Complete Guide to the Top 17 School Bus GPS Tracking Systems
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As a parent, wouldn't you like to know where the school bus is that you and your child are waiting for?
Wouldn't it be great if you were able to see your child's bus on a map, know if it is running late, get an ETA estimate of its arrival, get notifications if it is behind schedule, and get alerted in case of emergency?
How about even being able to see that your child is confirmed to be on the bus so you know they are safe and en route as expected?
With today's quickly developing systems these features and many more are giving parents and school administrators more peace of mind, control and efficiency in the critical effort of transporting children safely to and from school.
Let's explore the top 17 school bus tracking systems and applications and see what they each have to offer:
What Is School Bus GPS Tracking?
With specialized trackers parents can always know where their kids are, are they safe, and are they in school. In addition to GPS tracker devices and apps for kids there are also specialized services capable of providing real-time tracking of school buses. Instead of giving the information just to parents, these apps and services help school administrators keep track of their students and bus companies can use them to improve their safety and to provide better service.
First, there are companies providing school bus fleets for schools. They are responsible for the safety of the buses and for keeping their fleet operational. They can install GPS trackers on each bus they own and track them in order to know where their buses are, which routes they take, how much fuel they consume (and by optimizing routes cut down fuel costs), as well as monitor drivers.
Parents can call bus dispatchers and get detailed info regarding arrival times, but fleet tracking solutions cannot provide real-time coverage for parents and school officials. This is where specialized school bus location sharing services enter the formula.
If a school bus fleet is equipped with GPS devices, school districts can purchase different School Bus location sharing apps and services. They work by connecting with GPS devices installed inside vehicles in order to provide real-time GPS tracking, as well as other benefits. Most of the solutions provide email and push notifications, mobile apps for parents to know when the bus will arrive, as well as options to track students as they enter and leave the bus via RFID and barcode readers. Also, all services provide tools for tracking buses via computer, and both computer and mobile apps can show the location of buses on maps in real time.
So, let us go through the most important parts again. There are services offering GPS fleet tracking for school buses and there are platforms providing specialized software for School Bus location sharing. While GPS fleet tracking services can also provide tracking services for school and parents, there are specialized platforms that offer location sharing services with many additional features.
Specialized school bus tracking platforms can only work if the bus vendor has equipped their buses with GPS trackers. School districts are the ones who can purchase location sharing plans, not individual parents. Most of the school bus location-sharing platforms offer real-time monitoring, mobile apps for the parents to know where the buses are, their departure and arrival times, as well as email and push notifications. Since there are more and more school bus location sharing services out there we decided to gather as many as we could, present their offerings, and show pros and cons for each of them. Stay with us and find out how your child can be safer with school bus location sharing apps and services.
Let us start with Treker, a “real-time communication platform for school administrators, bus drivers and parents.”
The platform provides detailed info for parents, school administrators, and bus drivers. Each group has a different tool to monitor students and buses. Parents can know when the bus will arrive at their house, can know whether their child is on a bus and when they enter and exit the bus, and receive push notifications regarding departing and arrival times.
School administrators have their own Administrator Portal inside where they can see the location of each bus in their school fleet and see all stops on the map. Inside the portal, administrators can send real-time alerts to parents, and can also configure automatic real-time reporting.
Drivers are equipped with a tablet showing all bus stops on the map. They have student manifests and can know if a student gets off at the wrong stop, and with just one push of the button, they can notify both parents and administrators.
And finally, parents can download and use a mobile app that lets them know when the bus arrives. They can also receive personalized notifications, as well as notifications telling them when their child gets on and off the bus. The map inside the app shows a real-time location of the bus their child is on.
Treker offers a proprietary Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacon for students to carry so their parents, as well as administrators and drivers, can know when a student enters and exits the bus.
Also, Treker provides high security. All information transmitted from and to the Treker beacon is encrypted, preventing any kind of unauthorized access.
