According to a report from the Pensacola News Journal school buses in Escambia County are going to be outfitted with a $411,000 gps fleet tracking system. At nearly half a million dollars the move has raised a few eyebrows among those involved with the system despite the projected savings of $790,000. Some a very skeptical that such savings will materialize.

One of these individuals, James Marcotte, a retired pilot now boat captain in Florida, has very little inkling on how these systems will generate the savings promised. He was quoted as saying, “A GPS will not aid in any way. It will tell you where the bus is and nothing more. How then will we realize $790,000 in savings?”

Not only is the average tax payer suspicious of the new tracking system, members of the school board are also voicing concerns over the plan. Faced with a tightening budget, the members are hard pressed to realize the savings that the plan is projected to produce. If they don’t, they could lose be held responsible by the public.

To add to the pressure, the bus drivers are resenting the notion that their every position will be monitored. They see the money as a waste, assuming that they already choose the best routes to pick up the children. They also claim that they already implement fuel saving techniques such as reducing the amount of time spent idling and driving the speed limit so that expectations of fuel savings are overblown.

That might be the case, but bus drivers from a school district in Orange county saw an 10% reduction in fuel related expense once the GPS devices were enable on the vehicles.  With gas prices running at their current prices this is a very significant amount of money.  When you add to that the improved efficiency of workers, streamlined routes, and improved central routing that could add up to significant savings.

While pressure is mounting for the district to abort the plan it might be in the best interest of the school board to take a big picture approach and implement the GPS tracking.  Over the long run, this system will help enhance the overall functionality of the fleet, improving fuel economy and worker efficiency.  It even has some added benefits that you would not normally think about in deploying this type of system – knowing where students are at any given time.

In the case of emergencies – catastrophic bus accidents, bus hijackings, school shootings, earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding, mud slides, or wild fires – it is always good to know exactly where the children are so that you can respond in exactly the right way. This information is provided by this system. A parent is only a phone call away from knowing that their child is safe and secure on a bus or that when something does go their child will have a first responder there in no time because of the GPS.

If the school board succumbs to the pressure of the bus drivers, public opinion, and pandering politicians they will miss out on this golden opportunity to keep their children safe and to save money as well. While there are plenty of ways the district might be spending its money, this is an expenditure that will hopefully in the long term free up more resources for those needs than spending the $411,000 on them now. It is a risk, but it is a risk that is well worth it.