The end of the summer holidays tends to signal groans from children facing a return to school, but for many transport authority staff it simply represents a continuation of the pain that is schools transport management.
This is a hugely challenging task for several reasons – not least the extreme workload and pressure of dealing with the public regarding the safe transport of their children. Given this difficulty, is it sensible for overworked and under-resourced transport teams to continue to manage schools transport in the same ways they always have?
This previously difficult challenge is becoming almost impossible. The result isn’t only stress on those involved; it’s also additional cost through temporary staff; inefficient schedules; too many taxi journeys – and ultimately poor service to the community. Is there a better way?
Given that transport management teams are struggling to cope with schools transport, can’t we find a way to get the public to help out? There is an increasing trend towards using ‘self-service’ to ease the workload burden of data management and enquiries – and interestingly, this development also appears to be improving the quality of service to the public.
‘Self-service’ is no longer a controversial term: these days people are attracted to the ‘always-on’ nature of self-service because it enables them to access information and tools on their own terms: whenever and wherever they wish to do so. Indeed, research suggests the public actually now expect self-service and look more favourably on organisations that offer it.
Real-life example: Worcestershire County Council achieved a 57% reduction in call volumes to their call centre – 2,500 fewer calls in the first summer alone – by implementing an online portal for managing bus pass enquiries.
While Self-Service seeks to assist transport management teams with the bulk of their workload, there is another way to tackle this: outsource it in the form of a managed service.
This is a service we are looking at providing for a number of customers. The theory is that while scheduling schools transport unquestionably requires local skill and knowledge, the instances where this is the case is actually relatively small. In our experience the bulk of schools transport scheduling can be carried out externally by a scheduling expert using software such as Trapeze’s PASS.
With this approach the council’s scheduling experts are then afforded the time needed to focus on the minority of journeys that really do require local expertise – reducing overworking stress and ensuring better quality of schedules.
There’s no doubt that schools transport is a difficult challenge for all involved. But with the correct technology and support perhaps we can make it better for all involved. What do you think?