School Bus Fleet GPS Telematics

Years ago… 20 to be exact when I started working for this school bus fleet we relied on land lines and 2 way radios to get a report on break downs. This was very inaccurate and you didn’t really know what the problem was until you physically got to the bus and visually checked out the problem.

I can clearly remember when one of our pusher bus drivers got in touch with us by radio and reported he had a power problem. So since it was me going out on the call 40 miles out of town I gathered up charge air hoses and clamps, tools and anything else related to this ‘diesel engine no power problem’.

When I arrived to the site I was informed by the driver that the issue was nothing to do with engine power but was actually an electrical problem. So ‘no power’ referred to the electrical side of things. I wish I could have seen the look on my face when he told me. Luckily there was an issue with a heavy draw of battery power from one of the cab accessories and I just had to unhook the battery feed to it. I dodged a bullet with that one.

That was just an example of what could easily happen without detailed information on a vehicle break down. Twenty years later we have better quality cell phones, 2 way radios with much better reception and of course GPS. Our fleet uses Zonar GPS to track all of our bus runs and collect data.

What I love about GPS is the ability to enter a unit number and read data along with engine codes anytime and anywhere the bus is located. I have directed drivers to keep coming into the shop on several occasions because the code they reported was a minor issue that would not damage the engine.

In the video the aftertreatment system caused the red stop engine light to come on. When it gets to this point the engine will lose power and eventually shut down. The engine control module is programmed this way to protect the engine from damage. The blockage in the DPF (diesel particulate filter) reached the point of no return and I had to call the tow truck to run up and bring the bus back to our yard. So this saved sending a mechanic with the shop truck and it happened to be on a Friday night.

Once back at the shop we drove (barely) the bus in and removed the DPF and soaked it in a special solution (Mr Clean) over night. After rinsing out the filter it was reinstalled and a soot reset procedure was carried out using the service Maxx Pro software. The restriction was removed and once the operation was complete the bus went back to work.

GPS is a must have tool in my humble opinion and if you’re running a lot of equipment that’s scattered all over the place or out of town I highly recommend getting it installed on your fleet. Your investment will easily pay you back being able to locate your equipment and diagnose problems from your desk top which is extremely valuable!