Overall, Treker is a solid school bus location sharing solution. It provides different tools to parents, school administrators, and drivers, which is excellent. Drivers can know if a student misses their stop, parents can know arrival and departure times, can be informed when their child enters and exits the bus, and are notified if the bus is late or if the case the child misses its bus stop. And administrators can monitor the whole bus fleet, and be notified if something happens.
- Easy to use.
- Students are provided with Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons, which are low-energy and can automatically detect when a student enters and exits the bus.
- The platform provides tools for parents, school administrators, and drivers so they all can monitor school bus location in real-time and know if a student doesn’t enter the bus, or exits at the wrong stop.
- It seems parents cannot use their app on a PC, just on mobile devices.
Here Comes the Bus
Here Comes the Bus is probably the most popular school bus location sharing platform. When you type “school bus location sharing” or “school bus GPS tracking” into Google search, Here Comes The Bus will be the first result, always.
The platform has subscription plans. The first one is called Here Comes the Bus and provides parents with real-time location of the child’s bus to parents, as well as scheduled and actual arrival times at home and school. The platform is based around two main offerings: Here Comes the Bus (Basic), and Student Ridership (student tracking software).
The first one enables parents to see the real-time location of their child’s bus on a map, it notifies them about bus’ arrival and departure times, along with providing push and email alerts in case the bus runs late, it is near the stop, or if it has been substituted. Parents can use the website or a mobile app.
The second choice, Student Ridership, is a student tracking software tracking whether the student made it on and off the bus, as well as at which stop they entered or exited the bus. Aside from providing info for the parents, the software can also be used by school administrators. This is done either by RFID readers, or barcode readers, as well as via MDT (Mobile Data Terminal) developed by Synovia Solution, makers of the platform. Students scan their ID cards while boarding and exiting, and the GPS device can pinpoint the location, notifying the school and parents if the student took off the bus at the wrong stop.
Of course, school districts can choose both options. Here Comes The Bus is very popular and it provides lots of features. The problem is that, if a school district wants to track students, they have to buy both options.
- Very Popular Solution.
- Parents can use the site or a mobile app.
- Lots of Features.
- In order to use the complete offer, school districts have to buy both packages.
K-12 School Bus Transportation Software
Ok, although this platform doesn’t have the most innovative name, the K-12 School Bus Transportation Software is one pretty capable school bus location sharing solution. According to developers, the platform is the first choice of more than 50 percent of the largest school districts in North America, and it is currently used to track more than 2 million students along with 50,000 buses.
The K-12 platform provides calendar-based scheduling and routing (in order to improve efficiency), GPS tracking of each bus in the fleet, along with real-time student location monitoring while they are commuting via RFID tracking cards, and bus driver management.
The software can take into account if a student is sick, or on vacation, and can suspend the service for the specific duration so the parents and administrators don’t get alerted without reason, and it can also track drivers to ensure they are following pre-planned routes. K-12 also ensures that students with special needs are safe and sound, by ensuring routes they take are optimized in order to them to spend the least time on the bus.
The software is available both to parents and school staff, but the solution doesn’t provide mobile apps because we couldn’t find any, on the App Store or the Play Store. This can be problematic, especially because parents usually don’t have access to a computer during mornings when they are usually on their way to work. Overall, the K-12 looks like a powerful bus location sharing solution, but the lack of mobile apps is really a deal breaker.
- Lots of features.
- Used by many school districts.
- Professional solution both for bus companies and schools.
- Lack of a mobile app.
UbicaBus is one very interesting school bus location sharing platform because it offers some unusual and original features. First off, we have to give developers credit for the site; it is very easy to navigate, and in just a few clicks both parents and school administrators can check out what UbicaBus has to offer.
The solution offers both mobile apps and the website for parents to track buses, and it also provides administrators with a set of powerful tools so they can track and monitor every link in the chain. Also, UbicaBus thought of students too, giving them some interesting features.
Parents can tracks buses in real-time, and will be alerted for approaching buses, drop-offs, but also for school announcements, which is pretty cool. They can look at routes and will be notified via push notifications in case of emergency. Parents can even track student attendance, and if they have more than one student, they can track each one from their parent account.
