Data from GPS tracking can be a valuable municipal fleet management tool (with related video)
Each day, tens of thousands of municipal vehicles are on the roads providing vital services. Work crews collecting trash and maintaining infrastructure. Health inspectors ensuring restaurants are up to code. Human services caseworkers providing essential care. School and public transit buses carrying students and workers throughout the region.
In order to manage these services, and the vehicles in which they are provided, Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) tracking is rapidly becoming the norm for municipal fleet management, as more and more municipalities are gaining valuable insight on fleet usage, enhancing efficiency, reining in fuel costs and curbing abuse.
You can’t manage what you can’t see. While that statement is applicable to management in virtually every industry, when you are managing a municipal fleet — whether it is sedans, maintenance vehicles or heavy equipment — it is especially critical, because what you can’t see could be hurting your budget, increasing liability and possibly damaging your municipality’s reputation.
Using GPS to determine the exact whereabouts of any vehicle in the municipal fleet at any moment is one of the most obvious benefits for managers and dispatchers. If a water main breaks, the closet crew can be located and dispatched immediately. If a constituent wants to know when their road is to be plowed, GPS up-to-the-second mapping provides a faster answer than making a radio inquiry to each truck.
When providing large-scale services, such as trash collection, the efficiency of routes can be improved by using GPS location and speed data collected from each vehicle. For example, it might be more efficient for truck A to service a particular neighborhood and access it from Elm Street, than for Truck B, which is presently serving that neighborhood but regularly experiences traffic delays accessing from Main Street.
The desire to control fuel costs is frequently cited by municipalities that implement GPS tracking. Using the data collected from GPS tracking can produce near-immediate cost savings by correcting bad driving habits.
Speeding just five miles per hour over the posted speed limit can decrease fuel efficiency by as much as ten percent. Speeding and aggressive driving maneuvers, such as rapid acceleration and braking, can be tracked via GPS in real-time, allowing fleet management to quickly address such behavior with the offending drivers.
Cars or trucks that are left idling are wasting fuel that the taxpayer has paid for — an hour’s worth of idling time per month equates to one wasted gallon of fuel, so that municipal fleets that number in the hundreds are potentially wasting hundreds of gallons of gas each month. In fact, some municipalities have adopted regulations or policies for their fleets to discourage excessive idling.
For management and accountability, GPS tracking is one of the most effective tools to prevent unauthorized or after-hours use of a municipal vehicle. Are workers who are out in the field making the stops they are supposed to be? Are they efficiently moving on to the next stop, or are they wasting 15 minutes idling in a parking lot?
What lies ahead in GPS tracking for municipalities? The value in a monitoring system continues to lie in not just collecting data, but how data is used, as well as how it is delivered.
Sophisticated real-time tracking and reporting systems will integrate the vehicle and driver data that GPS collects. That information can yield a number of benefits. Integrating usage data can enhance a fleet maintenance program, coordinating automated alerts about regular service milestones such as oil changes and tune-ups. The integrated data can also provide insight as to when specialized tasks might be required. For example, by tracking frequent, rapid braking patterns on a particular vehicle, a fleet manager will recognize that that vehicle will soon require a change of pads or more.
Fleet managers can remain connected through text alerts that are delivered if a vehicle is speeding, as well as smartphone apps to access up-to-the-minute reports.
The data that GPS technology provides can become a valuable management tool that can help save on fuel costs for any municipality. The data can also potentially lower liability, and enhance the vital services delivered daily to taxpayers and constituents.
John M. Cunningham, Jr. is president and CEO of Vehicle Tracking Solutions (VTS). He founded Vehicle Tracking Solutions in 2002. Based in Deer Park, N.Y., VTS presently tracks more than 27,000 vehicles in the New York metropolitan area for nearly 2,000 customers, including many governments, municipal authorities and fire/ambulance districts in New York and New Jersey.
This video outlines how GPS technology and the VTS Silent Passenger tool help fleet managers monitor driver performance.