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Lessons Learned from a Telematics Deployment

Cut fuel costs, promote safer driving behaviors and improve storm response – these are just a few examples of how fleet telematics that captures and tracks vehicle data can help you run your department more effectively.

But deploying telematics across hundreds or even thousands of fleet assets can be a daunting task if you don’t know what to expect.

UFP spoke with Paul Jefferson, fleet manager at Oklahoma City-based Oklahoma Gas & Electric, who oversees about 2,000 fleet assets, to learn about the utility’s experience with telematics.

Jefferson and his team began working with the benchmarking and telematics provider Utilimarc (https://utilimarc.com) in 2015 with a pilot program that included 30 vehicles. To date, the company has installed telematics on about 1,200 vehicles.

What advice does Jefferson have for other utility fleet professionals when it comes to a telematics deployment? Here are five tips.

1. Define your objectives.
Why do you want telematics? What exactly do you want to track? How will you use that data?

For OG&E, their initial objective was to lower the number of commuters – those who would use business vehicles for personal use – to reduce fuel costs as well as unnecessary miles and wear and tear on the vehicles.

“We had data from our Utilimarc benchmarking study to see how we benchmarked against other similar companies as far as the number of commuters per class of vehicle,” Jefferson said. “We realized that we needed to make a change – that we had a culture where supervisors and managers were giving people vehicles to drive home as compensation instead of there being a real business need for that vehicle’s use. Telematics would help us track that.”

Over time, OG&E’s objectives have evolved.

“We’ve linked our telematics to the [geographic information system] maps, so when we have outages, we can see where our trucks are relative to the outage,” Jefferson said. “We overlay that over our GIS map to help with dispatch. It also helps us keep the mobile mechanics in the right spot.”

Another project Jefferson and his team are working on is integrating telematics with a new fuel management system.

“We’re going to track our off-site fuel purchases on a map where we overlay the telematics to see, ‘Hey, was this asset near where the fuel was purchased?’” he said.

2. Get buy-in.
When you’re attempting to make a cultural change – like what a telematics deployment will bring – expect pushback from various people in the organization who feel threatened by the change. That means you’ll need to work to get buy-in from key stakeholders to help you sell the program to their teams.

“The transmission, distribution and power supply vice presidents all report to an operations vice president. So, we had to go to that upper-level senior VP to get buy-in [for the telematics deployment] from all three of the business unit groups at OG&E,” Jefferson said.

How did Jefferson and his team get that buy-in? They presented a business case.

“The business unit groups are always looking for [overhead and maintenance] reductions, so we presented telematics as a tool that can reduce our O&M,” Jefferson said. “After all, it’s not right to offer commuter vehicles as compensation. If someone needs a raise or more salary, the vehicle shouldn’t be part of their compensation.”

But even when you get buy-in from senior leadership, not everyone is going to like it. The key to working through that resistance is a lot of communication.

“We’ve had a lot of meetings and presented some webinars talking about the benefits [of telematics] – to reduce cost, improve driver safety, recover stolen vehicles. We laid it all out there,” Jefferson said.

3. Avoid surprises.
“If you’re selecting a telematics system, you want to know upfront what it costs to do any custom software because that can add up,” Jefferson said. “We thought about that ahead of time, and that’s one of the main reasons why we selected our provider because they don’t charge us extra for customer reporting unless it gets really wild. Everything we’ve done so far, we’ve never been charged extra.”

4. Determine your rollout strategy.
Work with your telematics provider to determine the optimal rollout cadence for your situation.

“We determined that it would be too much to bite off all at once to do everything at once, so we’ve been adding telematics at a pace of 300 to 400 vehicles a year since 2015,” Jefferson said.

5. Plan for maintenance.
Don’t expect your telematics deployment to be a one-time set-it-and-forget-it project.

“Our rollout took more manpower than I originally thought it would,” Jefferson said. “And it still does to this day. We try to automate as many of the changes as possible, but when you’re adding new fleet assets, or a person retires, leaves the company or moves around within the company, there’s a lot of work involved and a cost of maintenance to update the system.”

The Bottom Line
How can you set up your telematics deployment to go as smoothly as possible?

“Do your homework and think about long-term solutions because once you settle with a [telematics] company, you’re making a long-term commitment,” Jefferson said. “You don’t want to be changing [providers] every year; it’s too much work.”

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How Utility Fleets Use Telematics for Preventive and Predictive Maintenance

When utility fleets use telematics as intended, the benefits of the technology can be wide-ranging. Each asset, each mile driven and each minute spent idling generate data and insight that tell a story about the fleet.

And telematics data can be analyzed to determine not only what is currently happening with fleet assets, but also what could happen in the future. That’s why some utility fleets have begun to use the data for both preventive and predictive maintenance. However, where predictive maintenance is concerned, there are some operational hurdles to overcome.

At Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., telematics was implemented in heavy-duty vehicles in 2011 and in all light- and medium-duty vehicles in 2014 when the utility was acquired by Exelon Corp. Now, telematics is available on 1,289 vehicles and about 40 other assets, according to America Lesh, manager of fleet at BG&E.

Every three hours, Verizon provides the mileage, engine hours and GPS coordinates of all enabled BG&E vehicles and equipment. That data is uploaded to BG&E’s fleet management system.

Currently, according to Lesh, BG&E’s “maintenance cycles are relative and based on usage. This means that vehicles with higher utilization are serviced more frequently. Telematics allows us to perform maintenance on a specific asset, as needed, based on the usage [mileage and hours] instead of relying on time alone.”

Having the actual usage data has allowed BG&E to extend preventive maintenance cycles and avoid “performing unnecessary maintenance on underutilized vehicles,” Lesh said.

An added bonus is that the GPS information provided helps prevent the need to look for “trucks that are not at their expected parking location,” Lesh said.

PECO Energy Co., headquartered in Philadelphia, is relatively new to using telematics data for fleet maintenance purposes, according to D. Cooper Colbert Jr., manager of fleet operations for the utility. The fleet has 1,537 total units, ranging from light-duty service trucks to tractor-trailers. PECO installed telematics on all of its 1,247 on-road units in 2013 but has taken a slower approach to using the data generated to identify maintenance issues.

“Fleet services identified the five most troublesome fault codes and is monitoring proactively for additional diagnostic opportunities,” Colbert said. PECO collects data on engine hours, idle time, location, active fault codes and miles driven. In the future, Colbert believes that “adjusting preventive maintenance for vehicles based on engine hours/miles driven as opposed to time-based intervals will greatly enhance the PM process.”

An Imperfect System
Although telematics systems already generate the data to help a utility fleet move from preventive maintenance to predictive maintenance, it is not necessarily a smooth transition.

In general, telematics has its own challenges, according to Lesh. Units that are unresponsive, due to issues such as telematics equipment that is offline or not connecting properly, require staff time in “identifying these units and troubleshooting the issue that causes them to become nonresponsive,” she said. That may include a cellphone dead spot, which causes the lost connection.

Another challenge is the cost of telematics, which is “an investment both financially and in personnel,” Lesh said. “The program requires resources to actively manage and set goals so that we can continue to see the value and benefit of telematics.”

Add in all the data generated in trying to anticipate an issue and, “with the amount of information available, sorting through the noise gets cumbersome and labor intensive,” Colbert said. “Understanding the commitment of resources to proactively contact a user, schedule the vehicle and fit the diagnostic appointment in with existing out-of-service repairs are all challenges that need to be overcome before an effective predictive maintenance program driven by telematics can be successful.”

Still, Colbert sees the potential, especially as telematics users more fully embrace preventive and predictive maintenance applications. “In a perfect world, [the ability to] proactively contact an operator that they will be having a diesel particulate filter or exhaust gas recirculation issue if they do not bring the vehicle in for service will minimize vehicle downtime and increase productivity,” he said.

About the Author: Sandy Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee.

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5G Networks and Telematics
Sometime in 2020, 5G mobile networks will be broadly implemented, bringing with them a potential revolution in just how much vehicles communicate with each other and with other devices.

If you’re not sure what the effect of moving from 4G to 5G will be, you’re not alone. Consider the dramatic impact brought about by the switch from 3G to 4G networks. On 3G, phones were used primarily for calls and text messages, while 4G brought greater internet connectivity, such as the ability to stream movies.

Most experts believe 5G will provide even more connectivity. According to chipmaker Intel, 5G networks will be working with some 200 billion devices, including smart city sensors and Internet of Things (IoT) applications, as well as smartphones.

Aeris – an IoT solutions provider – predicts that telematics systems developers will take advantage of 5G to push forward more vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, making autonomous vehicles more likely. In the meantime, fleet tracking and other telematics solutions are expected to gain speed and reliability, plus they’ll provide more opportunities for insight.

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5 Smart Ways to Use Telematics to Drive Fleet Safety

What does a litigator want to know after a commercial vehicle crash?

Here’s how Jeff Burns, an attorney with the Kansas City, Missouri-based law firm Dollar, Burns & Becker LC, put it in his presentation to fleet managers at the NTEA Work Truck Show in March: “How did the company try to prevent this crash?”

After all, the plaintiff’s attorney is looking for a defendant that offers the highest potential settlement award – and a company is a much more lucrative target than the individual driver who may be at fault in an incident.

One of the things Burns said that companies could do to demonstrate a commitment to preventing incidents is to deploy vehicle tracking technology, like telematics, and make sure it’s being used in ways that support safer driving and equipment operation practices throughout the organization.

So, how can utility fleet leaders use telematics to drive greater safety – and reduce risk exposure for their employers?

1. Keep Score
A starting point is to use telematics to monitor driver behavior so that management can provide objective feedback and coach drivers on any behaviors they need to improve, such as hard braking, aggressive acceleration, hard cornering or speeding events. You also can organize that data into scorecards that show drivers their own trends and how they stack up with their peers.

“When you start to identify for a driver directly what their score is compared to their peers or how they’re trending as far as their overall driving habits, I think the drivers take notice – especially if the scorecard shows that they aren’t the top driver they thought they were,” said Kimberly Clark, telematics product leader with Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com).

2. Integrate Video
Ryan Driscoll, marketing director at telematics provider GPS Insight (www.gpsinsight.com), said that his company is developing a system that integrates forward- and driver-facing cameras with telematics.

“It won’t be livestream video at all times, where you can just check in as Big Brother,” Driscoll said. Instead, the video would be made available based on exception – that is, a driving event that falls outside specific parameters set by management.

How does it work?

“Suppose the driver slams on the brakes,” Driscoll said. “When an exception like that happens, the system records the 10 to 15 seconds before the incident and 10 to 15 seconds after the incident so that you get a full picture of what happened that caused that event to take place.”

What can you learn from that video?

“Perhaps the driver bent over to grab his soda on the ground and took his eyes off the road for two seconds, and when he came back up, he realized he was too close to the vehicle in front of him and slammed the brakes,” Driscoll said. “This insight enables you to more effectively coach the driver on how to avoid doing something like that in the future and decrease his chances of getting into an accident.”

3. Provide Real-Time Feedback
It’s one thing to have data to help you coach drivers a day, week or month after a risky driving event has been recorded. But what if your drivers could get immediate feedback inside the vehicle to discourage high-risk behaviors?

This level of telematics capability is becoming more prominent and useful, Clark said.

“It could be an instance where the driver is speeding, say, more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit, and that goes against fleet policy,” she said. “The system would issue an alert to that driver in that moment – whether it be a buzz or a vocal command – that they’ve broken the policy. What often happens is that drivers aren’t even aware that they are engaging in certain behaviors. So, it’s helpful to provide an immediate interaction with the driver to say, ‘This behavior is not acceptable.'”

4. Call for Help
A few years ago, Rural Electric Cooperative (REC), a power company serving south central Oklahoma, went to GPS Insight looking for a system that would enable a lineworker to call for help in an emergency.

GPS Insight developed a panic button that REC’s lineworker would wear on their belt loop or somewhere else on their person.

“It’s basically a key fob with a button on it,” Driscoll said. “And when the [lineworker] hits that button, the system notifies dispatch of an emergency to send help to that location.”

The timing couldn’t have been better for REC. About five months after deploying the panic button system, a lineman had to use it.

