GPS helps public administrators keep their employees safe—and on task
Public administrators are finding that GPS tracking devices installed in government-issued vehicles can be a valuable tool for keeping tabs on their employees.
“That’s the most basic function of a GPS system—that at any given time a manager can look on the screen and see the exact location of a town vehicle,” Steve Hicks, GPS manager for the Town of Islip, N.Y., told GovPro.com. “If someone is on break a little too long, managers can keep track of it.” Islip, with a population 327,923, is located in southern Suffolk County, on the south shore of Long Island.
Phil Nolan, the town supervisor in Islip, added: “We can’t have public resources being used on private activities. That’s Management 101.”
According to one estimate, after GPS devices were installed, the Town of Islip saved almost 14,000 gallons of gas over a three-month period compared to the previous year. Those numbers, according to Nolan, show that employees are aware that they are being watched and are no longer using Islip’s town fleet for personal business.
Islip administrators also use their GPS system to track speeds on the town’s 614 vehicles.
“Certainly speed is one driver characteristic we can measure with our GPS system,” Hicks explained. “If you can keep drivers closer to the speed limit, that’s a great safety factor. We had a few drivers who got caught speeding. They were warned and, honestly, that seems to have eliminated the problem; so that’s a pretty big gain.”
An offer Islip couldn’t refuse
Islip has had its GPS system—Nextel and TeleNavTrack are the vendors—installed for less than a year.
“We bought it off of state bid,” explained Hicks, who encourages other communities to find out if their own state or cooperative purchasing combine has a GPS contract available for local municipalities to bid on. “We actually got a better rate than the state contract. We got a fantastic deal on the GPS unit, which is a rugged-type cell phone with the military specs. It includes the charger, which plugs into the cigarette lighter slot, and it includes a mounting bracket, all for 99 cents apiece.
“That’s a deal we couldn’t turn down. Other vendors I talked to couldn’t come close.”
GPS can help reduce fuel consumption
Hicks, who was an analyst at the Internal Revenue Service before he started working for the town, noted that Islip’s GPS system could lead to lower fuel consumption,
“When you are looking at a map of the bread crumbs from the GPS, you might be able to say, OK, instead of going up this block and down that block, you do some rerouting to shorten the distance and make the process more efficient,” Hicks said.
A government’s GPS system that offers on-board diagnostics can alert fleet mechanics that a car’s engine is operating inefficiently. Mechanics can use data obtained through the GPS for preventive maintenance. The Networkfleet wireless vehicle management system, for instance, provides daily odometer updates and notifies fleet managers when vehicles have reached predetermined maintenance intervals.
Government market for GPS growing rapidly
Chris Ransom, strategic alliance manager for Networkcar, a San Diego-based provider of GPS vehicle management systems (such as the aforementioned Networkfleet), told GovPro.com that the government market for GPS systems “is growing by leaps and bounds.”
“I’d say we’re seeing double-digit growth among the municipalities, whether it’s statewide or down to the local county,” Ransom said.
According to Hicks, Islip’s GPS system has performed well, even helping police collar a local thief.
“We had an instance over Labor Day weekend,” Hicks explained, “when somebody had broken into our Central Islip Highway Yard and stole quite a few of our GPS units. I was able to coordinate with the police on the phone, and they tracked one of the suspects down in a town nearby, with one of the units in his hand.”
To download a free white paper on optimizing fleet maintenance, visit the Networkcar Web site.