the various forms of transport required by the council. A large selection of approved and competitive suppliers are taken through a vetting and procurement process and given access to the eProcure platform, which allows councils to post mini competitions for long term and ad-hoc journey requirements. This process enables a smooth purchasing experience that ensures best value for money and only providers with the appropriate systems and checks in place to bid for transport requirements. 

What can we learn from the pandemic?

The unexpected and immediate change brought about by the coronavirus pandemic has thrown public services into a new era of managing the unknown. The situation has been a learning curve for the transport industry, with many uncertain about whether children should return to school and how safe travel can be provided at this time.

First and foremost, Local Authorities need a reliable and trustworthy digital supplier who can provide adaptable solutions, high levels of customer service, and secure, future proof software.

The 365 Smart Platform has been carefully adapted to support councils to accommodate social distancing measures. Transport capacity planning can be now be automated with newly created filters in the integrated algorithm to plan for the need for larger spacing between service users and extra time for loading passengers on and off transport. Extra checks can also be fulfilled at the start of journeys as part of the driver checklist, such as cleaning inspections and face mask requirements.

Find a solution that fits your needs

Adaptability and configurability are key factors when considering a transport management system. Working with a solutions provider that recognises and caters for your bespoke requirements is key. Utilising the latest technology helps to manage risks and provides the user with the benefit of remote updates, as well as the advantage of receiving developments that have been built as a result of best practice from other like-minded authorities.

*The statistics used in this article can be found here: https://www.local.gov.uk/sites/default/files/documents/29012020%20LGA%20briefing%20-%20SEN%20support-WEB.pdf

Book a demonstration of the 365 Smart Platform by calling 0333 2027 365 or emailing info@365response.org

You can download a PDF copy of this document here: Can your home to school transport system keep up with changing demand?