“It was in an area that had been plagued by wildfires, and the lineman pulled up to a location to change a transformer,” Driscoll said. “He didn’t take notice of the tall grass around the truck and went up into the [aerial] bucket to start working. But shortly after, while in the bucket, he looked down and noticed the grass was on fire next to his truck. By the time he got down from the bucket, the truck had caught fire, with his cellphone and radio inside the cab.”

But the lineman had the panic button on his belt, which he pushed. And the telematics system pinpointed his exact location and alerted dispatch to send help immediately.

5. Collaborate on Safety
When initiating a large-scale telematics deployment, it’s important to garner support from stakeholders in various departments across the organization to ensure the rollout goes as smoothly as possible, Clark said.

“Changing driver behavior also requires changing the culture, especially if you have a significantly high accident rate or recently had an unfortunate incident, such as a death or serious injury of one of your drivers,” she said. “In that case, you’re really changing a culture. And that means you need the whole team – the drivers, their managers, HR, legal and so forth – all there working together to build a strong safety culture.”

The Bottom Line
While telematics can’t prevent all incidents, you can use it in smart ways that help you significantly improve driver safety and your company’s bottom line.

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How to Avoid Big Data Overload

Telematics data offers the modern utility fleet vast opportunities to gain insight about their operation and take action. But the sheer number of those opportunities can be overwhelming, and deciding what data to study – plus how to make it meaningful – can be a struggle, like attempting to sip water from a firehose.

Beth Daiber, CPA, fleet administration supervisor for Ameren Illinois Company, has found that for her organization, it helps to both track and share data that ties into corporate initiatives. “There are a lot of things that I could supply data on, and analysis that I do behind the scenes,” she said. “I’m trying to make sure that I’m not overwhelmed with all the information that I could collect.”

Ameren focuses its telematics data on idling and speed for its 3,500-unit fleet. The company’s plan from day one was to focus on one or two initiatives first and build from there, Daiber said. Monitoring both idling and speed tie in with corporate initiatives and support the project’s ROI.

Even with such a narrow focus, there can be too much of a good thing, especially when it comes to reporting results to leadership. So, rather than simply track vehicle idling, for instance, Daiber provides reports that show idling as a percentage of operating time. “It seems to be a better reflection of how the assets are being used compared to total hours,” she said.  

Additional charts compare idling hours based on class of the asset. A top 20 list of the most-idled vehicles helps the operations team know where to focus its efforts. According to Daiber, “That has made a big impact.”

Starting Points
While Ameren has been able to focus its efforts on two data points that align with its goals, clearly there is a wealth of telematics data available today for those utility fleets that use the technology. So, how does a fleet know how to choose the data that will most benefit their operation?

Chris Ransom, solutions engineer for fleet management tracking provider Verizon Connect (www.verizonconnect.com), suggested a few starting points. “Almost all mobile businesses can benefit from tracking core metrics around safety (speed and harsh maneuvering), productivity (utilization, time spent on-site) and vehicle health (trouble codes and preventive maintenance intervals),” he said.

Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for telematics provider GPS Insight (www.gpsinsight.com), recommended looking for data related to a “high-impact issue or challenge. The fleet manager or operations manager for the utility has a lot more to do than just manage the data from telematics. The information needs to be easy to understand and in a format that allows them to take action quickly.”

Action Steps
Data has perhaps become overwhelming, at least in part, due to the addition of new features from telematics providers. But rather than simply activate a new feature when it becomes available, both Ransom and Driscoll advised performing regular evaluations.

Ransom encouraged a semiannual look at the data that’s been provided and what is needed. “Businesses should evaluate whether their solution is helping them obtain their projected ROIs and if their provider is continuously driving value to their operation,” he said.

Driscoll suggested going “back to the drawing board with all the key stakeholders in the businesses to determine what their current challenges are.” Once that list of challenges has been compiled, “they should determine the impact of those challenges and then focus in on how vehicle and location intelligence can solve those challenges for the business,” he said.

It is possible that a utility fleet’s telematics provider has already made that data available, and a quick conversation with the account manager may help to “keep pulling ROI from the existing telematics solution you have,” Driscoll said.

That conversation also may uncover needs that the utility wasn’t aware it had, Ransom said. “Generally speaking, most businesses understand the importance and potential ROI of tracking vehicles, but there are lots of less obvious needs, such as asset tracking and visibility into their workforces, that they may need help uncovering.”

About the Author: Sandy Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in Nashville, Tennessee.

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Emerging Data Points
As telematics providers continue to improve their data collection capabilities, a greater abundance of potential information is uncovered. So, what new data points are utilities likely to begin tracking in the future? Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for GPS Insight, and Chris Ransom, solutions engineer for Verizon Connect, offered their predictions. 

Driver safety data. Driscoll anticipates driver scorecards that “rank drivers based on driving habits to highlight your best drivers and flag your most at-risk drivers.” This will allow for more targeted driver coaching.

Visibility into vehicle health. “Diagnostics and usage information alone may provide increased ROI for fleet managers,” Ransom said. “For instance, tire pressure status gives drivers and fleet managers the ability to address issues sooner, helping save fuel and extending the life of the tires. The value of this expands exponentially when we add vehicles over an extended period of time.” Despite the value in tying telematics to maintenance, “it has surprisingly little adoption,” Driscoll said.

Safety metrics in real time. Many fleets already collect driver data related to actions such as speeding and hard braking. Getting the data in near real time provides additional benefits, Ransom said. A dashboard or scorecard lets a driver know where they rank, and lets managers know who might need additional training.

Employee performance. “Using telematics data to verify payroll is a critical data set to look at to significantly reduce labor costs,” Driscoll said. And according to Ransom, using location and job information can help “assign jobs to the correct workers and vehicles, furthering the benefit of gathering, analyzing and acting on these job insights.”

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The State of the Fleet Telematics Market

A lot has happened in the fleet telematics market the past year that could impact utility fleet operations. Major telecom firms have expanded their footprint in the fleet sector with Verizon’s acquisitions of Telogis and Fleetmatics, while AT&T has established key partnerships to provide branded telematics services such as AT&T Fleet Complete and AT&T Fleet Manager. And more and more telematics providers have inked deals with automakers in recent months.

So, what’s driving these trends? And how might they shape the future of telematics and connected fleets?

UFP spoke with experts from C.J. Driscoll & Associates, GPS Insight, Telogis and Element Fleet Management to get their market outlook.

Telecom Expansion
Why are major telecom firms expanding into the fleet telematics industry? Will this trend continue?

“With landline subscriber bases shrinking and the mobile phone market saturated with declining marginal value, the connected vehicle offers a new market opportunity that allows the telecom companies to capitalize on the need for the vehicle to communicate to the OEM, driver, surrounding infrastructure and other third-party services through cellular networks,” said Kimberly Clark, telematics product leader for Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com). “It also allows them to expand and sell additional products, including in-car applications and infotainment solutions, as this technology becomes mainstream within new vehicles.”

Clark said that telecom expansion into the fleet market will continue for the foreseeable future and “benefit utility fleets through new innovation possibilities, increased pressure on direct OEM connectivity solutions and lower communication costs as part of their service offering over time.”

Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for GPS Insight (www.gpsinsight.com), agreed that more telecom companies will enter the fleet market but said that existing large, privately held telematics firms will remain strong.

“Verizon has invested a ton in telematics, and I believe that AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile are watching to see how successful it is before getting more aggressive and following suit,” Driscoll said. “I believe it is only a matter of time before all the major telecoms are in the telematics space. Although they are large brands, telematics isn’t a primary focus for them, nor a specialty, so they will certainly still be going up against the larger privately held telematics companies that specialize in fleet management.”

Kelly Frey, vice president of product marketing for Telogis (www.telogis.com), which is part of Verizon Telematics (www.verizontelematics.com), said that Verizon’s foray into fleet telematics, which started in 2012 with its acquisition of Hughes Telematics, is part of a larger strategy to become an industry leader in the broader internet of things (IoT) category.

“Connected vehicles and assets empowered by telematics are very good examples of ‘things’ that pertain to the internet of things,” Frey said. “These things inherently need to be connected to a reliable and secure network that supports the mission-critical operations powered by IoT and telematics. There are approximately 1.2 billion vehicles on the planet – including about 330 million commercial vehicles – that could benefit from being connected to the internet to improve maintenance and performance and enrich the lives of the drivers with improved safety and reliability. And telecom providers, like Verizon, are focused on making this connectivity easier and more enriching with compelling solutions that drive business value as well as consumer value. The trend will absolutely continue on a global scale.”

Partnerships with Automakers
In recent months a growing number of telematics providers have announced partnerships with vehicle OEMs. Does this mean that OEM partnerships will be necessary for telematics providers to continue to grow by the end of this decade? Or is there still room for telematics providers to prosper in the future without OEM partnerships?

“It’s necessary for telematics providers to partner with OEMs to survive and thrive if the telematics providers and OEMs are interested in maximizing the end fleet customer value,” Frey said. “Manufacturers such as Hino Motors already provide built-in telematics that provide advanced engine diagnostics and maintenance alerts along with a fleet management portal and mobile app. Several other manufacturers – such as Ford, GM, Volvo, Mack and Isuzu – offer built-in telematics already and there will be more in the very near future. Telematics providers such as Telogis will continue to invest heavily in OEM partnerships by offering broader platform capabilities such as route and schedule optimization, commercial navigation and mobile applications that are tightly integrated with back-office capabilities, workflow optimization and automation.”

Clem Driscoll, founder and principal of C.J. Driscoll & Associates (www.cjdriscoll.com), a market research firm that covers the telematics industry, said that although automaker partnerships offer telematics providers an efficient sales channel to expand their customer base, those relationships don’t appear to be a requirement to succeed in the fleet telematics space.

“There are companies like Geotab, which has 400,000 to 500,000 units in service or more and isn’t the primary telematics partner of vehicle OEMs in the U.S. but is growing at a fast rate,” he said. “And GPS Insight is another example. They’ve done very well and don’t have, to my knowledge, any OEM relationships but haven’t needed them in order to prosper.”

But as more and more OEMs adopt telematics, what role will there be for third-party telematics providers?

Since automakers don’t have expertise in fleet management, that’s where third-party telematics firms will continue to bring value, according to Clem Driscoll. “So far, especially if you look at the heavy-truck manufacturers, they haven’t gone much beyond offering remote vehicle diagnostics-related services,” he said. “That’s because it’s difficult for the vehicle OEMs to say, ‘Well, we’re going to offer a complete fleet solution.’ Since most fleets are not homogeneous, with vehicles from different manufacturers, [fleets] will probably hesitate to adopt a single telematics solution from the vehicle manufacturers.”

Clark with Element Fleet Management agreed. “OEM-embedded solutions do not solve all of the needs for [fleet] customers such as driver identification, satellite access in remote areas, panic buttons and electronic hours-of-service monitoring, as just a few examples. And there are questions on how much paperwork will be involved in the future to connect a car, as some may require driver consent. And OEMs will likely not provide a web-based platform for a fleet user to get easy access to the data, so they need both telematics companies and fleet management firms to provide this accessibility to the data for fleet customers into the future.”

The Future of Telematics
So, what does the future look like for the fleet telematics industry? What new telematics capabilities and/or use cases will emerge in the next three to five years that could impact how utility fleet professionals run their fleets?

“Over the next few years we will start to see more developments around IoT connections leveraging in-vehicle Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities,” said Frey with Telogis. “We will see a lot of advancements with [advanced driver assistance systems] to assist the driver with safety and performance related to efficiency and fuel economy. And there will be significant movement towards vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure communication, and ultimately autonomous vehicle capabilities built into vehicles that telematics providers will leverage to continue to improve efficiency, safety and productivity.”

According to Ryan Driscoll with GPS Insight: “Fleet management will continue to become more decentralized, which means that mobile apps will become more and more critical for fleet management, ultimately being the primary tool used. And there will be more integration with back-end systems so that fleet management and drivers can be much more efficient overall and deliver more value to their customers than they have in the past.”