As for school administrators, they are offered a ton of features. Real-time school bus GPS tracking, route planner for optimizing routes based on optimal capacity, time and distance. Other features include attendance tracking, timesheets (for tracking driver hours), and video surveillance since each bus can be equipped with up to 8 cameras.
As for the students, each school bus can be fitted with a Wi-Fi router so they can use the internet while commuting. This feature can be extremely important for students, and we must say we were pleasantly surprised. Today, kids are online 24/7 and having a free Wi-Fi in a school bus will get them pretty excited, they won’t hate riding the school bus anymore, for sure.
There are a couple of issues here. First, the offering is divided into basic tracking, and ridership tracking via smart cards or barcodes. So, you have to buy the whole package in order to have access to more advanced features. Also, according to reviews featured on app stores, it seems the mobile app has some issues. Overall, UbicaBus is an interesting school bus location sharing solution that stands out from the pack by offering Wi-Fi access inside buses as well as video surveillance.
- Unique features (Wi-Fi and video surveillance).
- Excellently designed website.
- Parents can track their children via mobile app or on the website.
- School Administrators have lots of tools available in order to fully monitor buses, students, and drivers.
- The offer is divided into two subscription packs.
- Mobile app has issues.
School Bus Tracker
School Bus Tracker is a school bus location sharing solution providing a solid number of features.
The main feature is providing real-time GPS location of school buses, both to parents and administrators. The mobile app can be downloaded for smartphones and tablets, and parents can track buses via the web interface, from their computers.
Parents can be notified about delays, and schools can send direct messages and push notifications directly to the parents' apps, basically making the app one handy tool to send parents messages about their children’s grades, behavior, and to let them know if the child caused troubles at school.
One nice feature is allowing parents to request a change of route or change the hour of arrival of the bus for their child from inside the parent app. Once sent, the message will be shown to a school administrator who can reply immediately.
School Bus Tracker is proud about the security of all parent and student data. The data is securely stored within the CMS by the School Administrator. Also, there’s an app for drivers so they can know about routes, and about any possible request submitted by parents. So, if a parent notifies the school that their child is sick and won’t be attending, the driver can receive notification and change the route while driving.
The solution is solid, it provides lots of features, and the only downside is the fact that School Bus Tracker doesn’t provide attendance monitoring, like most other platforms presented here, at least for parents. School administrators can track attendance via students’ NFC tags.
- Solid number of features.
- Mobile app.
- Lots of interesting features available for parents.
- Parents are unavailable to monitor attendance.
Track School Bus
Track School Bus is a school bus tracking solution bringing a solid number of functions and features at a price that’s lower than competitors.
The platform is not only built for teachers and school administrators but also for transport managers, who can use it to optimize their bus fleet, and always be in the know about every bus in their fleet. The app offers mobile apps for parents, drivers, fleet managers, and school administrators.
Parents can track attendance, view routes, know real-time location of the bus their child is in, and receive push notifications for attendance (so they know the child boarded and exited the bus), unscheduled stops, speeding, and more. Aside from the mobile app, parents can track their child via a web portal.
Further, parents have increased control because they can contact school authorities as well as drivers via the mobile app to let them know if their child is on leave, or just to check if the driver is keeping their child safe. Also, parents can change the current pick-up point at any time and the app will notify the driver immediately. We like the fact that parents have lots of control and can send notifications to bus drivers and school authorities, something that we haven’t found in lots of other platforms.
As for the school administrators, they can communicate with drivers and parents at all times, can send a notification to parents if a child missed boarding the bus, or departs at a wrong stop.
Administrators can plan trips along with drivers and can optimize pick-up points in order for the drivers to spend less time in picking up students. Also, they have access to a passenger manifest containing lots of info such as pick up details for every student, a list of students present in every bus, a route diagram showing all stops, and more.
As for the drivers, the platform allows them to monitor the speed of the bus, view details about the trip route, passenger list, pick up and drop points for each bus trip, attendance details, and they can play audio (like school announcements) by connecting the app to the bus audio system.
