GPS-based technology is impacting equipment and fleet operators in many ways. For example, a new system from Networkcar, as subsidiary of Atlanta-based Hughes Telematics, is helping fleet operators reduce fuel consumption, manage maintenance expenses and reduce vehicle emissions.
Hughes Telematics designs, engineers and manages what it calls "vehicle- and driver-centric solutions" with an eye toward enhancing "vehicle value, ownership experience, convenience, efficiency, and safety and security" through "intelligent vehicle interaction and information exchange." Through its Networkcar subsidiary, the company offers Networkfleet, a GPS-based system which helps fleet owners establish the financial benefits of reduced CO2 emissions.
Traditional systems, which use GPS only to monitor a vehicle's location, do not provide a complete picture of vehicle performance. But wireless fleet management systems that connect directly to the vehicle's engine computer can provide critical information such as exact fuel consumption, mileage, speed, and idle-time — and having such info significantly enhances a fleet's ability to reduce emissions and operating costs.
"Lowering vehicle emissions is closely tied to reducing fuel costs and improving operating efficiency," said Keith Schneider, president of Networkcar. "To have the most impact, fleets need to go beyond systems that only monitor GPS location to those that also monitor engine diagnostics."
Wireless fleet management systems such as Networkfleet that connect directly to the vehicle's engine computer, he added, can provide information such as exact fuel consumption, mileage, speed, and idle time for each vehicle. "This info is essential to achieving a green fleet," he said.
According to Networkcar, there are six ways that wireless fleet management systems with diagnostic monitoring can reduce emissions and lower costs. These include thefollowing:
- Reduce idle time. Excessive idling wastes fuel and increases vehicle emissions. Systems can be used to track and report idle time and compare miles per gallon across vehicles.
- Improve vehicle maintenance. Receiving instant notification of any engine problems and automatic odometer readings helps fleets ensure that vehicles run smoothly and use less fuel.
- Reduce speeding. The ability to monitor actual speed provides fleet managers with the precise information needed to counsel drivers and reduce speeding, which causes unnecessary fuel consumption.
- Reduce unauthorized vehicle usage. Fleets can reduce unnecessary vehicle use by monitoring vehicle location and hours of operation.
- Optimize routing. By analyzing driving patterns and using historical location reports, fleets can choose routes that reduce miles and optimize driving schedules.
- Continuous emissions monitoring. Vehicles in compliance with EPA requirements use less fuel than those that are non-compliant. In California, for example, fleets with wireless emissions monitoring can eliminate physical smog checks at smog-checking facilities, saving time and money.
Polk County Fleet Management Division in Bartow, FL, has Networkfleet installed on approximately 400 vehicles in its fleet. Polk County selected the Networkfleet system to help reduce fuel expenses and improve driver safety. Bob Stanton, director of fleet management, wanted a system that would help raise employee awareness on issues such as speeding, idle-time and vehicle usage.
The Networkfleet wireless vehicle location and diagnostics system consists of an in-vehicle hardware unit and web-based software and services. Its plug-and-play design required no wire splicing or drilling of holes. Installation time was less than 30 minutes per vehicle.
Because the Networkfleet software is completely hosted by Networkcar, Polk County did not have to worry about downloading the application. In addition, since the application is accessible via the internet 24/7, different department managers could use the software simultaneously from various locations.
Additionally, diagnostic monitoring allows Polk County to receive alerts whenever a vehicle had a diagnostic trouble code or was due for scheduled maintenance. This allowed fleet managers to get idle-time, mileage and fuel efficiency data for each vehicle.
Using Networkfleet as a catalyst, the county launched a No Idle-Zone Program to reduce fuel consumption and associated expenditures. The program encouraged drivers to turn off their vehicles instead of letting them idle for extended periods of time. Each week, Polk County fleet managers reviewed the Networkfleet idle-time and fuel consumption report to monitor for high idle patterns; by simply increasing employee awareness, they were able to reduce fleet-wide fuel consumption.
Additionally, by setting custom speed thresholds for each department, fleet managers were able to monitor speeding behaviors. The result was a reduction in speeding and an overall improvement in driver safety.
"Networkfleet has helped us in ways we hadn't envisioned in the past," said Stanton. For example, by monitoring factors such as actual mileage driven, the county was able to identify underutilized vehicles and consequently reduce fleet size by 12 percent.
Polk County utilizes Networkfleet differently in each county department but has seen improved efficiency across the board. In the Building Division, for example, the county is able to verify that building inspectors have visited their quota of sites for the day. In the Mosquito Control Division, the county reviews the precise locations of where employees have sprayed mosquito pesticide. In the Fleet Management and Utility Operations, the county documents the length of the service calls for reconciling billable hours.
According to Stanton, "When we first piloted Networkfleet, the county manager was so impressed with the device that he said it should be put on every vehicle going forward."
To learn more about this technology, see "Go Green and Save Green — Wireless Fleet Management Systems Cuts Emissions While Reducing Operating Costs." It can be downloaded at http://www.networkcar.com/networkcar/pub/whitepaper.