Clark with Element Fleet Management predicted the following: “Telematics systems will allow for opportunities for utility network providers to put together truck-sharing networks of vehicles made possible through use of real-time visibility and new mobile applications. This could enhance customer service by allowing utility customers experiencing an issue or outage to get visibility to real-time truck deployment activity. There will also be better sensors for tracking real-time bucket usage status through OEM and aftermarket supplier solutions. And analytics will be drastically enhanced to provide opportunities for predictive analytics in storm-surge planning using weather and historical pattern activities, and improved prescriptive maintenance diagnostics tools to reduce downtime.”

The Bottom Line
The fleet telematics landscape appears to be shifting, as telecom giants expand into the market, more automakers seek to grow their telematics offerings, and emerging connected-car technologies unleash new capabilities that could boost fleet productivity, improve worker safety and cut costs. Stay tuned.

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Anti-Theft Technologies to Protect Your Heavy Equipment

In 2014, heavy equipment theft cost U.S. companies about $400 million, and only 23 percent of stolen machines were ever recovered, according to a report by the National Equipment Register and National Insurance Crime Bureau.

Beyond a utility fleet’s loss of a machine itself, the fleet manager also has to factor in the costs associated with short-term equipment rentals, project delays and valuable personnel time consumed by dealing with the incident.

So, what can you do to protect your equipment and your organization’s bottom line? Here are three anti-theft technologies to consider.

1. Keyless Ignition System
Equipment manufacturers have traditionally opted for a one-key-fits-all approach that makes it convenient for equipment operators at job sites to operate any one of a number of similar machines without having to carry numerous unique keys. But this approach also makes it much more convenient for thieves, who can easily purchase these keys online (see www.ebay.com/bhp/heavy-equipment-keys as just one example). Then they can go to the nearest job site, find an accessible machine and drive it onto a trailer to haul it away.

How can you make it tougher for thieves? Consider a keyless ignition system.

One example is Start-Smart by Keytroller (www.keytroller.com), which provides a hidden wireless relay installed in the starter circuit that – when the relay is disabled – cuts off power to the starter, preventing a key or even an attempted hot-wire of the machine from being able to start the engine. The operator then uses the Start-Smart programmable keypad ignition to input a valid code or radio-frequency identification card, which enables the wireless relay and provides power to the starter circuit. At that point, the user can press start on the keypad and the engine will fire up.

2. Telematics
Think of a keyless ignition system, like Start-Smart, as a first line of defense against theft. But what if thieves are still able to find a way to take a piece of your equipment? And how will you know when it has been stolen if no one is at the job site at the time of the incident?

One answer is telematics, which uses wireless GPS technology to capture and transmit equipment location, condition and performance data via satellite or cell signal to authorized employees, who can then access that information through a website or have it sent directly to their smartphone as a text message or push notification.

Most telematics systems provided by equipment manufacturers or third-party vendors offer the option to set up geofencing alerts, where you create a virtual perimeter around a specified area on a job site. This way, when a thief attempts to move a machine outside its authorized area, you’ll know instantly and can respond quickly to give law enforcement the real-time tracking information they need to recover the unit before it’s too late.

3. Radio-Frequency Tracking
Although early detection through telematics is helpful, one of the downsides of GPS tracking is that these systems require line of sight with satellites or cell towers to transmit signals. And that means the tracking device needs to be installed on a highly visible area of the machine, which makes it easier for thieves to locate and disable the system.

So, now what? How do you recover your stolen asset?

That’s where a radio-frequency (RF) tracking device, such as the LoJack Stolen Vehicle Recovery System (www.lojack.com), comes in. Since RF signals don’t require line of sight with satellites or cell towers, the LoJack system can track stolen equipment in places where GPS and cellular devices can’t – even if the machine is hidden in a parking garage, a heavily wooded area or a container on a ship. This also allows the LoJack transceiver to be installed on a discreet area of the machine, making it harder for a thief to find and disarm it.

The Bottom Line
There’s no one silver-bullet technology that can completely protect your equipment from theft. But any one of these three types of systems can at least help improve your odds of not losing valuable assets in the field. And a combination of all three would seem to cover all your bases – from theft prevention to instant notification to fast recovery.

Photo: LoJack

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Top Targets for Thieves

By Category:
• Light Utility Vehicles/Work Trucks and Trailers
• Backhoe Loaders/Skip Loaders/Wheel Loaders
• Generators/Air Compressors /Welders (Towables)
• Skid Steers

By Brand:
• Ford
• Bobcat
• John Deere
• Caterpillar
• CASE

Source: 2013 LoJack proprietary theft and recovery data

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Top Trends in Utility Fleet Telematics

What’s next for fleet telematics? Utility Fleet Professional talked to a few experts in the field to see where it is trending in the coming years. The conclusions? By 2020, better data analysis, broader connectivity across platforms and devices, and more choices could mean increased safety, improved efficiencies and lower costs up and down a fleet’s hierarchy.

Data Analysis
“The most significant trend we’re seeing is the investment in data analytics,” said Tony Candeloro, vice president of product development for ARI (www.arifleet.com).

Fleets are being swamped with the amount of data their telematics systems are delivering, but fleet managers have to know what data is important and what data is not. “Telematics solutions without data analytics to assist in trending, predicting and engaging with the outcomes will have minimal impact in how a fleet operates,” Candeloro explained. “Aggregating telematics data with vehicle life-cycle data, operational data and historical business data opens up tremendous opportunity to find operational efficiency opportunities.”

In the near future, predictive analytics – i.e., using data to predict what will happen next – will have a significant effect on fleet safety by identifying risks sooner than is currently possible, noted Kimberly Clark, product leader with Element Fleet Management (www.elementfleet.com).

“Fleet managers will be looking at a broader array of data than has been available in the past, with the goal of preventing accidents,” she said.

Usage-Based Analysis
Clem Driscoll, principal with C.J. Driscoll & Associates (www.cjdriscoll.com), a consulting and research services firm, predicts that over the next five years, more utility fleets will adopt usage-based safety analysis, which assigns risk and premiums based on a driver’s real-time habits rather than past performance. The result will be reduced accident risk and insurance costs.

“Usage-based insurance for fleet operators is in the early stages,” Driscoll said. “But even today, many insurance companies provide a discretionary discount of about 5 percent to fleets using telematics. Usage-based telematics programs are expanding in the consumer sector, and the commercial sector will follow.”

Broader Connectivity
Utility fleets also should be looking at ways to connect all divisions of their organization because the trend toward greater connectivity across multiple platforms and devices will increase safety, improve efficiencies and lower costs, according to Tim Taylor, chief success officer with Telogis (www.telogis.com).

“Our focus as an organization is on how the truck, mobile worker, work, organization, customer, mobile device and software platforms all connect to drive improvement in safety, efficiency, sustainability, asset utilization and customer service,” Taylor said. “Our language has changed from ‘telematics’ to ‘connected intelligence,’ or mobile resource management. Telematics implies data from the vehicle, which we do for sure, but mobile resource management encompasses a much broader picture of the connected, optimized and automated mobile enterprise.”

In five years, that interconnectivity will include the infrastructure, Element’s Clark said. Ford Motor Co. is working with onboard systems that read road signs and automatically adjust a vehicle’s speed, but that is just a lead-up to RFID sensors that beam speed restrictions to the vehicle’s system, she noted.

Related to broader connectivity, collaboration between and among the telematics providers, fleet management companies and OEMs will allow for quicker, more informed decision-making by fleet managers, according to ARI’s Candeloro. “Whether it’s reduced total cost of ownership, improvements in driver safety or enhanced operational efficiencies, fleet managers will see a true return on their investment regardless of the telematics solution they choose,” he said. “Fleet managers will also see opportunities to not just impact the bottom line by reducing costs, but actually see opportunities to help their businesses increase top-line revenues.”

About the Author: Jim Galligan has been covering the commercial truck transportation sector for more than 30 years and has extensive experience covering the utility fleet market. In addition to writing and editing for magazines, his background also includes writing for daily newspapers, trade associations and corporations.

*****

Factory-Installed Telematics: Good or Bad?
Experts predict that over the next few years, commercial fleets are going to see more OEMs and third-party suppliers in the telematics arena. But choose suppliers and platforms wisely, or you may end up with the telematics equivalent of the Tower of Babel.

“The line is starting to blur when it comes to companies that provide telematics services to fleet customers,” said Tony Candeloro, vice president of product development for ARI. “There are independent telematics companies, fleet management companies and, in some cases, OEMs that are all playing some role. In fact, it is not uncommon to have all three parties partnering together to provide the customer with a comprehensive solution. We are anticipating, however, that all of the various providers will eventually begin to develop the capability to offer and support a single-sourced solution. There are certain [OEMs] that have already integrated their entire telematics product offering.

“One particularly valuable role the OEMs will play in the future will be in streamlining the telematics device installation process,” Candeloro continued. “The more vehicles that can come off the line with a telematics device already installed, or line-fitted for a device, will drastically improve the supply chain overall.”

While that may make it easier for fleets to add onboard telematics systems, it presents a mixed blessing for utility fleets, said Ryan Driscoll, director of marketing for GPS Insight (www.gpsinsight.com).

“One of the biggest problems with OEM-installed [GPS] solutions is that they do not work for mixed fleets,” he said. “It is very unlikely for a business to have just one make of vehicle or all new vehicles throughout their entire fleet. So if you do have other vehicle types with varied ages, you will end up using multiple OEM solutions to track those vehicles. Using multiple GPS tracking platforms is complicated, expensive and will waste valuable time.

“It is also important to remember that GPS tracking solutions are not created equally, and it is certainly the case when discussing OEM solutions and third-party GPS-tracking software,” Driscoll continued. “OEM solutions are typically a one-size-fits-all solution with zero customizations available based on your business model. Software development is not a focus for vehicle manufacturers, so OEM solutions are typically very basic and [often] fall short of expectations.”

Driscoll recommends that fleets investing in GPS tracking to help solve business challenges ensure that they choose software that has the capability to do so.

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Data is Driving Utility Fleet Maintenance Decisions

Maintenance schedules based on “the way it’s always been done” are trending downward. Instead, more utility fleets are relying on the operational data they collect from onboard technologies to set maintenance intervals and equipment specs.

That’s the biggest trend today in fleet maintenance, according to Chris Shaffer, partner at Utilimarc (www.utilimarc.com), a Minneapolis-based consulting and benchmarking firm. “[Utility fleets] are using actual engine hours or miles to trigger service.”

That collected operational data also is driving changes in equipment specs with the goal of reducing maintenance costs and improving utilization, Shaffer added.

“There is pressure to rightsize the fleet, and to do that successfully [fleet managers] have to spec the vehicle to improve utilization. They’re trying to be leaner, meaner, and that means they have to better spec the vehicle,” he said.

Sherry Pinion, director of fleet services for Cobb EMC, an electric cooperative in Marietta, Ga., said that was the idea behind some of the changes the fleet made to its specs.

“We’re trying to do a better job designing the vehicle for the job use,” she said.

“In the past, all of our trucks’ bed configurations were different,” explained Chris Hardy, Cobb’s fleet services coordinator. “We are standardizing our bed configuration, material quantity, even the material location in an effort to improve inventory tracking, worker efficiency, safety and weight distribution on each chassis,” all to improve utilization and reduce maintenance costs.

Indianapolis Power & Light Co. (IP&L) has been using telematics from Telogis (www.telogis.com) for several years to improve truck specs and reduce the turnaround cycle on their trucks, said Les Gose, fleet maintenance manager.

“We’re trying to retire equipment before it becomes burdensome on our costs,” he said. Better spec’ing has meant reduced downtime and better utilization, which has enabled IP&L to reduce manpower by about 30 percent, Gose added.

Meeting Standards and Sharing Data
A current challenge facing utility fleets’ maintenance departments are the changes required to meet greenhouse gas emissions standards, said Charlie Guthro, vice president of North American fleet management for ARI (www.arifleet.com).

“As OEMs adapt and change their engines to meet new regulations, operators continue to struggle to keep their vehicles on the road,” he said. “It can be a combination of maintenance requirements or operator education and awareness. As engines become smarter and more fuel-efficient, they become more complicated with increased [onboard diagnostic] warning lights and readings that drivers and maintenance technicians need to diagnose to keep vehicles on the road.”

The upside to this and certain other maintenance-related challenges is that, more and more, fleet maintenance departments don’t have to face them all on their own. There is now a growing trend among utilities to share operational and maintenance data gathered from onboard vehicle technologies between the two departments.

