-Mari Hall reporting for the Missoula Current
MISSOULA – Managing school buses and their routes is no easy task, but a local company has made Missoula the “world capital of school bus technology.”
Education Logistics Inc., or Edulog, was founded by Hien Nguyen in 1978 and has provided school districts and transportation companies with the GPS tracking and routing software needed to improve student transportation.
The company tracks over 10,000 different business rules for school districts nationwide, logging information for each school and its bus routes. For example, the software knows which students need certain accommodations for a disability and which bus they should ride.
About 5 to 10% of a school district’s overall budget is used on driving students to and from school, said Jason Corbally, Edulog’s president.
“Everyone thinks transporting kids is pretty simple,” Corbally said. “There’s a lot that people don’t think about.”
In the last few years, Edulog has implemented new software in larger cities that allows students to scan on and off the bus, while providing parents with an app, called “Parent Portal,” that allows them to receive school bus arrival notifications, request transportation changes, and view additional details about their child’s trip to and from school.
Now, within the last year, the company has created a version that can be used by smaller school districts like those in Montana.
Hellgate Elementary School, the state’s largest independent district, currently uses the Parent Portal and the routing software, with Bonner aiming to use Edulog technology next school year for the six school buses that district manages.
Helena Public Schools uses all of Edulog’s technology and even bought a new fleet of buses in 2012 equipped with seat belts.
Missoula County Public Schools hasn’t adopted the company’s technology but is planning to equip the buses they use with seat belts.
The software and app have proved beneficial for thousands of parents and schools, Corbally said.
“I think we’re launching about 40 new districts (nationwide) this school start-up. That will probably be 5,000 or more buses,” Corbally said.
The company’s technology is used around the world, with a majority of its employees, about 150 of them, working and living in Missoula in a revamped sugar beet factory building on Palmer Street.
Before today’s technology, school bus route maps were made by hand.
Now, Edulog hopes to improve its software’s ability to the point where it can locate where a student is sitting on the bus and remove the need for students to scan a card as they move onboard.
“School buses, historically, have sort of been behind in technology compared to the rest and we’re starting to change that,” Corbally said. “We’re bringing technology to the game that’s available now in other industries when, previously, there hasn’t been.”
Contact reporter Mari Hall via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .