The use of telematics — the integration of wireless communications, vehicle monitoring systems, and location devices — is expected to reach 5.8 million units this year, with revenues growing to more than $2 billion, according to a study by C.J. Driscoll and Associates. More than 2.5 million telematic units are currently used to manage fleet vehicles, mobile workers, trailers, heavy equipment, and other assets.

Adopters of fleet telematic systems include Verizon Inc., Wal-Mart, SC Johnson, Honeywell, ValleyCrest Companies, Genuine Parts, Gem Plumbing, EasyTurf, U.S. Postal Service, Viking Termite & Pest Control, IES, and Amtec LLC. These fleets use telematic devices to continuously measure fuel consumption and fleet utilization, and monitor vehicle and performance.

Less Idling Equals Less Fuel Used

A growing number of fleets are turning to vehicle recorders or GPS tracking systems as the most cost-effective tool to curb excessive idling and other fuel-inefficient driver behaviors.

For example, Genuine Parts determined its drivers were idling company trucks 2-3 hours per day — a heavy hit in terms of fuel consumption. Drivers leave a distribution center and make 12-15 stops and deliveries per evening. Why so much time spent idling? Drivers spent 15-20 minute intervals idling to maintain a comfortable cab climate, as well as save battery life, which can run low from frequent liftgate use, although a test by the company’s liftgate installer determined the liftgate battery runs down after 14 cycles.

Verizon Inc. successfully reduced fuel costs by curbing unnecessary engine idling. Verizon estimates unnecessary idling costs the telecommunications company about $20 million annually. For calendar-year 2008, Verizon targeted a 3-percent reduction in the 53 million gallons of fuel used by the company’s vehicles, mostly light- and medium-duty trucks. Verizon uses a combination of GPS tracking and employee education to curb unnecessary engine idling. GPS tracking systems have been installed in about 25 percent of company trucks.

Monitoring Vehicles Cuts Emissions

Wal-Mart and SC Johnson are achieving dramatic energy savings through their green logistics programs, which include the use of telematics. In 2006 alone, Wal-Mart prevented 678,954 tons of carbon dioxide, 38 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 1,539 tons of particulate matter from entering the atmosphere through a combination of efforts, such as the installation of auxiliary power units (APUs) in diesel trucks to warm or cool the cabin on breaks.

Similarly, SC Johnson eliminated 1,882 tons of greenhouse gases, cut fuel usage by 168,000 gallons, and saved approximately $1.6 million in 2007 through its Truckload Utilization Project, which combines multiple customer orders and products in individual trucks for maximum efficiency.

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Fuel Consumption Decreased with GPS

Some fleets are adopting a technology-based solution to reduce fuel spend. Honeywell hopes to move forward on a telematics program to enhance fuel efficiency. "We conducted a pilot telematics program in our cargo-type vehicles," said Shelly Lofgren, fleet manager, North America for Honeywell. "The recommendation is being made to move forward and it is under review by management."

ValleyCrest Companies in Calabasas, Calif., reports a 10-percent reduction in fuel costs since implementing a fleet-wide GPS system.

Vehicle Tracking Dominates Telematics Use

GPS systems have a dual purpose of tracking unauthorized travel and optimizing routes. "We have started using GPS on some of our vehicles, and with proper controls and monitoring, we have reduced excess idle time and speeding in some of our branches," said Kirk Herniman, manager, equipment & leasing for IES in Houston.

For the past seven years, Larry Gemma, owner of Gem Plumbing in Lincoln, R.I., has used telematics in his fleet of 180 GM and Ford trucks and vans to monitor mileage, location, and speed, schedule employee routing, and provide maintenance alerts.

Since implementing the program, Gemma has experienced improved efficiency and reduced fleet costs by lowering vehicle mileage and maintenance, which reduces employee downtime and extends vehicle longevity.

According to Gemma, GPS data has been used for stolen vehicle recovery and to vindicate drivers when customer complaints about time issues and accident claims prove bogus. "We immediately tell the employee about that benefit of GPS monitoring and what would have happened in that situation had we not had GPS."

Similarly, Joe Christianson, president of Plumbing Plus and Remodel Works Bath & Kitchen in Poway, Calif., said GPS verifies an employee’s arrival at a location. If a client disputes the bill and says the employee was only there for a short period of time, "I can verify this and turn around and say he was there for two hours and 15 minutes. This allows us to be on the same side as our guy now because we have proof," said Christianson.

Not only does this help Christianson track his fleet of 30 service vans and pickups, the phone-based GPS system also functions as an employee timecard, automatically collecting location data. Drivers merely input the job number and code for the type of work they’re doing.