“Sharing information between them is very resourceful,” said John Davis, fleet management consultant for Dossier Systems (www.dossiersystemsinc.com), a maintenance software provider headquartered in Burlington, N.J. “We’re seeing improved communications between the two because everyone is now looking at the same data. Having the [truck’s operational] information at their fingertips means better decisions, and that means saved money.”

Sharing that kind of data gives both the operations and maintenance departments a better understanding of how vehicle use affects maintenance, said Jeffrey Schneider, fleet manager for Louisville Gas and Electric Co. The company will be installing GPS and telematics systems in its fleet of more than 1,800 vehicles with the goal of reducing both operational and maintenance costs.

“We’re trying to bring maintenance and operational groups closer together to share more of the vehicle maintenance [data] with the operational side,” he said. “The addition of telematics will give our operational people a better idea of how the truck is used.”

About the Author: Jim Galligan has been covering the commercial truck transportation sector for more than 30 years and has extensive experience covering the utility fleet market. In addition to writing and editing for magazines, his background also includes writing for daily newspapers, trade associations and corporations.

*****

Maintenance Infographics

Source: Utilimarc

Maintenance-related wages and work among utility and municipal fleets have not varied much from 2011 to 2014, the latest data available, according to Utilimarc. Data is based on annual surveys of 55 to 60 companies with approximately 150,000 collective units.

The mechanic’s average straight wage increased a total of about 6.5 percent from 2011 to 2014. As shown, the average billed hours and outsourced work dropped slightly from 2013 to 2014.

A total of 32 percent of utility companies pay mechanics between $33.57 and $36.59 an hour, while 70 percent of municipalities pay mechanics less than $33.56 an hour, according to 2014 data, Utilimarc said.

It’s notable that the average days between preventive maintenance intervals jumped 41 percent in 2013. Many utility and municipal fleets were able to buy new equipment beginning in 2013 after several years of spending freezes, which might account for the extended intervals. Similarly, the average days between unscheduled maintenance also increased from 2011 to 2014, perhaps reflecting the influx of new equipment into the fleets.

-Jim Galligan

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Is a Telematics System Right for Your Utility Fleet?

The benefits of advanced telematics systems are widely known today. They can help fleets deploy resources more efficiently, increase the number of jobs completed each day, reduce costs and more. But even so, having an awareness of these benefits is often not enough to convince fleet managers that an investment in telematics is worthwhile. To discover if a fleet-wide system will truly deliver value, fleet professionals must first take the time to identify their business challenges, set criteria and pilot different systems.

To identify the business problems a telematics system could potentially solve, fleet professionals should study their fleet’s productivity, fuel and labor expenses, safety concerns and quality of customer service. The fact is that a number of utility fleets are unable to answer important questions about these operational areas that make a big impact on a utility’s bottom line. Gaining a better understanding of the primary challenges the fleet faces is the first step toward building a business case for a telematics system implementation.

Gathering Input is Key
After identifying challenges, setting criteria is the next step in the process. To ensure a telematics system meets the requirements for an entire organization, two things need to happen. First, fleet managers must consult with key stakeholders within the fleet department to build a wish list of all the features they want the system to have in a perfect-world scenario. In particular, a utility fleet will want to make sure the telematics system has the appropriate features and functionality to successfully address the organization’s business challenges. Second, fleet managers must also solicit input from stakeholders in other departments who will use or be affected by the use of the telematics software from the time of implementation. This will help to ensure that no functionality required by another department is overlooked when evaluating potential telematics providers.

Once all stakeholder input has been compiled, fleets should share this information with the telematics systems providers they are considering partnering with. And managers shouldn’t be afraid to hold back; sharing even seemingly outlandish ideas gives that provider the opportunity to make suggestions regarding how the system can be used to achieve the fleet’s goals. The provider may even be able to add custom functionality to its platform to meet needs.

Keep in mind that it is ideal for utility fleets to seek out a telematics provider that is available 24/7/365 to answer technical questions, offers educational resources to help customers get the most of their telematics system and provides a dedicated, proactive account management team. These team members can interact with fleet managers in person, over the phone or via video conferencing to discuss how to best use the telematics software, enabling fleets to realize the most significant return on investment (ROI).

It is also important to note that it can be a mistake to set a price point for a telematics system before figuring out what functionality is truly required to solve a fleet’s specific business challenges. All systems are not the same and do not offer the same functionality. Deciding to go with a telematics system just because it is the least expensive may result in a fleet missing out on key features necessary to make the investment in the technology worthwhile.

Test Before You Buy
There is nothing that will build more of a business case for telematics than cold, hard facts about how the technology will improve operations and even help generate revenue. By testing a telematics system before opting to implement it, fleets will have the opportunity to discover whether or not the software and service are the best fit for the company. Questions to ask during the pilot phase include:
• Is the system user-friendly and easy to navigate?
• Is customer service readily available when needed?
• Is the system’s functionality reliable and does it work as promised by the provider?

Without piloting a telematics system, utility fleets will have to rely on the claims of the provider, which may end up falling short of expectations. The only way to know for sure if the system will be an asset to a specific fleet is to test it out firsthand.

Perhaps the most important reason to pilot a telematics system is to gather the data needed to understand the type of savings and ROI to expect. Based on the metrics monitored throughout the pilot phase, fleet professionals will be able to collect useful information about how the software will reduce costs, improve driver behavior, increase efficiency and productivity, and more.

The results of each pilot and the quality of service the telematics companies provide should help narrow down the best provider with whom to partner, if any. This process should also give management the confidence that enough due diligence was done before deciding if a telematics system is right for their business.

About the Author: Jenny Malcolm is the content marketing specialist for GPS Insight (www.gpsinsight.com).

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The Art and Science of a Telematics Deployment

A growing number of utility fleets are turning to telematics to improve driver behavior, cut fuel consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and uncover numerous cost-saving opportunities throughout their fleet operations.

But it’s not the GPS data itself that makes telematics so useful; it’s how fleet and senior management use that information when managing their people and processes that ultimately determines the business case for the technology.

How can you use telematics to more effectively manage your drivers and their use of your equipment? How do you handle potential pushback from employees who might be wary of “being watched”? How can you integrate telematics with other technology systems to help your organization improve vehicle uptime, emergency dispatch response and overall service to customers?

The fleet team with utility contractor INTREN Inc. has wrestled with questions like these since deploying GPS technology in approximately 700 vehicles over the past five years. And they’ve come up with some innovative solutions and interesting insights that might help other fleets get the most out of their own telematics deployments.

Background
Started in 1988 as a small trenching company in Union, Ill., INTREN has grown into a full-service utility construction contractor with more than 1,000 employees and offices in Illinois, California, Wisconsin and Missouri. Today, the company serves major electric and gas utilities and private corporations nationwide.

As INTREN expanded, so did its equipment requirements. That’s what drove the company to look into GPS technology as a tool to more effectively manage the increasing number of drivers and equipment assets.

Jim Bishop, director of fleet services at INTREN, said that the company started a telematics trial with 50 units about five years ago, and then gradually rolled it out on additional vehicles to the point that today “we put it on every licensed piece of equipment and certain high-dollar off-road equipment.”

The company had clear goals that it wanted to achieve with the technology. “While we’ve viewed telematics as a tool to green our fleet [because of tracking capabilities that help reduce greenhouse gas emissions], a major factor in our decision to go with telematics was to drive down our operational costs like fuel expense,” said Pat Williams, INTREN’s senior director of supply chain.

Handling Pushback
Despite the value proposition for management, telematics initially was a cause for concern among INTREN’s drivers.

“When we initially rolled out GPS, our field personnel had significant concern with the idea of Big Brother watching them,” Bishop said.

In situations like this, when you’re encountering resistance on telematics deployment, how do you handle it in such a way that drivers don’t feel like the technology is being shoved down their throats?

“Include drivers in the process by getting their input and feedback,” Williams advised.

How?

Take idle reduction, for example. It’s nothing new that telematics can help fleets monitor excessive engine idle with real-time alerts and reports, acting as a tool to hold drivers accountable for cutting down their engine idle time and eliminating fuel waste. But if drivers perceive that the technology is there strictly to catch them doing something wrong, this could have a negative impact on their morale and productivity.

INTREN’s fleet team was sensitive to this risk and decided to take a more collaborative approach with drivers.

“We wanted drivers to know that telematics isn’t just Big Brother watching,” Bishop said. “So when we focused on idle reduction, we sought feedback from the field as to specifically why they were needing to idle. Some of the feedback we got was that their trucks needed to be running because of the power drawn from their four-way flashers, strobes or the power inverters inside the vehicle.”

Instead of coming up with a directive of, “Hey, you’ve got to change your habits to bring down your idle time or you’ll be penalized,” the fleet team looked at potential equipment spec modifications that could address management’s objective to reduce fuel costs, while also considering the drivers’ concerns.

“We took their feedback, ran some tests, found out what the average draw was and realized that, in some cases, an incandescent bulb could run the vehicle batteries down quickly,” Bishop said. “So we switched over to LED stoplights, turn signals and strobe lights. Now, even on a 15-degree day you can run that equipment for six hours, and the truck doesn’t need to be running.”

According to Williams, “You can use the telematics to spot a problem. But then you need to get to the cause. And in many cases, the best way to get that information is to talk with your people and find a solution that satisfies concerns across the board.”

Increased Visibility and Productivity
With GPS technology, fleet managers can get real-time and historical data on the status and location of their vehicles. That’s a nice feature, but what does it mean in terms of real-world impact on your business?

“For our road service technicians, location data eliminates a lot of phone calls and helps speed their response,” Williams said. “When we alert the tech that a truck is broken down, we don’t have to give them an address. They just type in the unit number on their mobile device, find the truck location on the GPS and get directions to get there.”

It also helps with mobilizing and coordinating storm response teams.

“We may send up to 200 people out on storm response,” Williams said. “Without telematics, you can’t really see what’s going on with all those units, where they are, whether any of them are having any mechanical issues and so forth. Now, we can immediately see what assets we have available, where they are and can more efficiently coordinate them.”

Real-time location data also facilitates safety audits in a way that minimizes impact on staff productivity.

“Our crews are all over metro Chicago, San Francisco and other areas across the country. GPS helps us to supervise and audit our crews more efficiently,” Williams said. “If you’re trying to track down a four-man crew, a phone call is a difficult way to find those guys. For example, the safety department is not directly supervising the crews, but they are responsible to go find and audit them. With GPS location data, they can locate the crews without phone calls – just find them on GPS.”

The Next Level: Mobile Fleet Technology
While these benefits offer a compelling business case for GPS technology, what if you could take the power of telematics to a higher level: to maximize its impact – and value – throughout the organization? That’s what Williams said INTREN is doing with a proprietary system the company has dubbed “Mobile Fleet Technology,” or MFT.

With MFT, INTREN is integrating telematics data with the company’s in-house back office and vehicle maintenance software systems to help the fleet department more efficiently manage maintenance schedules, accelerate repair times and boost overall vehicle uptime and productivity.

“MFT is what we’re using with our technicians to record all of our repair services, so we can measure our costs better and really try to improve our speed of repair,” Bishop said. “How fast can we, as an organization, respond to a piece of equipment that is down? This helps us improve our utilization rates because we’re reducing the number of spares we need to keep in our fleet.”

“We’re also using the system as a repair and maintenance scheduling tool,” Williams said. “How should you go about scheduling your preventive maintenance, your road repairs, your in-shop repairs, third-party repairs? How do you manage all those repair schedules [for nearly 1,400 pieces of equipment] in a way that operations will optimize uptime on the equipment? That’s what MFT is intended to do.”

The Bottom Line
The key takeaway from INTREN’s experience with rolling out GPS technology itself is only half the equation. The other half is the human element. Fleet managers must be able to work through and with people to build acceptance of telematics and be able to think analytically about how the data can be integrated with other systems in ways that contribute maximum value for the fleet and the business as a whole.

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Backup Cameras are Getting Smarter

According to the National Safety Council, the average medium-sized truck has a blind spot that extends up to 160 feet behind the vehicle. So you can imagine that for larger utility trucks that sit higher off the ground, with wider bodies, it’s even more difficult for drivers to see pedestrians, other vehicles and property when backing a vehicle.