Drivers also can communicate with parents, receive push notifications, communicate with managers, and optimize pickup points in order to save fuel and shorten routes. Finally, a video surveillance system can be installed inside drivers' cabs in order for drivers to monitor children without leaving their booths.
As for transport managers, the platform allows them to monitor the entire bus fleet, plan trips, communicate with drivers, track each bus in the fleet, and organize routes. They are notified if a vehicle is not tracked, and can receive notifications about traffic congestion and accidents along existing routes in order to change them if the situation requires.
Track School Bus offers GPS+RFID trackers so parents can know where their children are at all times, not just while children are aboard their buses.
Track School Bus looks promising. The solution offers integrated communication between parents, administrators, and drivers and is capable of tracking children even when they aren’t on the bus and has interesting features like video surveillance as well as a fleet manager app. Overall, it is an excellent school bus tracking platform that can suit any school.
- Incredible number of features.
- Apps for parents, administrators, fleet managers, and drivers.
- Integration of GPS and RFID into one device in order for parents to know where their children are even when not on the bus.
- The sheer number of features can be a bit confusing and overwhelming for both parents and school authorities.
Durham Bus Tracker
With Durham Bus Tracker, parents and school administrators can track buses, monitor routes, track children entering and exiting the school bus, and more.
The platform is used in more than 400 school districts, there are more than 16,000 vehicles in which Durham Bus Tracker is used, and more than one million students are transported in buses using the solution.
Durham Bus Tracker allows parents to see real-time bus locations, as well as the expected arrival at their stop. The system can send parents push notifications in case the bus is running late, and each parent has their own personal list of buses and routes their child uses.
Durham Bus Tracker gives the parents a safe solution that comes with a standard set of features. There’s no option for attendance monitoring, but the platform does come with mobile apps and a web portal for parents.
- A solid number of features.
- Durham Bus Tracker is quite popular.
- No attendance monitoring.
- Not a lot of info available on the website.
Trace School Bus
Trace School Bus is another bus location sharing solution offering a wide array of features to parents and school administrators.
It comes with a web school portal, a parent app, and an app for drivers.
Web portal for schools allows for detailed route monitoring, communication with parents, a master control panel to manage routes and buses, and a system for sending push notifications to parents in case of emergency.
Parents can view real-time bus locations, and they can know when a bus will arrive at their stop.
The driver app is there to give drivers route directions and to give them a way to communicate with administrators.
Trace School Bus' website doesn’t give much further details about the platform, and we didn’t see attendance support.
- Different apps for parents, school administrators, and drivers.
- No attendance monitoring feature.
Applane Real-Time Bus Tracking System
Applane’s Real-Time Bus Tracking System comes with an excellent number of features.
Parents app is very powerful, giving them real-time bus location, time of arrival of the bus, and it also gives an option to drop the child to the next bus stop in case they don’t manage to drop the child at the usual bus stop.
RFID integration allows parents to track attendance, and the mobile app comes with a push notification system informing parents about delays, and eventual route changes.
Administrators can monitor and optimize routes, they can track routes even on mobile devices, and can use CCTV integration to keep a bird’s eye view on students and bus drivers.
In the case of speed limit violations, vehicle breakdown, or some other emergency situation administrators will receive an automated notification allowing them to send different push notifications to parents.
School administrators can also see reports of timings, routes and driving patterns for each bus, and they can also build new routes.
CCTV integration and attendance tracking are the main points of the Applane’s Real-Time Bus Tracking System, and another interesting feature is the possibility for administrators to monitor an entire bus fleet from a mobile device.
- RFID integration allows attendance monitoring.
- CCTV system allows administrators to keep an eye on students and drivers.
- Administrators can monitor routes from a mobile device.
- We didn’t find any major drawbacks.
ADCC Smart School Bus Tracking
ADCC Smart Bus School Tracking comes with real-time location features, it has apps for parents and drivers, and it offers lots of other features.