"Our drivers do multiple tasks because we do kitchen and bathroom remodeling. If they’re doing demolition, they put one code into the phone and if they start doing plumbing, it’s a different code," Christianson said.

Management then captures the GPS location, converts it for payroll, and downloads the data into the computer, so all job costing and data collection for Workers’ Compensation is done. GPS assists in back-office functions by eliminating paperwork and increases productivity since drivers can go directly to the job site without bringing in their timecards.

The fleet uses telematics software to route drivers to jobs closer to their homes. The GPS system installed in vehicles also tracks maintenance and alerts drivers when it’s time for an oil change.

When introducing a fleet GPS program to employees, Christianson suggests fleet managers promote it with excitement, telling drivers the new tool will help the fleet become more efficient. They will know the problem areas, and management knows whether one of the trucks isn’t operating correctly or is being abused or driven too fast, said Christianson. A bad company representative affects everyone, not only the person driving the vehicle.

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David Hartman, president of EasyTurf, based in Escondido, Calif., uses telematics for tracking his fleet of 15 Chevrolet pickups. An important selling point of the Web-based program he uses was the fleet could avoid regular California smog checks because the software provider constantly checks vehicle emissions levels. Another benefit Hartman noted are regular maintenance alerts sent to the company’s operations manager.

"We use GPS as a deterrent because our crew leaders take the vehicles home with them in the evenings and on weekends," said Hartman. "Generally, our crews stay in the same place all day, so we’re not using it to reroute them during the course of the day. But, if they’re late showing up to a job, we can look online and figure out where they are."

Employees are aware of the GPS system and are not allowed personal use of company vehicles. "We didn’t do this in a stealthy way. We let everyone know that if they disconnect the system, they’ll be in worse trouble than if they actually drove on the weekend," said Hartman.

Hartman suggests other fleet managers considering implementing a GPS program be forthright and inform drivers it’s necessary to keep track of their equipment, and that insurance companies are increasingly mandating GPS systems.

"The last thing I would do is try to sneak it on them and not tell them about it. I know some companies that have done that and it doesn’t work very well," said Hartman.

Mike Lanning, president of Desert Services, located in Scottsdale, Ariz., has used telematics for vehicle tracking since 2006 because of the integration, customization, and service level provided. With 38 vehicles consisting of water trucks, street sweepers, and roll-off trucks for temporary fencing, Lanning initially was interested in monitoring maintenance and mileage. He also can track location in real-time, route drivers to a specific job, and validate an employee was at a particular job on time or used the truck after hours.

"Just from that tracking, the system pays for itself. It prevents fraud from the customer and the driver side; you can’t dispute the evidence," said Lanning. "For the most part, 90 percent of our drivers are all doing the right things and they don’t care. The ones who complain are up to something and they’re the ones you need to watch anyway."

The system helps Desert Services save money in a number of ways, including reduced fuel costs. Drivers are efficiently routed to closest jobs and the number of trips is minimized.

The U.S. Postal Service has begun a GPS vehicle tracking project with a 500-unit pilot installed in the greater Chicago area. Key expectations from this project include improved route efficiency, driver safety, customer service, and reduced vehicle costs. Sources estimate the Postal Service’s fleet includes approximately 35,000 route delivery vehicles.

Viking Termite and Pest Control, a New Jersey-based pest control service, also equipped its drivers with a vehicle tracking and management solution. The solution includes a full-featured GPS device that provides accurate, real-time vehicle location and status data.

"Using a fleet management solution, we are able to utilize and capitalize our fleet better over time and offer more value to our customers," said Viking Vice President Daniel Bradbury. "Our call center can disburse the closest driver to a customer’s location for faster service times."

Viking is already seeing quantifiable results with its deployment. Productivity gains have improved as much as 1.5 hours per technician.

Light Tower Rentals, a Texas-based oilfield equipment rental firm, began deploying a GPS fleet management system in its fleet of more than 100 vehicles.

The program allows Light Tower Rentals to monitor the safety and security of drivers and fleet assets in real time and also generates reports for vehicle metric analyses. Data from reports can be used to enhance the management of the company fleet and workforce — ultimately to improve customer service and verify employee work hours.

Since November 2007, Amtec LLC has used telematics daily to improve fleet vehicle management, increase vehicle utilization, efficiently route technicians, improve vehicle fuel efficiency (due to reduced consumption), increase driver/fleet safety practices, and validate vehicle locations.