That’s why a growing number of utility fleets are installing backup cameras on their vehicles: to enhance rear visibility and to reduce incidents – and the expense – of backing crashes.

But a new breed of vehicle camera systems is taking visibility to the next level.

Imagine a backup camera that’s also equipped with a motion sensor that automatically turns on the camera, records footage and alerts the fleet manager in real time when someone is attempting to steal equipment or tools from the truck. What if the video data captured by that same camera could also be combined with GPS telematics data to help exonerate drivers and the company from false claims?

This combination of advanced camera technology, digital video recorders and telematics is the promise of a new product that Newport Beach, Calif.-based Convoy Technologies (www.convoytechnologies.com) has aptly trademarked as Videomatics.

In a nutshell, Videomatics integrates driver behavior software and telematics (GPS and routing) with live and recorded video from around and inside a vehicle, so that drivers and management can see everything with video that’s accessible via PC, tablet or smartphone. That way, fleets can be better equipped to eliminate backing incidents, improve overall driver behavior and generate high-quality video evidence for the purpose of proving fault.

Video data is stored locally on an external hard drive and can also be accessed remotely from the cloud. The local hard drive offers storage capacities up to 2 terabytes, which translates to about 45 days of data.

“What we’re seeing in the market is that backup cameras are becoming a standard, a commodity. Now the big question is, how do we turn vehicle camera technology into a tool for overall risk mitigation?” said Blake Gasca, Convoy Technologies’ founder and chief executive officer. “That’s what has led us to building motion detection sensors into our cameras and making sure the camera system can integrate with a monitor and external device to either broadcast video to the cloud or store it locally on the vehicle.”

Videomatics tracks and records events such as speeding, G-shock (impact and vibration), GPS coordinates, geofencing, route deviation, mapping and positioning of an entire fleet. Fleet managers can select whether they want continuous, event-driven or scheduled video recording.

How exactly does crash data recording get triggered?

“It can happen with a hard brake or hard stop or some sort of G-force event,” Gasca explained. “Video is stored 20 seconds before the event and 10 seconds after, so you have visibility into what happened before, during and after the event.”

While Videomatics can connect up to eight cameras per vehicle, the company said the typical configuration deploys three to four cameras.

How much does the system cost?

Videomatics’ monthly subscription pricing is based on a customer’s specific system requirements, starting at $59 per system. The company said hardware cost ranges from $300 to $1,700, plus installation, depending on the number of cameras.

Videomatics is available through participating truck equipment manufacturers and upfitters or directly through Convoy Technologies at www.convoytechnologies.com.

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Selling Safety to Utility Fleet Drivers

Despite the ubiquity of technology in almost everyone’s world today, drivers may resent the introduction of a GPS or telematics system by company management if they feel the technology is going to be used to spy on them. But explaining that these systems can improve safety, enhance driving skills and even reduce paperwork can go a long way to getting driver buy-in, said several fleet managers and industry executives.

Pacific Gas and Electric already had a fleet management system in place, but the company decided to look to technology as a way of improving driver safety and performance. In particular, they wanted to test telematics systems that fed performance data back to operations. Before doing that, however, fleet representatives first met with the union drivers and explained that the systems were being designed to improve their driving, not to discipline them.

“Drivers are always concerned about Big Brother and being disciplined for their behavior,” said David Meisel, senior director of transportation and aviation services for the San Francisco-based utility. “We explained that this is for their safety, to improve their driving so they can be safer drivers.”

The utility giant tested three systems that featured an in-cab coach, either a tone or voice that alerted the drivers when they exceeded some preset parameter. The test was a success, Meisel said. Drivers cut their speeding by 90 percent and their unsafe actions by 80 percent. As a result, the company is rolling out the system to 1,000 more units.

“Folks took it for what it was: a way to improve safety. It’s hard to say becoming a safer driver is a bad idea,” Meisel said.

Union drivers at Tanner Electric Cooperative in North Bend, Wash., were wary that a system from GPS Insight would be used to spy on them, but again, safety was a big selling point, said Jim Anderson, manager of operations and engineering. The co-op has remote locations, including one crew on an island in Puget Sound, and the ability to quickly locate units in emergencies is crucial.

“Once it was explained like that, they accepted it. And they’re doing very well with it,” Anderson said.

Keep Drivers Involved
It’s important to keep drivers updated about their performance and reward good driving behavior, said Frank Cottone, group manager of support services at Pepco in Washington, D.C. In 2013, the company started a program to cut vehicle idling using data collected from their Telogis onboard system. Cottone said Pepco shares the results – positive or negative – each month so that drivers can see where they stand compared with other drivers. Cottone credits the program for reducing unnecessary idling by 19 percent.

“Although some drivers still had privacy concerns, we diminished those concerns with constant communications about the program and by keeping our employees safe,” Cottone said.

Today’s technologies can benefit drivers through better communication, reduced paperwork and a more accurate accounting of their day, noted Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for Scottsdale, Ariz.-based GPS Insight. Even something as simple as knowing which vehicle is closest to the next job helps the driver.

“It means smarter allocation of the driver’s work,” he said.

The pervasiveness of tablets, smartphones and onboard technologies is connecting the worker with the employer and the employer’s mission, and that can make drivers more accepting of change, said Tim Taylor, chief success officer for Telogis.

“Excellent companies have something dynamic in their culture, a vibrant culture that they share with the workers,” he said. “These systems can connect the worker with this culture. It spreads accountability and responsibility [and] connects the workers with the mission of the company.”

About the Author: Jim Galligan has been covering the commercial truck transportation sector for more than 30 years and has extensive experience covering the utility fleet market. In addition to writing and editing for magazines, his background also includes writing for daily newspapers, trade associations and corporations.

*****

Sidebar: Survey Says
The use of GPS and/or telematics systems is helping fleets cut costs, improve operations and increase productivity, according to a study by management and research firm ARI.

By far, most fleets – 92 percent – report they are using the data from these systems to monitor speeding, ARI reported in its 2014 Utility Fleet Benchmark Study. The next two most common uses for these technologies are to monitor vehicle utilization (77 percent of the responding fleets) and for dispatching (69 percent). Fleets also are using the systems to plan routes and capture odometer readings (46 percent each), capture engine hours (39 percent), monitor hard braking and diagnose engines (31 percent each) and monitor hard cornering (15 percent).

With these technologies, 77 percent of fleets said they reduced vehicle idle time and 69 percent said they saw improved driver behavior. Other gains included decreased transit times, increased driver productivity and increased vehicle utilization (31 percent each), improved preventive maintenance interval accuracy (23 percent) and reduced accident rates (15 percent).

Bigfoot

19 Exciting Utility Fleet Products and Services for 2015

Product: Ultra Pad Safety Edge
Company: Bigfoot Construction Equipment
Web: www.outriggerpads.com

Bigfoot Construction Equipment offers the all-new Ultra Pad Safety Edge, which helps to prevent the outrigger from slipping off the outrigger pad. Call 888-743-7320 for more information.

 

JJ Kane 1

Product: Auction Services
Company: J.J. Kane Auctioneers
Web: www.jjkane.com/construction-utility-equipment-cars-trucks

J.J. Kane Auctioneers is a nationwide auction company that conducts 40-plus absolute public auction sales each year. They make it easy, connecting sellers and buyers both face to face on-site and live online, with Internet bidding. Sellers include electric cooperatives, utilities, manufacturers, contractors, lending institutions, governments, rental companies and more. J.J. Kane specializes in utility, power-line, underground and construction equipment, and fleet vehicles. In addition to physical auction sales, the company offers its Live Off-Site service, enabling sellers to participate with equipment from remote locations. Live Off-Site allows sellers to be a part of the excitement created by a live physical auction sale, when transportation costs or logistics are a factor. J.J. Kane can provide a turnkey solution, handling every aspect of the sale process.

 

Al Asher

Product: TSE Cable Scrapper
Company: Al Asher and Sons Inc.
Web: www.alasher.com

The TSE Cable Scrapper is Al Asher and Sons’ latest product innovation for 2015. Formerly known as OK Champion, the industry has long recognized the Cable Scrapper as the go-to product for salvaging underground cable up to 4-inch diameter. The machine will pull, cut and load cable all day long in one continuous operation, saving countless man-hours and extra equipment. Now you can purchase the TSE Cable Scrapper with remote radio controls for the bed winch, which will digitally and effortlessly record pulling torque and speed. Enhanced hydraulic circuitry improvements also are available to promote longevity and reduce heat and wear in the system. Asher stocks units for sale or rental throughout the USA.

 

International Truck

Product: International WorkStar Truck
Company: Navistar/International Truck
Web: www.internationaltrucks.com
The International WorkStar is one of the most durable and versatile trucks in the utility industry, built on the same battle-tested truck platform as the International MaxxPro MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) armored vehicle. It brings the strength and rugged capabilities to work power lines in any environment, with the smarts of Diamond Logic to operate efficiently and keep your team safe. Ease of Diamond Logic integration with utility equipment means that features such as boom operation alerts, remote engine controls and remote battery shutoffs are all factory-built options. The 2016 WorkStar is also offered with the industry-leading Cummins ISB6.7, a recognized platform that delivers renowned efficiency, reliability and performance.

 

Golight

Product: LED Stryker
Company: Golight Inc.
Web: www.golight.com

The new LED Stryker from Golight offers tremendous intensity and clarity with minimal strain on the vehicle’s electrical system. The LED upgrade boasts a 50 percent increase in intensity compared to its halogen counterpart. By utilizing P-Vex lens technology coupled with the cutting-edge LEDs, the LED Stryker is able to generate a peak beam intensity of 320,000 candela. Additionally, the hot spot – the most intense portion of the beam – comprises nearly 70 percent of the beam circumference, three times that of a comparable halogen unit.

The LED technology utilized in the new Stryker model generates nearly four times as many lumens per watt as a traditional halogen light source. Such efficiency means that the LED Stryker delivers more light while reducing the amp draw by half. Plus, the LEDs are incredibly durable with a rated useful life of 50,000 hours.

 

MUD TRAKS

Product: Rigid Access Mat
Company: MUD-TRAKS
Web: www.mud-traks.com

MUD-TRAKS’ strongest, most rigid access mat – designed to move heavy vehicles over wetland-like ground conditions – is light enough for men to handle in the field. It is made from solid fiberglass with an internal grid structure that channels tire load over an area more than 15 times larger than a comparable-sized poly mat. It is rigid enough to bridge a 20-inch span while supporting 10,000 pounds of tire load.

This innovation comes in three distinctive model strengths: Lawn Mat for vehicles up to 35,000 pounds, Off-Road Super Lite Mat for vehicles up to 60,000 pounds and Off-Road Super Mat for vehicles that weigh 100,000-plus pounds.

The mat’s advantages include strength, longevity, ease of handling and safety. It has numerous applications in the utility and heavy construction industries; is not affected by chemicals, temperature or water; and does not conduct electricity.

 

ShermanReilly

Product: Revolution Series Stringing Equipment
Company: Sherman+Reilly
Web: www.sherman-reilly.com

Sherman+Reilly designed its Revolution Series equipment around operator safety, ergonomics and environmental comfort. With a 14,000-pound pulling capacity, the Revolution Series P-1400X Single Drum Puller is a transmission-class drum puller with a first-of-a-kind drum engagement system utilizing lateral sliding sides and drum support rollers for simplified pulling and reconductoring operations. The P-2000X Bullwheel Puller offers a new design that provides a smooth 20,000 pounds of control for the steel hard line with the use of its twin hydraulically driven bullwheels. Both machines utilize automatic horizontal levelwinds that permit overhead rope retrieval with precision control.

The Safe-Zone Cab is an important feature of these pullers. The cab employs a floor-to-ceiling polycarbonate front window for maximum visibility while providing superior protection against impact.

 

Altec

Product: AT40GW Aerial Device
Company: Altec
Web: www.altec.com/products/aerials/telescopic-articulating/at40gw

Altec’s AT40GW track-driven aerial device has a 43-foot working height and 30-foot side reach to provide versatility in small or congested job sites. The telescopic/articulating boom design offers access to the platform from the ground. A 34-inch retractable track allows the device to easily maneuver in and out of gates and other narrow passageways by reducing the width of the machine. The unit comes standard with a walk-behind remote control for easy operation. A 180-degree platform rotator provides more flexibility in confined spaces to give the operator the best possible vantage point. For convenient transport, the 1,000-pound cargo deck accommodates transformers, tools and other components.

