The Future of the Yellow School Bus

Planning for the Certainty of Change in an Uncertain World

By Tom Platt on October 26, 2020

Are the days of the traditional yellow school bus coming to an end? Probably not anytime soon, but the way they are deployed, the way they are used, and the buses themselves must change with the times. As the ongoing pandemic continues to upend the way we live our lives today, there is an undercurrent of more permanent change emerging as well. The pandemic has caused us to reevaluate everything, including impactful trends for the pupil transportation professional. Where we will live, how we will work, and how we will educate our children in the future will each have large implications for the way our industry serves the public. Plus, there are other trends that were already emerging before the pandemic, such as reducing the environmental impact of our services and meeting ever-increasing demands for new and costly specialized transportation services. The future presents no shortage of challenges.

Over the next several weeks DSG will be presenting our thoughts on the likely future of pupil transportation. We will be covering a wide range of topics, but all in the context of the world we know best – the yellow school bus – and how this ubiquitous symbol of the work we do is likely to be constructed, deployed, operated, maintained, managed, and used to support the future educational objectives of our society. We hope you will join in the conversation.

Topic List

1.) The bus in an interconnected world

The bus will be a node in the network; always connected, always communicating, always available to be redirected. What does this mean, why is it a game changer, what are the pitfalls and challenges?

2.) Adaptive bus routing

The on-demand, decentralized, specialized, targeted, and multi-modal educational services of the future will require flexible, on-demand routing solutions pushed to and sent by the connected school bus; what does this look like and how does it change the nature of daily operations in the transportation department?

3.) Who will operate the bus, and why

An interconnected, technology-enabled school bus operating in an adaptive routing environment will require a new type of bus operator. Combine this with an economic and pandemic-driven driver shortage, and it becomes clear that the way we have thought about this part-time, casual-employment, and low-pay cohort needs to change.

4.) What the bus will look like

The large capacity, fossil fuel powered school bus may slowly disappear in favor of smaller clean energy alternatives to meet the needs of the evolving service demand and to reduce the climate impact of the work we do.

5.) Adaptive bus contracting

The interconnected bus, adaptive routing, and changing driver demographics demands a different kind of contracting. Closer daily management of service delivery will require contractors to change their business models. School districts will change the way they contract for services and/or consider insourcing the required expertise and control, if not the buses themselves.

6.) The pupil transportation professional in an interconnected world

The bus as an extension of the classroom; flexibility in meeting ever-changing service demands; the transportation manager as part of the educational process, not just a disconnected supporting service. What does this mean, why is it a game changer, what are the pitfalls and challenges?