Parents are allowed to see the route of the bus their child is in, to see bus and driver details, and they are notified about start and end time of the each trip. Other info includes speed of the vehicle, as well as push notifications.
The vehicle monitoring system used by administrators allows for automated alerts in case of speed violations, real-time locations of the entire bus fleet, and route planning on an interactive map. The app is web based, and there’s no mobile version.
Finally, the mobile app for drivers gives them alerts for speeding, allows them to set the start and end time for each trip. They can also receive turn-by-turn navigation for each route and can capture live pictures in case of student misbehavior and send them directly to administrators.
- Driver app is very powerful.
- Parents can know details about each driver.
- No attendance monitoring feature.
MyBusVue is another school bus tracking platform, and it offers a usual collection of features.
It comes with an interactive map showing real-time bus locations along with the routes. Parents are notified about bus status (will it arrive on time or will it be late) as well as ETA. They can also follow multiple buses and stops, in case they have more than one student.
MyBusVue is a secure platform and for a parent to register they have to enter school access code, and during the login, parents have a secure two-factor email authentication. MyBusVue’s Z-Pass rider scans (student cards which can track them entering and exiting the bus) can record when and where a child gets on and off the bus. The platform comes with a mobile app, but there’s also the option for parents to track their child and buses via the web portal. Also, MyBusVue can send automated state and federal reports in case of accidents or emergency.
As for school administrators, MyBusVue gives them access to a spectrum of tools allowing them to monitor buses, routes, and students; and make necessary route optimizations.
MyBusVue looks like a solid bus tracking platform, but its offering doesn’t really bring something new and/or unique to the table.
- Mobile app for parents.
- Increased security.
- Platform doesn’t offer anything unique.
- Website doesn’t show an in-depth presentation of available features for parents and school representatives.
Instead of being available only if a school county decided to buy the platform, BusWhere can cooperate with individual schools. Parents must first send an email to the company, informing them of the school and bus name, and once at least five families from a same school show interest, BusWhere can contact the school to start proposing the service.
If the school decides to agree to the cooperation, the company will equip the school with everything it needs in order to use BusWhere. Now, the platform is free for schools to use, but parents must pay a monthly subscription of $5.95, which we don’t like since all other solutions make their services free for parents.
Schools can decide to go with a monthly subscription which grants parents free access to the service, but the basic account is free, at least for schools.
As for available features, BusWhere offers parents detailed info regarding buses and routes, all of which is available to see on an interactive map. Parents are informed via notifications once the bus is getting near their stop. There are mobile apps available, but parents can also use a web portal for access.
School administrators can use some free features, like bus managing and the ability to see locations of all buses in the fleet. Paid programs come with additional features such as a messaging system so administrators can send notifications to parents, ETA times for each bus, advanced route monitoring, and multiple staff accounts.
The basic (free) package gives administrators a barebones set of features, and if a school wants to fully monitor routes and have an ability to send notifications to parents, it has to go with the monthly subscription.
BusWhere is an interesting idea, but for a full set of features, schools must go premium. At least when they go premium, parents can start using the service for free.
- Instead of school districts, BusWhere can be used by single schools.
- Free basic account for schools.
- Parents have to pay a monthly subscription for the service.
- Free school account comes with a poor choice of features.
Transfinder offers a couple of services that together provide a wide selection of bus tracking features.
The Routefinder Pro is a school bus routing software for fleet managers. With it, managers can manage all of their fleet’s routes, perform advanced route analysis, optimize routes, and increase efficiencies and make optimizations.
Infofinder le and Infofinder mobile are apps that further empower fleet managers and bus administrators. With the two apps, managers and administrators have lots of options at their disposal.
The problem for Transfinder is the fact it is a school and transportation company focused solution providing lots of advanced features. Parents are not included, so they don’t have their own app, and the route monitoring and bus tracking is reserved for school staff. The solution is a solid choice for schools, but if a school wants to include parents and enable them to track their children, it should go with some other choice from this list.
- Advanced analytics tools for fleet managers and school staff.