The AT40GW is available with an ISO-Boom, which allows the unit’s second stage to be fully retracted while maintaining dielectric integrity and meeting OSHA guidelines for minimum approach distance. With a Category C isolating fiberglass boom, the operator can work safely regardless of the upper boom extension.

 

Polaris

Product: RANGER ETX
Company: Polaris
Web: www.polaris.com/en-us/commercial/fleet-sales

The new RANGER ETX is an on-demand four-wheel-drive vehicle featuring a 31-horsepower, electronic fuel-injected (EFI) ProStar engine with an internal counter-balance shaft for smooth, low-vibration power. The dual overhead camshafts and a four-valve cylinder head work with the advanced engine management system to precisely deliver the fuel charge for impressive power and instant, predictable throttle response, while the lightweight, efficient transmission captures every ounce of power to deliver it to the ground. Like all ProStar engines, the design reduces internal friction, which dramatically reduces noise and significantly increases efficiency. The addition of EFI on this entry-level model assures easy starting, improved run quality and elevation compensation to ensure reliability normally found on higher-priced models.

 

Versalift

Product: Aerial Lifts
Company: VERSALIFT/Time Manufacturing
Web: www.versalift.com

With more than 50 years of innovation, exceptional quality and hard work, VERSALIFT’s legacy of success has been marked by talented employees, notable clients and innovators. The company – a global leader in aerial lifts – continues to adapt to changing markets in an ever-changing world, with a clear commitment to quality though unequaled innovative design and manufacturing.

Time Manufacturing strives to build the safest, most efficient and hardest-working machines to get the job done. Its product line has grown to encompass models for every market. With more than 300,000 square feet under one roof, its manufacturing facilities comprise one of the premier factories of its kind in the world. Through vertical integration, Time monitors and maintains the quality of all products from the initial purchase of steel all the way through final testing. Whether it be a 29-foot man lift or a 108-foot material handler, there is a VERSALIFT to get the job done.

 

Bronto Skylift

Product: S 150 XDT Aerial Work Platform
Company: Bronto Skylift
Web: www.bronto.fi

Bronto Skylift’s S 150 XDT truck-mounted telescopic aerial work platform is especially well suited for the rental market. It’s a lighter-weight, compact aerial that is road-legal in all states, so it can be driven to almost any work site, quickly set up and elevated to overhead areas in a matter of minutes. Mounted on a CAT chassis, it features a 152-foot overhead working height and a telescopic, articulating platform boom that provides 100 feet of horizontal outreach for increased up-and-over capabilities. With 360 degrees of continuous turntable rotation and a 1,400-pound platform capacity, workers are able to carry tools and equipment to access almost any elevated work site.

 

Kenworth

Product: T370 Medium-Duty Conventional Model
Company: Kenworth
Web: www.kenworth.com

Kenworth Truck Co. is expanding its axle offering for its T370 medium-duty conventional model, adding 18,000-pound and 20,000-pound front axles this spring. The new offering will enable the truck to serve more construction, utility, fuel and tanker applications. The T370 is built to deliver exceptional value over the long haul, and these new options will expand an ever-growing vocational use of the truck.

 

Kiefer

Product: Hydraulic Beavertail
Company: Kiefer Manufacturing
Web: www.kiefermfg.com

Kiefer Manufacturing offers a heavy-duty steel, self-cleaning hydraulic beavertail on most of its industrial flatbed trailer line models. The hydraulic beavertail option takes away the need to lift heavy ramps. Fingertip operation of the hydraulic ramps is done through a key fob, or with a lever that is permanently mounted inside a conveniently located storage box.

The newly designed hydraulic beavertail has an 8,000-pound lifting capacity. The wiring system is housed inside a 10-mil polyester sleeve for durability and longevity.

 

ARI

Product: Garage Management System
Company: ARI
Web: www.arifleet.com/services/in-house_garage_maintenance/

ARI’s Garage Management System (GMS) provides fleets the ideal balance between in-house control and outsourcing convenience by helping to manage technicians, vehicle maintenance and parts inventory while simultaneously consolidating all vendor-in/vendor-out data. From mechanics’ hours to automatic routing of repair approvals and comprehensive repair history, GMS manages it all, and it can even feed data to integrated payroll or ERP systems.

The GMS module integrates all maintenance-related data in one place, allowing fleet managers to track, analyze and manage fleet activity to achieve the lowest possible total cost of ownership. By using GMS as part of a multifaceted maintenance program, fleets will experience cost savings through a more efficient repair process while also making it easy to increase patronage of external shops, balancing vendor mix.

 

Terex

Product: Cobra-Style Jib
Company: Terex
Web: www.terex.com

Available on all 24-inch-by-48-inch platforms, the Terex cobra-style jib is engineered with hydraulic articulation and extend, enabling operators to achieve a greater range of motion and increased productivity. It boasts a low, 16-inch profile, as well as a 600-pound platform capacity and 1,000-pound maximum lift capacity, which can be realized with the work line extended farther from the basket shaft than other jibs allow. Operators can easily rotate the cobra-style jib thanks to an additional bearing at the bottom of the jib. This rotation offers lineworkers more versatility at the pole, enabling them to easily line up with work as needed.

This jib also incorporates a poppet valve feature, which helps enhance safe work practices because it prevents the unit from damaging itself during operation.

The Terex cobra-style jib quickly retracts and conveniently stows out of the way. With the jib in the stowed position, the truck’s boom can still utilize its full range of motion, down to -40 degrees.

 

Hino

Product: Hino 338
Company: Hino Trucks
Web: www.hino.com/trucks/story_1212.php

Reliability is the key to success behind the Hino 338 model. This Class 7, 33,000-pound GVW model is equipped with the award-winning Hino J08 series engine rated at 260 horsepower and 660 pound-feet of torque. It also features a standard six-speed fully automatic 2500RDS with Shift Energy Management transmission from Allison Transmission, while 3000RDS and 3500RDS options are also available.

The Hino 338’s available 120,000-psi frame is strong and rigid enough for the high torque loads utility bodies demand. An available 14,000-pound front axle also adds to the durability that customers have come to know from Hino. All Hino Class 6 and 7 models offer a clean cab-to-axle, making the body upfit much easier and also allowing for more equipment in the rear of the vehicle.

 

GPS Insight

Product: GPS Dispatch and Custom Forms Applications
Company: GPS Insight
Web: www.gpsinsight.com

GPS Insight’s new capability to send optimized routes to drivers’ smart devices is the latest effort to simplify dispatching. You can now dispatch stops and/or routes via email or text message to each driver on a daily basis. For those customers who want to forgo Garmin integration, but need a better way to dispatch drivers, they can still do so. Also, drivers can now leverage directions used by the mapping apps on the smart device and do not need to be logged into another telematics app to be dispatched.

Garmin electronic custom forms were just added to the GPS Insight platform to improve the way businesses manage their mobile workforce from the field without all the paperwork. The forms are filled out on a Garmin and sent over the air to the back office for real-time data analysis. Utilities can use this function to expedite billing, improve productivity, track different types of completed services, perform job costing analysis and more.

 

PriorityStart

Product: PriorityStart HD
Company: BLI International
Web: www.prioritystart.com

PriorityStart HD is a totally automatic battery protection system that disconnects at 11.7 volts – stopping a dead battery – and then reconnects with a simple load change. The HD unit handles heavier loads, 60 percent increase to 1,600 starting amps and 400 continuous amps. The increase to the contact disc, gears and holding nut has strengthened the load capability and reduced the stress from heavier loads. Other improvements include increased points of connection, brighter top LED for easy viewing, motor/gear shielding strengthening operation and modified top post that easily accepts side-mount installation.

 

Mattracks

Product: YS3 and TA9000 Tracks Series
Company: Mattracks
Web: www.mattracks.com

Mattracks has introduced its new series of TA9000 tracks. The products expand Mattracks’ current Track-tor-Assist lineup of conversion systems for the agriculture market, commercial market, and extremely large machinery and equipment with axle loads from 10 to 20 tons. Track widths in the TA9000 series are 15 inches, 20 inches, 24 inches and 30 inches.

The YS3 track has been designed to expel snow and ice with minimal ice buildup, and the heavier framework has been designed for increased load-carrying capacity. The offset road wheels reduce vibration and noise, and increase efficiency, fuel economy and track tread life.

Hawaii-Electric-1-Web

Reducing Costs

While independent electric grids power each of the Hawaiian Islands, servicing all of those grids is the responsibility of the Hawaiian Electric Co., which serves 95 percent of the state’s 1.4 million residents. Hawaiian Electric’s subsidiary Hawai‘i Electric Light serves more than 80,000 customers on Hawai‘i Island, the chain’s biggest island at more than 4,000 square miles.

The challenges that Hawai‘i Electric Light face are unique, said Kelvin Kohatsu, fleet administrator. “Our terrain ranges from tropical growth on the east side, to desert-like conditions on the west side, to freezing temperatures atop Mauna Kea mountain,” he said. “To serve the people who live and work in that vast and diverse terrain, we have a distribution system comprised of more than 3,300 miles of overhead distribution lines, more than 780 miles of underground distribution lines and 641 miles of overhead transmission lines.

“We operate a wide range of more than 300 vehicles and pieces of equipment,” Kohatsu said. “Due to our location, we focus very closely on uptime and product support, along with traditional metrics like life-cycle costs, and on safety and ergonomics. Every week, we generate a report on uptime percentage, costs for fuel, tires, repairs, maintenance and inspections, and damage and accident costs. With this information, we can determine the best equipment to purchase for longevity, not to mention operator acceptance and safety.”

Employee Safety
The large service area, diverse terrain, and variable weather make maintaining infrastructure and reliability a challenge, but safety is Hawai‘i Electric Light’s top priority. Drivers log 1.7 million miles on the road annually. Crews can work in distant, remote areas, and some employees work alone.

Proven Support
The equipment and vehicles used by Hawai‘i Electric Light have the best product support in Hawai‘i, which keeps the fleet’s uptime consistently between 96 and 98 percent, according to Kohatsu. Major suppliers include Kenworth for Class 7 T370 and Class 8 T800 trucks, Dodge for Class 3 and 5 trucks equipped with service bodies, and Altec aerial devices and digger derricks. Also in the fleet are a mix of Nissan, Toyota, Dodge and Ford sedans, pickups, vans and SUVs, along with trailers, forklifts, golf carts, sweepers and stationary equipment.

All diesel-fueled vehicles at Hawai‘i Electric Light run on biodiesel; nearly all use B20 with the rest on B100. The fleet also includes light hybrid vehicles, electric-powered Nissan LEAFs, plug-in hybrid electric Toyota Priuses and a Class 7 Kenworth T370 diesel-electric hybrid truck, the first of its kind in the state. Spec’d as well are Altec JEMS 48 AT37G aerial units.

“We’ve standardized in many cases to enhance the ability to maintain equipment and streamline product support,” Kohatsu said. “While we’ve ascertained that the systems we have in place work very well for us, we continue to evaluate new systems and components and ask other fleets about their experiences.

“At the vehicle and equipment level, we’ve been fortunate that manufacturers have involved us in some of their product development and in the testing and evaluation stages before production release,” Kohatsu said. “For example, we added a new Altec HiLine AH151 Model aerial on a Kenworth T800, along with a digger derrick with a rear-mounted spool handler that can be driven loaded.”

Key Focus
Fuel economy is key to improving the efficiency of the Hawai‘i Electric Light fleet. “After installing a telematics system in 2008, we reduced our diesel fuel consumption by more than 22,000 gallons in the first six months compared to the same time period one year earlier,” Kohatsu said. “We were essentially traveling the same number of miles, but we were seeing a huge reduction in fuel use from better routing and less idling.”

