Finding Efficiencies and Saving Money by Re-evaluating Your Transportation System
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Finding Efficiencies and Saving Money by Re-evaluating Your Transportation System

November 10, 2020

Vigo County School Corporation (VCSC) partners with First Transportation Solutions to proactively redesign their transportation program, finding $100,000 in cost savings.

Vigo County School Corporation (VCSC) in Terre Haute, Indiana consists of eighteen elementary schools, five middle schools, three high schools, two alternative schools, and a number of schools and programs that serve special needs students. VCSC maintains student transportation within the District, and serves approximately 14,000 students and their families with 141 school bus routes, covering 267 square miles.

In May 2019, VCSC engaged First Transportation Solutions (FTS) to complete an Independent Audit for Transportation, which included a routing system health assessment, routing efficiency analysis, and bell time study. VCSC wanted a partner who could assess how well the transportation department was currently utilizing their electronic routing software, review their current routing model to find efficiencies and cost savings, model bell time scenario options, and provide advice on whether or not to keep the facilities and transportation functions in one department or split them into two separate departments.

The FTS Routing Center of Excellence, a dedicated group of industry-leading routing experts, began their audit with a comprehensive assessment of the Versatrans routing software being used at VCSC. It was determined that the VCSC routing staff were very effective users of Versatrans, utilizing the system to the best of its ability. Aside from a few tiny matters that did not impact the transportation department’s efficiency, the routing system was found to be well used and accurate.

“First Transportation Solutions earned a 10 out of 10! Their team brought the experience and professionalism needed to help us take our transportation program to the next level, while finding ways for us to cut costs. We would definitely recommend working with First Transportation Solutions.” – Richard Long, Director of Facilities Support and Transportation at VCSC

FTS also reviewed the most current VCSC routing model for efficiency and possible cost savings. The geographic diversity of Vigo County poses challenges for routing efficiency, as the transportation system is comprised of city-based runs, which are short and reach capacity quickly, and rural runs, which operate throughout the District covering long distances and are well below capacity. The VCSC routing constraint is limited run time in the rural areas and lack of available seats in and around the city-based runs.

While VCSC had previously reduced their school bus routes by six for the 2017-18 school year and by one for the 2018-19 school year, they wanted to know if there were further efficiencies to be had. Using a Time and Capacity Analysis, FTS assessed the unused route time and seats at VCSC, and found that by making a few changes, VCSC could eliminate three more routes.

The final step for FTS was to evaluate the VCSC bell times and model a few alternative bell schedule scenarios. VCSC had some concerns with the District bell times because the AM bell times for all public schools are within a 10-minute window. This means that high school and middle school students arrive to their schools well before classes begin, and the District must ensure that appropriate staff are on-site during this time to supervise the students before their first classes begin.

The goal for bell time modeling was to eliminate early arrivals at high schools and middle schools without significantly increasing the number of routes. FTS modeled four alternative bell schedules for VCSC and reviewed the impact of shifting bell times by 30 minutes and 45 minutes, dropping off elementary school students before high school and middle school students in the morning, and adjusting the length of the instructional day. While VCSC did not end up implementing any of these alternative scenarios, the information was valuable to assure the Board of School Trustees and Vigo County community members that adjusting bell times was not a viable option for their District at this time.

The last piece of the VCSC audit was reviewing the overall efficiency of the District’s combined facilities and transportation department. FTS Consultants completed this review and considered how other districts operated most efficiently. It was recommended that it would be most advantageous to VCSC to split the facilities and transportation department into two separate departments with two separate leaders. Having two separate departments would provide better efficiency for VCSC as leaders would avoid working on overlapping items and make better use of their time, which would help drive results in both departments. VCSC took the recommendation of FTS and split their combined department into two on in the summer of 2020.

The main goal for VCSC with the Independent Audit for Transportation was to ensure their transportation department was running as efficiently as possible, while looking for possible cost savings and expert recommendations. After FTS presented their findings to the VCSC Board of School Trustees, the transportation department immediately eliminated two of the three routes identified by FTS. This will provide VCSC with an estimated $100,000 in savings.

FTS exceeded VCSC’s expectations. According to Richard Long, Director of Facilities Support and Transportation at VCSC, “First Transportation Solutions earned a 10 out of 10! Their team brought the experience and professionalism needed to help us take our transportation program to the next level, while finding ways for us to cut costs. We would definitely recommend working with First Transportation Solutions.”

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