"One of the biggest challenges was scheduling installation of the telematics units as our 590-unit fleet is scattered around the U.S.," said Gene Hollenbeck, corporate director, asset/risk/safety for Amtec LLC. "However, our fleet management company was extremely accommodating, which allowed us to work out an installation schedule that met our needs. Installations normally took place at our various locations either early morning or late evenings."

Amtec has realized savings in fuel expense, lowered risk, and increased productivity through more efficient routing of its mainly light-duty truck fleet.

Hollenbeck advises fleets "not to wait" to incorporate telematics into daily practices.

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Expanded for Web

AirIQ
www.airiq.com

With more than 10 years experience and a proven track record as a provider of location based services to commercial fleets, the AirIQ solution economically protects employees and reduces costs.

The AirIQ solution provides real time access to mobile field force vitals via the Internet providing notification when:

  • An employee arrives and leaves a destination
  • A speeding violation has occurred
  • Vehicle maintenance is due

AirIQ plans to continue to expand its service suite with additional online reporting capabilities to assist in areas such as

  • Fuel tax reporting
  • Lone worker compliance
  • Field force productivity stats
  • Automated vehicle maintenance scheduling.

GPS Insight

www.gpsinsight.com  

In 2009, GPS Insight will launch several new GPS hardware options tailored for various tracking needs.  They currently have specialized hardware for vehicle, heavy equipment, and trailer tracking, as well as remote engine diagnostics, and will expand these capabilities throughout the year.

The companies new flagship "EX-4000" product is expandable, and is currently available for purchase.  It will support Mobile Data Terminals, Bluetooth communications to PND's, and up to 16 switches and sensors.  It is able to report in up to 3 second updates for demanding requirements, and is highly configurable.

GPS Insight will also introduce a freight tracking product which is extremely small, battery operated, and meant for stealth tracking of shipments, bank bags, and occasional, non-installed vehicle tracking.

Additionally, the mapping, routing, landmarking/geofencing, and dashboard interface will be significantly improved as the company continues to deliver on customer requests.  These enhancements will allow customers to build their own highly specific alerts and reports. 

For example, the type of parts carried or driver certifications may be associated with vehicles, and the exact particulars of a customer, vendor, or other landmark may be stored (for example, weekly revenue, brands of paint available, etc.).  Then the combination of these user-defined attributes may be used for routing, reporting and alerting.  This will allow customers to, for example, create an e-mail or cell phone alert letting supervisors know when drivers of parts trucks stop for more than 25 minutes at a vendor which does not carry AC condensers, and 45 minutes for those which do.  Idling reports and alerts will be PTO aware and configurable.  Speed reports will be able to factor in whether or not the emergency lights were on.  Virtually any combination of business specific information may be used for reporting, alerting, and mapping purposes.

Networkfleet
http://www.networkfleet.com/networkfleet/pub/main

Networkfleet is a leading provider of wireless fleet management services for remotely monitoring the performance and location of fleet vehicles. Founded in 1999, the company’s rapidly growing customer base ranges from small service fleets of 10 vehicles to government fleets of several thousand. Networkfleet’s patented system reads real-time diagnostics from the vehicle’s engine to allow fleet managers to continuously monitor precise information for each vehicle. Networkfleet reduces harmful emissions by helping fleet managers to reduce idle time, improve vehicle maintenance, reduce speeding, reduce vehicle usage, optimize routing, and monitor emissions status.

E.J. Ward
www.ejward.com

E.J. Ward, Inc. is a leader in developing advanced technologies for fleet vehicle telematics.  For 35 years Ward has been recognized throughout the United States for ensuring fleet assets are accounted for and fleet usage optimized.  Ward’s innovative approach to fleet asset management includes the most scalable system in the industry including vehicle tracking, fuel management and tire pressure management.  Ward recently launched its latest real-time and passive GPS systems which provide fleets with a powerful cost effective tracking solution.  Please visit www.ejward.com for additional information.

GEOTAB
www.geotab.com

For Geotab, 2009 is about affordable business intelligence.