By 2009, telematics systems were installed on all trucks in the fleet. In 2012, the company switched to Zonar’s telematics system and also began using its electronic vehicle inspection reporting (EVIR) application. “After the Zonar telematics equipment was installed, we realized a further reduction in diesel fuel consumption of about 18,000 gallons,” Kohatsu said. “Combined with the 22,000-gallon reduction from 2008 to 2009, fuel savings totaled more than 40,000 gallons even though the fleet’s annual mileage stayed constant at about 1.7 million miles annually.”

Telematics also is helping Hawai‘i Electric Light improve safety. “With telematics, we can better monitor equipment – a feature that is critical for the safety of employees who work alone in remote locations,” Kohatsu said. “Telematics also results in safer driving practices because it gives us a much higher degree of transparency in our fleet operations.

“We can now monitor behaviors and correct those that are costly,” Kohatsu said. “For example, drivers aren’t driving as fast, and when they stop at company offices or job sites, they turn off the engine instead of leaving it idling. It’s clear to me that telematics strongly influences driver behavior. You can’t hold drivers accountable and change their behaviors without an objective way to measure their performance.”

Effective Tool
Zonar’s EVIR system has also proven to be an effective tool for Hawai‘i Electric Light’s maintenance operation.

Kohatsu believes drivers must complete pre- and post-inspection reports fully and consistently to effectively limit downtime and keep costs low. “Zonar’s EVIR holds drivers accountable since it tracks when they did their inspections and how long it took them,” he said.

Using Zonar’s EVIR inspection tool, Hawai‘i Electric Light’s drivers conduct inspections by placing a reader within inches of radio-frequency identification tags that are placed on equipment in critical inspection zones. The tags contain information about their location on the unit, the components to be inspected, and the identity of the vehicle or piece of equipment.

Using the reader, drivers indicate the condition of the components within each zone. When a defect is discovered, the driver selects a description from a predefined list and indicates whether the equipment is safe to operate. When the inspection is complete, drivers place the hand-held unit into the EVIR mount inside the cab. Zonar’s telematics platform then wirelessly transmits inspection data and remote diagnostic information to a Web-based ground traffic control data management application.

Ensuring Compliance
At Hawai‘i Electric Light, the Zonar data is integrated into FleetFocus, a maintenance management system supplied by AssetWorks. This integration generates service requests automatically and transmits them by email through the FleetFocus portal to Hawai‘i Electric Light’s maintenance vendors, Kohatsu said. Once repairs are performed and marked complete in FleetFocus, they are automatically uploaded to the Web-based management application, indicating to dispatchers that the vehicle is in full compliance for operation and can return to service.

“The integration of Zonar and AssetWorks has made the generation of work orders resulting from driver-identified defects or vehicle sensors seamless,” Kohatsu said. “As a result, along with effective specifications, our uptime has increased and our life-cycle costs have dropped. Most important, we have a safer fleet operation.”

Hawai‘i Electric Light Class 7 and 8 Truck Specifications
Models: Kenworth T370 and T800
Engine: PACCAR
Transmissions: Allison; Eaton UltraShift PLUS
Front Axle: Dana Spicer
Power Steering: TRW
Rear Axle and Suspension: Dana Spicer; Reyco; Chalmers
Brakes: Bendix air disc
Wheels: Alcoa aluminum; Accuride steel
Tires: Michelin

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 29 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.

Dolce-1-Web

Driving Toward Discounts: How Telematics is Reshaping the Auto Insurance Marketplace

Here’s a pop quiz for you: Driver A is a 17-year-old single male who conservatively drives his car a total of 12 miles a week to and from his high school. Driver B is a 52-year-old married female who aggressively drives her car 500 miles a week to and from her late night/early morning job at a restaurant. Both have perfect safety records and no traffic violations. Who is likely to have the more expensive vehicle insurance premium?

With a traditional insurance plan, Driver A would more than likely have the higher premium. This is based on the fact that the risk data that insurance companies use to calculate premium rates indicates that young, inexperienced, single male drivers are more likely to get into accidents.

However, the reality is that Driver B is the higher-risk driver. She drives during the most dangerous hours of the day. She’s an aggressive driver. And she drives a considerable number of miles.

This is where usage-based insurance plans – also referred to as pay-as-you-go plans – come into play. By installing telematics devices in vehicles to gather more accurate risk data, insurance companies are now setting personalized rates based on individual driver activities, behaviors and actions. They look at a number of risk indicators, including:
• How often a driver slams on the brakes.
• How many miles a driver drives.
• The time of day a driver drives.
• How often a driver speeds or drives aggressively.
• Whether or not a driver uses a phone while driving.
• How long a driver drives without taking breaks.

Telematics insurance products have been available in the U.S. for a number of years, and their future popularity is projected to skyrocket. According to a study by ABI Research, telematics insurance will see a massive boost in popularity – growing from 5.5 million subscribers at the end 2013 to approximately 107 million subscribers in 2018.

With constant advances in technology added to vehicles at both the OEM and aftermarket levels, it is safe to say that usage-based plans may soon become the insurance industry standard.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses. He can be contacted at [email protected]

Fleet Telematics: Technology on the Move

When it comes to onboard vehicle technologies, it is easy to forget how far we’ve come in such a short period of time. We’ve advanced from rudimentary tachographs and not-always-reliable engine control modules to globally connected, high-tech telematics that provide real-time data and automated maintenance solutions.

Before the telematics boom, many of us looked to those little black boxes installed in vehicles that monitored oil, coolant and fuel levels, engine temperatures and pressures, fan usage and exhaust emissions.

As that monitored data changed, the black box would automatically adjust and optimize engine performance to maximize performance efficiencies. Should the engine experience a performance problem, the data would be stored to a central fleet user function and the little black box would alert the driver to the mechanical issue. The device would also put the engine in “limp-in mode” to help reduce added mechanical failure while at the same time giving the driver the ability to get the vehicle to a location to be serviced without exacerbating the failure.

However, as any fleet manager who used those pre-telematics technologies would likely tell you, the technology was far from refined and had its fair share of bugs. Issues with consistency and reliability were common, which made it even more difficult to justify the technology costs. It would take several years for the technology to advance enough to provide more reliable and comprehensive fleet management solutions that fully mitigate the expense.

When the federal government opened up GPS satellites to civilian use in the mid-1990s, we saw real, meaningful growth in telematics technologies.

By the mid-2000s, telematics technologies had grown to feature theft-deterring automatic shutdowns, remote fuel usage monitoring and vehicle operation tracking – all providing cost- and risk-reducing solutions that helped fleet managers project fuel costs, schedule OEM maintenance, and decrease insurance and vehicle replacement costs. Yet, even with those advancements, telematics systems were still hindered by a lack of available vehicle data and fast, reliable mobile data delivery.

Modern Technology
Today’s telematics are now more akin to the technology found in modern aircraft. OEMs have begun building in more advanced vehicle performance tracking ability by adding new hardware and more direct-wired sensors to vehicles. Additionally, high-speed mobile data technology has become a dependable and affordable solution.

Now, telematics systems can provide global access to real-time vehicle location and activity data, automated logging, mobile workforce tools, camera integration and more. With ongoing real-time engine performance monitoring, maintenance planning can shift from the utilization of vehicle usage milestones to condition-based maintenance.

And should urgent repairs be needed, telematics can improve the efficiency of the process. By automatically alerting your maintenance team or local dealership about the required repair before the vehicle arrives, a bay can be open and waiting with the necessary maintenance crew members and parts when the vehicle pulls in to the lot.

The value of telematics extends to fieldwork performance as well. Lifts and digger derricks depend on properly inflated tires as an integral part of their stability systems. With tire pressure-sensing technologies, workers can quickly assess whether or not tire air pressure is at safe levels, and then correct any issues prior to beginning work. Furthermore, dispatch has more data to work from to reduce fuel costs and maximize productivity.

Telematics Implementation Tips
Telematics has provided the ability to support safe work methods, lower maintenance costs and extend vehicle life cycles. However, it is vital that any fleet management professional approach a new telematics implementation with a thorough understanding of how to maximize its value and offset its impact on the bottom line. Following are five tips to help ensure your telematics implementation is successful.

1. Build extended warranties into the management process.
Implementing a new technology into a business process requires patience and an understanding that wrinkles may need to be ironed out along the way. To account for this, make sure you build sufficient warranty periods into the purchase.

2. Track value with a cost-benefit analysis.
Telematics systems costs have decreased over the years. For instance, a device that used to run $7,000 per vehicle may now be available for less than $1,000. Regardless, the technology is still a significant investment that needs to be justified. Make sure you keep records of the benefits gained, including thoroughly detailing the performance, maintenance and efficiency improvements that occur as a result of using the new technology. Don’t forget to factor in the value of increased vehicle and equipment availability and usage benefits.

3. Do your homework by determining internal needs.
There is an abundance of fleet telematics solutions in today’s market. To ensure you choose the best technology for your organization, you need to understand the solutions needs of those who will benefit from its implementation. Recruit leaders from maintenance, dispatch, the field and any other affected department. Get them involved in the selection process by asking them to provide you with the ways they envision the technology will help their respective departments or teams.

4. Think outside the little black box.
When an experienced fleet professional applies his or her innovative, application-specific perspective to a new technology implementation, new ideas often arise about how to maximize its value. Always look for new ways telematics can bring added return on investment. Think beyond the ways the manufacturer suggests you use the solution – within the realm of usage that is covered by the warranty, of course – and find ways to employ the technology for your organization’s specific needs.

5. Make sure users are trained to use the technology – and commit to using it.
The value of any tool can be diminished when it is not used properly or not used at all. Make sure all users of your telematics are thoroughly trained on how to maximize their value, and also ensure that users commit to capitalizing on that value by continuously using the tools. The best way to accomplish this is by taking time to explain the ways the technology will benefit them professionally as well as how the organization as a whole will benefit.

By proving the value of telematics and establishing its return on investment, you will have more success dealing with political and cultural resistance to the new technology within the fleet structure.

About the Author: John Dolce is a fleet facility and maintenance specialist employed by Wendel Companies, an architectural and engineering firm. He is an active consultant, instructor and fleet manager with more than 40 years of experience in the public and private sector. Dolce has written three fleet-related textbooks and teaches fleet management courses at the University of Wisconsin’s Milwaukee and Madison campuses. He can be contacted at [email protected]

IPL-5-Web

Valuable Insight

For the Facilities & Transportation Fleet team at Indianapolis Power & Light Co., the key to productivity and efficiency is not just the programs and technologies that have been put in place. Equally important and absolutely essential, they note, is to ingrain a process of organizational efficiency throughout the culture of the operation.

Keith Dunkel, team leader and fleet manager, Kim Garner, fleet administration, and Les Gose, fleet maintenance at IPL, all point to the successful implementation of the 5S methodology within the fleet maintenance operation. This workplace organization methodology, based on five Japanese words all beginning with the letter “S” when translated into English (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize and Sustain), has benefited the fleet’s maintenance shops through improved organization of work spaces.

“A primary focus was on the efficient and effective storage of work tools and supplies, maintaining the work area and these items, and sustaining the new order,” Dunkel said. “The decision-making process usually comes from a dialogue about standardization, which builds understanding among employees of how their work should be done.”

At IPL, the 5S methodology has brought a new cultural mindset to shop floor efficiency and safety within the fleet maintenance operation. “It’s a process that builds collaboration among employees and management specific to work design and flow,” Dunkel stated. “In addition to improving shop safety by reducing hazards, it has also provided structure within the shop environment to identify and reduce waste.”

Today, IPL crew leaders, technicians and management personnel use the 5S methodology to effectively run shop operations. A weekly safety walk, for example, is used to identify housekeeping issues, such as defective lighting or other concerns, based on a comprehensive checklist of items specific to the operation and environment.

Organized Approach
An organized approach is also in place in other areas of the IPL fleet and maintenance operation. “Three years ago,” explained Gose, “we brought in NAPA to manage our parts system. NAPA now operates our parts room as a private store, staffed 16 hours per day. The facility exclusively serves the IPL fleet, handles paperwork for our business with a local tire vendor, and as an added convenience, IPL employees can make purchases for personal use.

“With this arrangement,” Gose continued, “we are ensured competitive pricing within a consigned parts format. This has given us access to a substantial inventory without tying up financial resources for owned inventory.”

