One of the most important steps in designing a fleet tracking system is consulting with and gaining consensus of all parties that could benefit from its implementation. Since a fleet tracking system will potentially affect many areas within an organization, it’s critical to consult with the everyone involved. Otherwise, you run the risk of missing opportunities for efficiencies and improvements, which can be costly.
Start at the beginning
The bid preparation is the ideal time to consult with parties inside your organization. Each functional department should have the opportunity to voice their requirements and offer suggestions. During this discovery phase, be sure to determine how the system might be able to help streamline functions and responsibilities within each person’s job and the benefits it can bring to each department.
The ultimate goal is to make the deployment of your AVL system a win-win for your entire organization. It’s critical that you understand what your employees need and they, in turn, need to know what can be accomplished with the new system. This puts everyone on the same page and sets reasonable expectations.
The challenge of resistance
One of the biggest challenges organizations experience when they implement an AVL system is resistance by its employees. To their detriment, many organizations install a new fleet tracking system and bypass any change management, which may be the most critical step to success.
It’s important to determine clear roles and to effectively communicate exactly what the system is designed to do. By doing so, it will help your entire organization understand the need for the change, the benefits it will grant and the value it will bring. Full transparency and awareness of the entire organization will result in optimum results for the system and alleviate any employee concerns that “Big Brother” is watching.
If the discovery, implementation, and roll-out processes are not managed with intention, the new system will end up being underutilized, generally defaulting to an expensive vehicle location system. During the first few months, the system should be managed closely, but without understanding and buy-in from employees, the organization will never realize the optimum benefit of the system. Communication breeds trust, teamwork, and positive momentum. It is the key to creating support of the system and ultimately to the success of its implementation.
When implementing a fleet management system that can substantially streamline operations, produce efficiencies and provide valuable information, it’s important to take the time to maximize its potential. Set expectations in advance and hold people accountable because the long-term benefits will impact your entire organization.
If you are considering a fleet management system, the Parsons team can assist you with the selection, implementation, and management process in whole or in part. Our expertise will ensure that your organization obtains the optimum return on your investment.
Telematic and automatic vehicle location (AVL) systems were originally focused on vehicle tracking. These early uses were commonly referred to as “dots on a map” applications. By leveraging the relatively low cost of cellular, a growing number of organizations are harnessing the power of telematics for a variety of business applications.
The growth of telematic applications has directly tracked with improvements in cellular data networks. As these technological advances have occurred, data communications have become easier, and businesses are finding new uses for telematics. This increased use is causing two new issues to arise—data overload and the challenge of using multiple systems.
A common theme we hear from AVL system owners is: “We get so much data that we don’t know what to do with it.” Currently, most companies provide hundreds of canned reports, overloading the ability to glean valuable data to run the business.
The challenge today is not how many reports are provided, but how to focus on the specific information to better manage the business. Clearly understanding the information available and receiving specific reports designed for your needs allows you to gain more insight and value from the system, and communicate actionable tasks in real time. Each specific organization or industry has different metrics or data points that are important to them, and providing reports with personalized data is becoming increasingly important.
The Challenge of Multiple Systems
In the past, one department in an organization might have implemented an AVL system on its own. This worked fine, in part because there were no other systems within the organization that required consideration.
Today, however, we are seeing multiple departments or divisions within an organization each procuring their own single systems for their own individual usage. One department may install hardware to track fuel consumption while another may install different hardware to track the location of vehicles. With multiple systems, the organization faces the following challenges:
- A single vehicle may carry two or even three AVL systems.
- Typically, the organization ends up paying more for multiple incompatible systems.
- When all of the systems are active, the company could be paying for data two or three times over.
- Having multiple, separate systems prevents data sharing and limits the benefits of the investment in the technology.
Gaining a Global Perspective
Having a global view of your telematic systems and data collection methods is becoming increasingly important. When investing in an AVL system, it makes sense for all your departments to come together and create a “Master Wireless Plan.” The plan lays out how the data interfaces to support multiple needs, as well as report types, frequency, and accountabilities for using the data. Utilizing this plan, departments deploying AVL solutions can be assured that their decision will ultimately be fully interactive as defined in the Master Wireless Plan.
A single, integrated system, used across the entire organization can provide integrated reports that can be used across the organization. Also, assigning accountabilities and guidelines for users and managers ensures consistent management of the system by all parties.
By planning for the technology on a larger scale, you can reduce the direct cost to your department or division, reduce the overall cost of the system for the organization, and better plan for expanded use of the technology in the future.
A challenge in many companies is how to conduct the companywide survey and prepare a Master Wireless Plan. Your Parsons team has the expertise and resources to handle all aspects of preparing and, if required, managing the Master Wireless Plan.
When investing in a vehicle-based mobile data collector (MDC) system, many companies simply look at the initial price of the solution. However, the lowest price solution is not necessarily the lowest cost solution. It is important to understand the difference.
