DUBAI // Thousands of school buses are being fitted with GPS tracking systems and pupils on board are to be given electronic identity tags.
The satellite navigation technology will monitor the speed, direction, route and fuel consumption of buses. The ID tags will allow drivers and staff on buses to keep track of children.
The tracking system is being fitted to all 3,200 Emirates Transport buses. “We believe this is the first system of its kind for school buses anywhere,” said project manager Aamer Al Shehi. “The system is monitored at operational control rooms around the country by specially trained staff.”
Buses appear as colour-coded circles on a map with information such as the vehicle model and the name of the driver.
The system is alerted if a bus breaks down, allowing the control room to send mechanics and replacement buses quickly and efficiently.
Eventually parents will be able to access the tracking system on a password-protected website.
Mohammed Abdullah Al Jarman, Emirates Transport’s general manager, said the tracking system had been tested in Abu Dhabi since September last year.
“We have already trained 162 of our employees on the operation of the system. Fifteen of them were also trained as instructors so they can pass on what they learnt to other staff across the corporation,” he said.
As well as GPS on vehicles, children on board school buses will be issued with Radio Frequency Identification tags or cards.
“This will allow us as well as the driver to check where children are, whether they have boarded the bus or if they have got off,” said Mr Al Shehi.
A pilot scheme will test the system before it is introduced to all schools.
The GPS system and pupil ID tags are part of a package of safety features for buses that also includes CCTV cameras that will enable live streaming from inside vehicles. Cameras will also be fitted to the outside of buses.
“This is all in real time and we can even hear what is being said,” said Mr Al Shehi.
At the moment only 15 buses have cameras, with eight internal and four external cameras on each vehicle.
The company hopes to have 50 per cent of its fleet fitted with cameras by September this year and the rest by the second school term of 2014.
“The idea with this is to provide the children with a secure mode of transport where parents have peace of mind and know their children are safe,” said Mr Al Shehi.
“The cameras are located in such a way that all 60 seats are visible.”
The video footage will be stored for up to a month.
The bus tracking system has attracted attention from private schools with their own transport. “About 50 are already being used by these schools,” said Fadi Mohammed Khalil, private schools transport manager for Emirates Transport.
“The highest priority for us as a company is to provide a safe way for children to go to and from school, and this system does that.”