In the field, yet still in sight
Each morning, Raleigh, N.C.’s Utility Billing (UB) Division field staff sets out to read the water meters of the city’s 152,000 customers. During the day, dispatchers receive 50 to 200 new assignments, but until recently they had no way of knowing the location of each field staff member. Their only option was to call each one and ask for updates.
In January 2006, Gary Evenson, UB Division field operations supervisor, began researching automatic vehicle location systems that would allow dispatchers to know where drivers were at all times and what routes they were taking. He chose a wireless vehicle management system by San Diego-based Networkcar that another city department was using already.
By April, the UB Division had equipped its 20 service vehicles with devices that connect to a global positioning system and to each vehicle’s engine computer. The devices transmit data about vehicle location, fuel consumption, mileage, speed and idle-time to a secure Web site that the city’s dispatcher and field supervisor review throughout the day. “Using this system, dispatchers can view online maps of the city that show drivers’ locations and quickly determine which vehicles are closest to the next meter reading assignment,” Evenson says.
The field supervisor uses reports from the system to improve routing and check for unauthorized use of city vehicles. He also receives e-mail alerts when any vehicle’s “check engine” light is illuminated, so he can alert the driver to take the vehicle in for maintenance. E-mail alerts also are sent when vehicles reach certain odometer readings, so that scheduled maintenance can be performed.
Since the system was installed, the division has reduced fuel expenses by tracking fuel use and reducing unnecessary trips, setting speed thresholds and monitoring idling time. “By helping us reduce fuel consumption, improve vehicle maintenance, and improve routing efficiency, we can better serve our customers and reduce overall operating costs,” Evenson says.
Fleet vehicle tracking
Utility Billing Division, Finance Department
San Diego-based Networkcar