Price vs. Cost
“Price” refers to the initial financial investment made in a project. “Cost” is the total amount of money ultimately invested in the deployment, management, and maintenance of a project over its expected lifetime. Making a decision based on the true cost over the lifetime of a system can result in significant savings in the long term. While one AVL/GPS system may be cheaper initially, it may not provide the data and information required to be most cost-effective over the long-term operation of the system. A good example is the investment in an automated snowplow management system.
Cost savings over time
When a municipality plans to invest in an automated snowplow management system, price is usually the main focus, including the following factors:
- Initial hardware investment
- Initial and ongoing software investment
- Recurring communications costs
- Warranty/Service fees for the life of the agreement
However, if a municipality bases its decision on cost, rather than on just price, it may find that a more robust MDC solution ultimately results in greater cost savings over time. For example, with the data collection capabilities of a more robust solution, the municipality may realize greater long-term savings in the following areas:
- Savings in road treatment materials
- Savings in personnel, materials, and vehicle costs by minimizing the number of re-treatment events
- Reduction in risk costs due to specific mapping information on the time, type, and date of treatment of particular road segments
- Payroll cost reduction by scheduling pre-treatments, which minimize employee overtime for treatment during snow events
- Reduction in blade maintenance and replacement costs due to monitoring speed and blade downtime
- Optimized deployment of equipment, which can reduce the number of snowplows needed to address a snow event
- Reduction of engine idling, which saves fuel and reduces maintenance costs
In addition, when evaluating a system based on cost, a municipality may identify significant benefits to the environment, as follows:
- Reduced carbon emissions due to minimized idling and optimized dispatching
- Less fossil fuels consumed due to predictive deployment of equipment
- Less use of salt, resulting in reduced impact on the environment
Additional MDC Applications
Initial deployments of the Delcan Technologies MDC system have addressed snowplows and emergency response vehicles. However, the same MDC technology offers opportunities for cost savings in other areas, such as vehicles that deploy herbicides to maintain vegetation growth along roadways. These benefits include:
- Operators have access to precision weather information, and determine spray volume and type based upon current and projected weather.
- Vehicle speed could be monitored to ensure the optimum speed for type of herbicide being deployed.
- Highway information signs could be automatically updated to keep the public informed on where spraying has occurred.
The ways you can use an MDC system are limitless. The DTI team would be happy to review your needs and determine if there are ways for your organization to leverage the power of an MDC system to lower your operating costs.
An MDC system provides many benefits to all stakeholders involved, including the agency implementing the system and citizens using the roadways. Agencies are primarily concerned with the financial and efficiency benefits, while motorists are primarily concerned with safety and mobility.
Financial benefits are the easiest to quantify, and they are closely related to increased efficiency because saving time also saves money. Case studies from winter road maintenance agencies in Indiana and South Dakota show a 10–40 percent saving in their winter road budgets. The types of financial benefits realized after implementing MDCs include the following categories:
1. Fuel Management
The MDC connects to the engine codes, and it records all fuel-related data. Fleet management knows how many miles per gallon were driven on each vehicle, how long the vehicles were idling, and how much was spent on gas versus how much gas was used. It also allows management to view the location and activity of the entire fleet, resulting in logistics management. This means the fleet manager can find the closest truck to respond to an event and therefore reduce fuel costs.
The MDC records how much material was used or hauled during a given time interval and based on specific environmental conditions. Management can use this data to better track material usage. For instance, winter road maintenance management can analyze why one operator used twice as much treatment material as another operator driving a similar route. In addition, the MDC can connect to automated maintenance decision support systems to provide recommendations on when to apply treatments and how much to apply based on weather forecasts and historical data. Similarly, sanitation management can track how quickly each garbage truck fills up to more efficiently plan routes.
Fleet management can use MDC data to better track hours worked and overtime hours. Some agencies even use engine start and stop times as time card entries. Management can easily track how much time was spent driving versus idling, or how long a route took, or how many drivers were out at one time. By providing greater visibility into resource activities and work times, management can make better resource management plans.
MDCs track the wear-and-tear on vehicles and on-vehicle equipment, such as plow blades, spreaders, loaders, augers, and grapples. Management can analyze the data provided to see if certain operators are particularly hard on a vehicle and if equipment is living up to the manufacturer standards. Management can then decide whether additional training is needed on equipment care or if different products should be purchased in the future. It can also help management plan for repairs, upgrades, and replacements.
5. Road Maintenance
Winter road treatments, such as de-icing chemicals, salt, and sand, are caustic and very hard on road surfaces. Because MDCs provide more efficient treatment application and result in a decrease in the treatment materials used, the costs for road maintenance and repair are decreased.
Transportation agencies and businesses that manage fleets are actively exploring the use of AVL and telematics systems. Providers in this field have created a wide range of solutions that range from simple “dots on the map” solutions to complex and powerful options that record and process data.
One challenge when sourcing an AVL system is understanding the differences in terminology and features. Delcan Technologies has prepared a brief overview of the different feature sets to help clarify what is in the market. Take a look…
The Basics: AVL and Telematics
AVL and telematics are considered essentials for fleet management. AVL technology, when paired with telematics, provides fleet managers with a broad view of the status and location of their fleet.
Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL)
Generally described as “dots on a map”, AVL enables companies to view the location of their vehicles on a map. This feature is the cornerstone of any location-based system.
In addition to AVL, this capability enables companies to obtain data from the vehicle. Types of information that can be gathered include: idle time, fuel consumption, fault codes, etc.
Beyond the Basics
More robust systems will add additional capabilities into the basic AVL and telematics features. Two common additions are routing and integration with client applications.
Routing takes GPS the extra mile by allowing fleet managers to maximize their fleet’s efficiency and reduce vehicle miles traveled. Depending on deployment, routing can actually provide turn-by-turn directions to the driver, highlighting any out of route driving.
Fleets that operate with with ancillary applications, such as time management systems, and work-order management systems, to name a few, can benefit by integrating their applications into the AVL/Telematics system. Automated time reporting, and billing systems provide payroll accuracy while decreasing the time to receive payment of services rendered.
Advanced Features: MDC Fleet Management
While routing and application integration are powerful features, many organizations require more from their AVL system. These more robust systems utilize Mobile Data Collectors (MDC) and add customized collection, reporting and communication capabilities.
MDC systems allow for custom integration into an ATMS system. This integration feeds immediate notifications to traffic control center. By adding ATMS protocols, vehicles can communicate directly with municipal, regional or state traffic control systems and information is reported immediately.
Precise Material Deployment
Custom defined areas can be established through the use of electronic boundaries and geo-fencing. Precise tracking of material deployment within these areas can be measured and communicated back to vehicle operators.
Predictive Weather Information
Vehicles with MDC capabilities become remote weather stations, providing real-time weather data from locations within operational areas. Controllers can view a live video feed from the vehicle to obtain visual confirmation of weather conditions.
Intelligent Application Thresholds
MDC systems with Maintenance Data Support System (MDDS) capabilities facilitate integration with external and third party providers. Examples of MDSS use include integrating a precision weather forecasting company’s service, provide real-time feedback to the driver on treatment levels, locations and times by device.
Knowing the location of your fleet is only the beginning of the information available to you through AVL technology and telematics. Would these features help you organization improve performance? Delcan Technologies welcomes the opportunity to assess your business needs and create an integrated solution within your Advanced Traffic Management System infrastructure.
The growth of transportation technology along with advancements in AVL and GPS have created unprecedented advancements in the ability to track, manage and maintain a fleet of vehicles or equipment. While there are numerous vehicle location systems on the market, they only provide a narrow subset of data. A mobile data collector (MDC) system combines AVL, GPS and data into a powerful tracking and reporting tool that provides real-time information on a wide range of user-specific data. These custom systems take raw data from virtually any source and translate it into usable, comprehensive re- ports, which can be communicated back to end users, such as operators, drivers, and managers. Due to their custom design and features, MDC systems offer endless possibilities that can save your organization time and money, while increasing performance and safety.
How MDC Systems Are Used
Any type of fleet management operation can use MDC systems to stay connected with its fleet. This may include winter road maintenance crews, emergency response teams, sanitation trucks, street sweepers, public busing systems, and construction and mining crews. An MDC system allows these organizations greater visibility into where their vehicles and equipment are located and what they are doing. These systems can be leveraged to provide vehicle and equipment tracking, vehicle diagnostics, fuel management, scheduling and routing support, asset security, increased operator and passenger safety, and more efficient operations. MDC systems are tailored to meet the specific needs of each user. They collect user-specified mobile data and translate it into intelligent, actionable reports.
Recently, the American Public Works Association (APWA) held its annual North American Snow Conference, also known as “the Show for Snow,” in Cincinnati, OH. As an exhibitor at this year’s conference, Delcan Technologies was pleased to feature its Mobile Data Collection (MDC) systems, which generated a great deal of interest from conference attendees.
Michael Howarth and Sean Mulligan represented Delcan Technologies at the conference to demonstrate the powerful tracking and reporting capabilities of DTI’s MDCs. Michael and Sean enjoyed reconnecting with vendors and meeting with representatives from a number of different cities and departments of transportation.
Delcan Technologies, Inc. is proud to announce a new addition to our Mobile Data Collector (MDC) offering—the MDC-006. This is a lower cost AVL option designed for general motor pools and non-heavy machinery.
The MDC-006 provides GPS location services, engine code output for on-board diagnostics, and limited sensor inputs. It integrates seamlessly with DTI’s powerful central system– Intelligent NETworks.
Fleet and operation managers can quickly locate all of their vehicles in real-time. Vehicle data is displayed on feature-rich maps, and the system can be set up with automated notifications based on vehicle location, geo-fencing data, speed, or other activities. Standard and custom reports are available so that you can analyze trends and better plan your operations.
DTI is committed to offering a range of data tracking solutions to meet its customers’ needs. If your company doesn’t require multiple vehicle sensors and an in-cab touch screen display, the MDC-006 might be the right choice for your fleet management. Contact DTI today for more information on the new MDC-006.