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Alabama Agency Maximizes GPS Value for Fleet

May 2008, by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

As the department responsible for implementing state environmental laws, it’s appropriate the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) has made strides toward becoming a greener fleet. While many fleets are moving toward biodiesel or alternative-energy vehicles, the ADEM is using telematics technology to make its existing fleet more efficient and to reduce harmful emissions. As fleets face stricter emissions standards, this technology could put agencies ahead of the pack.

Alabama Dept. of Environmental Management headquarters.

System Measures Performance

Of the 112 field inspection vehicles in the main fleet that serves its Montgomery, Ala., offices, ADEM equipped 101 with GPS tracking devices. Using Networkfleet, the department is able to monitor more than just vehicle location.

"We are always looking for ways to control costs. After researching the benefits of using GPS tracking systems, we began to look for an effective, easy-to-use system that would hopefully reduce our miles traveled and increase our fuel economy," said Aubrey White, chief of the ADEM general services branch. "We became aware of Networkfleet’s ability to monitor not only location and speed, but engine and emission performance as well. This feature was very desirable to us as the State’s environmental regulatory agency."

The telematics devices are used on a variety of vehicles, including sedans, four-wheel-drive trucks, and utility vehicles. The vehicles are used primarily for field inspections and data collection to support ADEM air, land, and water pollution control programs. With many of those vehicles traveling between 15,000-20,000 miles per year, using GPS tracking devices and monitoring vehicle performance can significantly impact fuel consumption and the environment. By monitoring vehicle speed, miles traveled, idle time, unnecessary vehicle use, and emissions, the Networkfleet devices can help reduce air pollution and increase fleet efficiency.

While fleet vehicles are in the field, fleet managers can log into the Networkfleet system and determine at a glance the current location and speed of each vehicle. Additionally, the system automatically e-mails weekly speed reports and start/end-of-day reports that help audit vehicle use.

According to White, a benefit to a live reporting GPS system is the ability to dispatch vehicles already in the field. "It is quite easy to determine the closest vehicle to a location of interest, and this feature could be used to dispatch the field inspector closest to a spill or other environmental emergency, saving valuable travel time."

With remote diagnostics, fleet managers are immediately alerted if a performance problem arises. The system generates instant e-mails whenever a vehicle onboard diagnostic system returns a trouble code.

"One of the most common problems detected is a cylinder misfire, which may mean it is time for the vehicle to receive a tune-up or other service," White said. "The dispatcher for our motor pool can immediately schedule the vehicle for maintenance, usually before the vehicle even returns from the trip."

Even though the system offers fleet managers and dispatchers a variety of metrics and issues to track, White says the information isn’t overwhelming. "We have found that the system gives us just the right amount of information — enough to be useful without being a burden."

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Helene Kamon began her industry career in 1970 working for Dealers CadiLease, later purchased by Union Leasing.

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