Tracking fleets, cutting costs
Huntsville, Texas, has begun using fleet-tracking technology to curtail costly driving habits by drivers in its 400-vehicle fleet. The city estimates it will save nearly $20,000 this year by reducing idling time and distance traveled.
Last year, one of the city's managers realized that the city's fleet required more attention than current resources could handle. “We had one person who spent most of the day just keeping track of jobs and vehicles, and making sure the vehicles were being used in the most productive way possible,” says Laurie O'Brien, finance administrator/analyst for the city.
In October, the city contracted with Houston-based Premier GPS Tracking to purchase equipment from San Diego-based Networkfleet for installation on two light-duty trucks and two heavy-duty trucks. The tracking devices connect to the vehicles' onboard computers and monitor engine readings. They wirelessly transmit data to a secure website where fleet managers can log in to view vehicle GPS locations and diagnostic data, including exact fuel consumption, fuel reports, mileage data, and speed and idle-time trends. Fleet managers can generate reports and receive e-mail alerts if vehicles exceed speed limits, idle excessively or show diagnostic codes that indicate possible engine malfunctions. The information helps fleet managers pinpoint problem areas, such as inefficient, fuel-wasting habits and odd-hour use. Also, by using historical location reports and other data, fleet mangers can route vehicles more efficiently and reduce total miles driven.
Baseline data from the city's month-long pilot test uncovered that vehicles were idling 50 percent of the time, and many drivers were driving twice as far as necessary to reach a job, averaging 30 extra miles each week. “Since most light trucks get 13 to 15 miles per gallon, 30 miles means two gallons of wasted fuel,” O'Brien says. “At $2.50 a gallon, if each vehicle in our 400-vehicle fleet used two gallons less each week, we would save $8,000 each month.”
The city installed the tracking units on 40 light- and heavy-duty trucks in December 2010, and established new policies aimed at eliminating wasteful and unsafe driving habits, such as idling, speeding and unnecessary driving. So far, the city has decreased idle time from 50 percent to around 25 percent on average — a savings of eight hours per month for each vehicle. The city will make a formal assessment after 12 months of use and plans to install the technology on all 400 vehicles in its fleet if positive results continue.
Project: Fleet tracking
Jurisdiction: Huntsville, Texas
Agency: Various departments, including Parks, Solid Waste, Water
Vendor: San Diego-based Networkfleet, Houston-based Premier GPS Tracking
Timeline: Pilot began October 2010; implementation December 2010