How Henrico County is using GPS system to track school bus drivers

Posted at 11:50 PM, Oct 03, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-04 15:40:05-04

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. -- Santosh Kumar's little girls both ride the same Henrico County school bus.

He said the school system does a great job keeping his kids safe, but when we told him a CBS 6 investigation found some Henrico school buses speeding, he expressed concern.

"That's a major problem, 10-15 miles per hour over the speed is definitely a problem," Kumar said.

Josh Davis, the head of pupil transportation in Henrico County, agrees, but said his buses go the speed limit the vast majority of the time.

"We know that we're not perfect, sometimes drivers exceed the speed limit, we don't see it as a huge problem in Henrico County," Davis said.

In fact, new technology allows him to find out if any of his bus drivers exceeded the speed limit on any given day.

The county's new GPS system can compare speed limits with real-time bus speeds, which is something they could not do one year ago.

"[The company] offered it to us, I said I want it," Davis said.

Davis said the technology still does not send alerts every time a bus speeds like it does in Richmond, but it does allow Davis or his supervisors to access the data if they want it.

"From time to time our supervisors pull that report out of the system, maybe for one driver maybe for a set of drivers, maybe for the entire fleet," Davis said.

Josh Davis

Davis showed CBS 6 how it works.

He checked if any school buses went 10 miles per hour or more over the speed limit on the day of our visit.

A list popped up showing 67 instances of speeding.

He also typed in 15 miles per hour or over, and found one particularly concerning instance of alleged speeding.

"Here is one of concern and somebody is going to get a call if it really happened and it's the speed limit. This is somebody going 58 in a 35," Davis said.*

"What can you say to parents who see this story, and may have concerns seeing that a bus was going most likely 15 over the speed limit?" CBS 6 Problem Solver investigator Melissa Hipolit asked Davis.

"We want our parents to know we expect our drivers to set a standard for safe and defensive driving, and when we find something ourselves, we are going to take action and counsel the drivers. If the actions are repeated they won't be driving for us much longer," Davis said.

So how often do Davis and his supervisors check for speeding?

He said from "time to time," but they always take a look if he receives a complaint.

"The data is there. I can reach out and grab it. Frankly, I don't feel I need an email every morning to tell me a list of X number of buses that have exceeded a speed limit," Davis said.

Yet, Kumar said he hopes Davis will consider utilizing the technology more often.

"How often do you think they should be checking how frequently buses are speeding?" Hipolit asked Kumar.

"At least twice a week minimum to get started with," Kumar responded.

Davis also pointed out that the system is flawed.

For example, our 15 mph or over search showed one bus going 113, 109, and 115 miles per hour, which are speeds that are impossible for a Henrico County school bus to reach.

He also showed us how the system read one stretch of Nine Mile Road as being 25 miles per hour, when it was a street that intersected with Nine Mile Rd. that had that speed limit, not Nine Mile Rd.

*Henrico Schools discovered information the that depicted the bus traveling 58 mph in a 35 mph was indeed an erroneous result. The bus was traveling on the Powhite Parkway at the time, where the speed limit is higher than 35. This is an example where the raw data we receive is not 100 percent reliable until investigated further by a transportation supervisor.

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