WALB News 10 Investigates: Watching school bus drivers - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

WALB News 10 Investigates: Watching school bus drivers

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Driver Gil Jones Driver Gil Jones
Kenneth Williams, Transportation Director Kenneth Williams, Transportation Director
Jack Willis, Admin. Assistant Jack Willis, Admin. Assistant
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ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

 It's not always kids who are troublemakers on a school bus.    Sometimes drivers don't follow the rules.       New technology on all Dougherty County school buses is increasing safety, saving taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and making sure bus drivers aren't behaving badly.      

Before driver Gil Jones buckles up,  and cranks up his bus, he performs detailed safety checks at 11 spots around his bus.     But not everyone is as conscientious as Jones.     Too many drivers were putting down hours they didn't really work, altering their routes, not doing proper safety checks, even one report of a driver leaving his bus idling for three hours during a football game.  

"It was significant enough that we thought the Zonar system would help us get a better handle on it," said Jack Willis, Administrative Asst. to the School Supt.    

There used to be no way to prove a driver was doing something wrong.  This electronic system changed that.   33:00 Ken-   "I got an email from a citizen complaining about a driver speeding in a particular area, okay, and I used Zonar to go and see did that take place," said Kenneth Williams, Transportation Director. "It's a deterrent."    

It did, and the driver was disciplined.   In late February, Zonar was installed on every bus.     Zonar not only helps make sure students aren't left on the a bus, and helps identify maintenance and safety issues     It uses GPS technology to track each bus.    

Transportation Director Kenneth Williams can pull up all sorts of information on every bus…"It will tell us what time the driver left the yard."   To make sure drivers are where they're supposed to be, that they're not speeding or idling too much,     And that they're doing those safety checks. "This system helps us inspect what we expect."  

Jack Willis says policy changes to hold drivers more accountable chased about 15% of the drivers away.  Since Zonar came online, only one driver has been fired… busted for taking his bus home instead of parking it in the yard.   "Our goal is to establish an operation that's not for everybody."    

This summer, administrators will use information from Zonar to develop more efficient bus routes and eliminate maybe a dozen.  That could save the system a half million dollars a year.     "We're gonna ensure that we save the school system and the taxpayers money."   Improving efficiency and safety and the quality of the staff.    

Changes School Bus Driver Gil Jones, says drivers left on the force support.   "I think it's good to have. Anything we can do to make it safe for the children, we need to do it because we carry the most precious cargo that anybody can carry, that's somebody's child."       

As early as next school year, the school system may also install Zonar on all police cars and may use it to track students.     

They would have an ID with a tracking device that would let officials know when and where they get on and off buses; another way to improve student safety.