- Three different apps that together build a powerful bus tracking system.
- The solution is targeted towards schools and transportation companies not towards parents.
Seon and its vMax® Compass School Bus Routing platform give school administrators a fully web-based solution that offers web-based routing along with tracking. With it, administrators can manage routes, build new ones, and maintain the efficiency of existing routes.
The interactive map is ESRI-based and with the vMax Compass, it offers student as well as bus tracking in real-time. Administrators can see passenger lists for each bus and can build new routes in 2 simple steps.
Further, school staff can construct response scenarios that can be activated in an emergency, sending push notifications to parents.
Parents are equipped with a web portal to monitor their child’s bus route, available bus stops, and pick-up and drop-off times. There isn’t an option for attendance monitoring and the platform doesn’t come with mobile apps.
Drivers can use turn-by-turn directions for their routes, and they can communicate with administrators at all times.
The solution offers a solid number of features, but it doesn’t come with a mobile app and is completely web-based. Seon also offers School Bus Camera Systems that can work with the company’s vMax® Compass School Bus Routing platform so drivers can monitor students and identify any form of misbehavior among students. They can notify administrators who then can look at video recordings and solve all issues.
- Web-based platform.
- Lots of tools for school administrators.
- School bus camera systems are included.
- No mobile apps.
- There’s no attendance tracking feature.
Versatrans My Stop
Versatrans My Stop gives parents and school districts a set of powerful tools in order to manage school buses and keep track of their children.
The app gives parents a usual set of features. The can know where the bus is, when will it arrive at the stop along with its exact location. Location of all buses is updated every five seconds making it real-time.
The app is available for mobile devices, and parents can also use it on their computers via the web portal.
School administrators can communicate with parents, but their main tool is School Bus Routing and District Planning Software, With it, the staff can monitor routes, plan and build new ones, as well as giving them tools for optimizing existing bus routes.
The platform is available in two flavors – the standard package comes with all features, and the limited also offers 24/7 technical support.
My Stop and School Bus Routing and District Planning Software come with a solid number of features but they do not offer attendance tracking.
- Powerful School Bus Routing and District Planning Software available for administrators.
- No attendance tracking option.
- The platform is divided; it doesn’t offer a unified bus tracking solution.
- The platform comes in two subscription packages.
SafeStop is another platform for tracking school buses, but their online presentation seems to be improving, so we can’t really can go in depth when talking about their services.
Generally, SafeStop provides the usual array of features for a school bus location sharing platform. Real-time school bus updates are shown both to parents and administrators, notifications informing parents about any delays, and the ability for drivers to send real-time service notifications to parents are the core of SafeStop’s offering.
The platform gives access to advanced analytics to Administrators and transportation staff, which they can use to optimize bus routes and to create a more efficient transportation system.
SafeStop offers a mobile app, but we can’t say if the solution comes with attendance recording.
- Gives access to advanced analytics for administrators and transportation staff.
- Comes with a mobile app for parents.
- Website poorly describes available services.
- The platform doesn’t include attendance recording.
Last but not least is our own solution, Turtler, which will have some very unique features making it a compelling choice for many schools, universities and similar environments. As great as it will be when launched, however, it will still not be able to compete directly with every above application and system - some of which are highly specialized and more appropriate for some requirements.
Turtler will excel in use cases where:
- GPS tracking devices are already not installed in vehicles.
- The school district prefers no hardware purchases to help lower costs.
- Doesn't require tracking of each individual child (attendance tracking) but focuses rather on the buses. (This is ok within Turtler because the parent and child can still share locations privately between each other)
- The school district would like to have bus maps appear on their own websites.
- The school district would also like to take advantage of Turtler's other available services.
- Turtler's highest levels of personal data security, encryption, privacy and non-storage are appreciated.
School bus tracking systems are a critical helpful application of GPS, RFID, telecom, mobile app, and internet technologies which are can come together to help make a safer world for our children. As long as strict security and privacy concerns are considered these systems can be a helpful addition to our ecosystems.