  • The Need before Speed. Geotab allows users to install either passive or high speed cellular devices depending on the urgency for data. If you are looking for information and not dispatching – GO RF or GO WiFi – if you need dispatching, live event monitoring, asset location of remote vehicles, GO CDMA or GSM.  
  • Combine Your Choices.  All data collected are combined in a single database for summary branch, region, division reports. Geotab has the only system in the world that allows users to mix and match their wireless needs and deposit that data in a single roll-up reporting database on the customer network.
  • Affordability is Key.  Geotab is considered an affordable yet premium system and we are going to make it even easier for you in 2009. From no fixed term rental programs with no capital upfront cost to free web maps using OpenStreets and free wireless options like WiFi and 900Mhz, Geotab puts your operating budget in perspective and has solutions that will enable you to use our business intelligence tools which are much needed to help you grow in tough times.
  • Knowledge Mining.  Record as much information as you can about where vehicles park, how they travel, where they stop through the day and how profitable are your stops, how many vehicles drive each day and are there spares that can be sold or kept for parts.
  • Knowledge share. Integrate your GPS and engine data with other applications in the company using our Free Software Development Kit (SDK) – accounting, fleet maintenance reminders, payroll
  • Integrate.  Geotab software is free and by using our SDK, you can add third-party (non-Geotab) devices to our software. This is a particularly great opportunity for other device manufacturers who want to send their data to their customers and to work with an industry-leader
  • New Dashboards.  In 2009, summary graphics allow customers to quick-view what’s happening without diving into the daily detail
  • Plain English.  Summaries help users understand what is happening so they can quickly act on the information
  • E-mail/text Alerts. Monitor exceptions from speed, idling to after hours, unauthorized use mean you don’t have to be on web to stay in touch
  • Action Items.  Geotab ‘smart’ reports are fully linked within the application – allowing action to identify areas for savings in every company from early  engine fault detection, extending preventative maintenance cycles to health-based diagnostics, keep your owned or leased assets longer and avoid the loss on turning in your vehicles in 2009

For more information on Geotab, visit www.geotab.com . To share your business needs with Geotab and talk with a business consultant, e-mail geosales@geotab.com,

Davis Instruments
www.carchip.com

In 2009, CarChip Fleet Pro's passive GPS system will work with Google Earth to give an actual geograpical representation of where your fleet vehicles have traveled. CarChip Fleet Pro enable businesses to easily monitor their drivers’ behavior and fleet vehicles’ engine performance---increasing productivity and providing cost savings. No monthly fees. CarChip tracks trip details, including mileage, speed, quick accelerations and hard braking. CarChip tracks up to 23 different performance parameters that may help pre-empt expensive repairs. CarChip is easy to install. Davis' Fleet Management Software works with CarChip Fleet Pro to rank drivers and vehicles by select driving criteria and provides fleet managers with dozens of reports they can use to rank drivers and their fleet vehicles' performance. Also availabe is Davis’s Wireless Download system which wirelessly downloads data from your fleet vehicles from as far away as 1000' to your PC. Find out more at www.carchip.com or call Davis Instruments at (800) 678-3669.

GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services
www.gefleet.com

GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services is a global fleet management company with operations in the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. GE Capital Solutions Fleet Services describes its approach to the market as “consultative”, noting that its telematics solutions are one piece of the total GE offering (which includes fleet financing, maintenance, fuel cards, asset management, and more). Telematics is tightly integrated with GE’s complete product suite, allowing for efficient and proactive action to save customers time and money.

GE’s award-winning telematics solutions, first offered in 2006, provides web-based access to vehicle asset performance metrics, related alerts, trend charts, exception reports, and customizable mapping. The feature-rich, integrated solution not only allows businesses to view the location of their assets in near-real-time, but also to manage operational and fleet metrics by exception, resulting in improved decision support. In addition, GE features a robust architecture, capable of receiving and processing data from a variety of systems and devices, so businesses that have existing technology can also be supported.

With access to custom reports, compiled by GE’s knowledgeable experts, from over 100 data elements, businesses are able to gain specific, reliable and robust intelligence around metrics such as the true cost of servicing a customer. Actionable recommendations provided by GE’s telematics team have yielded significant improvements in productivity and fleet-related operational costs. On average, GE’s customers have realized double-digit percentage improvements in fuel consumption, worker productivity, carbon emissions, accident rates, and overtime costs. More importantly, these businesses have increased customer retention and revenue, as delivery, sales and service calls are made more efficiently. 

The solution also includes modules to help facilitate precise planning and resource allocation, allowing businesses to meet rigid service requirements and appointment windows at the lowest possible cost - increasingly becoming a tool for best-in-class organizations to differentiate themselves in today’s competitive environment.

GE’s telematics solutions are currently available in North America for a flat monthly subscription fee, bundling the cost of the hardware with the services. Instead of making a significant up-front capital investment, GE customers pay for the product as they realize the benefits.  As a result, they realize a more rapid return on their investment, typically between 2X and 15X based on the modules adopted.

For more information, visit www.gefleet.com

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