Gose also explained that IPL and NAPA are working closely together to ensure that the parts supplier is prepared to provide the wide variety of standard and specialized items needed for utility vehicles. “Our initiative is to ensure that NAPA understands our needs,” he said. “We do not want to wait for parts that we should have in stock and we expect NAPA to adjust the consignment inventory as our specs change.

“We have established and track metrics specifically to the NAPA operation,” Gose continued. “Those target wait times, fill rates and inventory location accuracy. We believe these to be core competencies for parts management and are integral to the productivity of our technicians.”

The IPL fleet is serviced in two locations, Dunkel noted. “At our main hub in Indianapolis we house about 80 percent of the fleet of 422 vehicles,” he related. “At a satellite facility we handle the other 20 percent. About 80 percent of the fleet is used in operations across our 528-square-mile service territory and the rest is allocated to our three generating plants.”

Meeting Needs
The composition of IPL’s fleet is designed to meet the needs of field operations that maintain 835 circuit miles of transmission lines and approximately 12,668 circuit miles of distribution lines, as well as 144 substations. A total of 88 heavy-duty units account for 20 percent of the fleet, another 92 are medium-duty models and the balance consists of 242 light-duty vehicles.

Primary makes represented in the IPL fleet include International heavy-duty, Freightliner and Ford medium-duty, and Chevrolet and Ford light-duty models. IPL’s alternative fuel vehicles are primarily within the light-duty segment of the fleet and use E85 from a central fueling station.

Vehicle types at IPL are varied for line, substation maintenance and construction needs, Dunkel pointed out. Aerial units supplied mainly by Altec include 45-foot models for trouble trucks, 55-foot models for line truck material handlers, 85-foot high reach noninsulated and 125-foot insulated units, and there are 42-foot material handlers and articulating squirt booms.

Also in operation at IPL are digger derricks, light-duty cranes, cable pullers and rodders. Truck types include step and hi-cube vans, 3/4-ton vans, and 1/4-, 1/2-, 3/4- and 1-ton pickups. The fleet also has sedans, minivans and SUVs, and the maintenance staff services and repairs support equipment such as easement rigs, backyard buckets, tensioners, wire reel trailers, forklifts, backhoes and small excavators.

“We have established replacement cycles based on vehicle size and use,” Garner said. “Light-duty models are in service for five years or 60,000 miles, trouble trucks are replaced after seven years and line trucks see 10 years of service in our fleet.

“For remarketing our retired heavy-duty trucks, and some nonroad equipment, we have been using the services of J.J. Kane Auctioneers,” Garner related. “We were working with a local auction company, but Altec brought J.J. Kane to our attention because of their specialization in selling construction utility equipment.

“They know the markets where we can get the best resale value for our trucks,” Garner added. “Overall, it’s been a very smooth and effective process. We have maximized our recovery dollars using the J.J. Kane process.”

Software is also in place to help specify and manage the IPL fleet, Gose noted. For example, there’s Diamond Logic Builder at International Trucks’ Body Builder Resource Center, as well as the CFAW fleet maintenance management solution and E.J. Ward automated fuel management software and reporting tools.

In the shop, Gose reported, technicians are trained on a regular basis and have multiple diagnostic tools at their disposal. Included are the Rotunda (IDS) service tool for Ford vehicles, Mentor, Pegasus, INSITE (Cummins) and Tech II diagnostic equipment, and the ServiceMaxx diagnostic and programming tool for Navistar MaxxForce engines.

Accelerated Implementation
“In 2010, we started using the Telogis Fleet management solution for vehicle telematics,” Dunkel said. “Initially, we phased in 50 trucks, but once we experienced the wealth of the data available, we accelerated our implementation plan.

“By the end of the first year we had over 300 vehicles on the system,” Dunkel continued. “The telematics solution reports GPS location data, engine performance, idle, PTO and battery time, and odometer readings, along with hard braking and acceleration information.

“Now that we have over two full years of baseline data from vehicle electronics systems over the Telogis solution, we’re taking it to the next level,” Dunkel added. “We have completed the next step [Enterprise Level] using the system’s InSight Alerts function to develop driver scorecards and a [key performance indicators] Dashboard.

“With these capabilities,” Dunkel stated, “our field operation teams use the system to enhance productivity by determining arrival and departure times at job sites. In the fleet department, we will be able to model scenarios that will show us the impact on costs of reducing idle time and get alerts to mechanical conditions previewing potential costly breakdowns and repairs.”

IPL’s management team, Dunkel added, has given strong support for this investment in vehicle telematics. “This technology has provided new and valuable insights into how our trucks are used,” he said, “giving us opportunities to lower operating costs, improve driving behaviors and better manage our assets.”

About IPL: Indianapolis Power & Light Co. provides retail electric service to more than 470,000 residential, commercial and industrial customers in Indianapolis, as well as portions of other central Indiana communities surrounding Marion County. During its long history, IPL has supplied its customers with some of the lowest-cost, most reliable power in the country. Its parent company, AES Corp., provides affordable, sustainable energy to 25 countries through a diverse portfolio of distribution and generation businesses.

About the Author: Seth Skydel has more than 27 years of truck- and automotive-related publication experience. In his career, he has held editorial roles at numerous national business-to-business publications focusing on fleet and transportation management, vehicle and information technology, and industry trends and issues.

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Driver Behaviors that Waste Fuel – and How to Correct Them

As utility fleets look for ways to blunt the impact of rising fuel costs on their bottom line, one opportunity for substantial cost savings can be found in training and motivating their drivers to operate their vehicles with more fuel efficiency.

According to a 2011 study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (http://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/86074/102758.pdf?sequence=1), the cumulative impact of neglecting good eco-driving practices can take a highly fuel-efficient vehicle with baseline performance of 36 mpg down to 19.8 mpg, a 45 percent drop in efficiency. Considering that commercial trucks are used in much harsher duty cycles and conditions than passenger vehicles, there’s potential for even greater negative impact on fuel economy if drivers aren’t managed effectively.

Biggest Fuel Wasters
Three driver behaviors tend to be the biggest fuel wasters.

1. Unnecessary Idle
Engine idle wastes 0.25 to 0.5 gallons per hour depending on engine size and air conditioning operation, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (www.fueleconomy.gov/feg/driveHabits.shtml). “Whether it’s the guy that eats lunch in his vehicle or, in some cases, we see people who leave the vehicle running almost the entire the day [to keep it cool during hot summers], that’s a significant waste of fuel, as well as additional wear and tear on the vehicle,” said Karl Weber, vice president of enterprise sales for SageQuest (www.sage-quest.com), which is owned by Fleetmatics Group (NYSE: FLTX) and a provider of GPS fleet tracking and management technology designed to improve mobile workforce efficiency.

As a frame of reference, if only one driver excessively idles the vehicle for two hours per day, that adds up to a nearly $1,000 annual hit to the bottom line assuming $3.75 per gallon. Spread that over 10, 20, 50 or more drivers and the loss compounds.

Not all idle can be avoided, however – especially in utility applications. “In some types of vehicles, you have equipment on them that requires the engine to run,” Weber said. “If you take a vehicle in the utility industry that’s equipped with a bucket, often the engine has to be running for the bucket to be engaged and go up [via a PTO provision]. In that instance, organizations are going to be interested in tracking their drivers’ PTO idle versus non-PTO idle.”

2. Speeding
“For every 5 mph you travel over 65 mph, you reduce your efficiency by 7 percent,” said Nick Ehrhart, telematics vice president of business development for Donlen (www.donlen.com), a full-service fleet management company headquartered in Northbrook, Ill., and a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Hertz Corp. (NYSE: HTZ). “So, slowing down when it’s safe to do so will greatly increase your vehicle’s fuel economy.”

This is because as speed increases, so does the aerodynamic drag (wind resistance), which forces the engine to work harder and consume more fuel to operate at the higher speed.

3. Aggressive Driving
Rapid acceleration and harsh braking reduce fuel economy by as much as 33 percent at highway speeds and 5 percent in town, according to the EPA. Therefore, if you have multiple drivers who make it a habit to “punch” the accelerator “off the line,” weave through traffic or slam on the brakes, their behavior is eating a chunk out of your organization’s bottom line.

Correcting These Behaviors
What can fleets do to help drivers break these habits so they become more fuel-conscious? Here are three tips.

1. Hold drivers accountable. “By far the most critical strategy to changing driver behavior is to create a driver policy [that clearly states expectations and consequences for noncompliance] and enforce it,” Ehrhart said. “You want all drivers to have a chance to be recognized or given a token of thanks [for improving behavior], but for those that don’t try and continue to behave poorly, there needs to be some type of repercussion.”

2. Educate drivers on the big-picture consequences of fuel-wasting behaviors. “I think most people realize that aggressive driving is not good, whether it’s from a safety perspective, or wear and tear of the vehicle, or fuel economy,” said Art Liggio, president of Driving Dynamics (www.drivingdynamics.com), a Newark, Del.-based driver training firm for corporate fleets. “We focus on challenging the drivers to think about the responsibilities they have when they’re on the road, getting a little bit deeper into the person’s psyche. Instead of just saying, ‘It’s because you’re going to reduce your gas mileage by 5 miles per gallon,’ the focus is more about how this activity, action or behavior has even deeper consequences, drilling down all the way to how much these [driver behaviors] affect the financial viability of the employer.”

3. Incentivize positive driver behaviors. Weber referred to one client that implemented a driver incentive program, based on vehicle data captured by SageQuest’s GPS/telematics system, that helped reduce daily idle per vehicle from two hours to 45 minutes, saving the company nearly $1,000 in fuel costs per day. “They said, ‘All right, we’re going to rank our drivers every week based on the average idle time per day. And if you hit a certain threshold, you go into a bucket. Once a week, we’re going to pull a name out of that bucket with drivers that qualify based on appropriate behavior. We’re going to give away prizes, such as Xboxes or 40-inch LCD TVs.’ They’ve significantly reduced their idle and maintained it with this [incentive] program.”

Learning Moments
When it comes to correcting driver behaviors, Liggio summed it up this way: “If you want to change behavior, it’s not about throwing facts and figures at your drivers. You have to give them a 360-degree view into how their behavior actually affects others, and their employer in particular. And that opens their mind. Then they have this learning moment where they say, ‘Hmm. Maybe being an aggressive driver gets me to appointments faster or on time, but maybe being three or four minutes late is not as painful as the other things my behavior can cause.’”

Said Weber, “Fleets are realizing that they’re not just going to be able to eliminate the behavior, they need to manage it. They need to help drivers understand the benefit to them – ‘If we can cut this [idle] down, we’ll have more money to do other programs.’”

About the Author: Sean M. Lyden is a nationally recognized journalist and feature writer for a wide range of automotive and trucking trade publications, covering fleet management strategies, light- and medium-duty trucks, truck bodies and equipment, and green fuel technologies. He blogs at Lyden Fleet Strategies (www.lydenfleetstrategies.blogspot.com).

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Software Solutions

Wiregrass Electric Cooperative Improves Safety and Efficiency with Telogis
Wiregrass Electric Cooperative provides electric services to 24,000 members across six counties in southeast Alabama. Technicians are responsible for keeping the electricity flowing across the region, each one assigned to cover a specific area or zone. Unfortunately, in order to keep track of where the technicians were during the course of the day, the dispatch team had to constantly communicate with them via two-way radio.

“I had to converse with them to see where they were starting at, and then check with them during the day to see where they were at and what progress they were making on completing their work,” said Wiregrass service manager Larry Galloway. “If there was an outage, I would have to call them and find out where they were to see who was closest.”

The company needed a real-time view of where their service trucks were located and began searching for a GPS-based fleet management solution. The company ultimately selected Telogis Fleet, a hosted solution, and installed Telogis GPS units on 16 vehicles, including its six small bucket trucks, large construction bucket trucks and the trucks used by the company’s four construction crew leaders.

With a real-time view of each technician’s location, Galloway has been able to greatly improve dispatching efficiency. “If we have an outage, I can immediately look and see who is the closest to the problem, and dispatch them accordingly,” he said.

Wiregrass has improved equipment utilization and reduced the amount of time it takes to locate a technician to respond to an outage. “I can look instantly and see where all the trucks are located,” Galloway said. “If there’s an outage in one zone, and I can see that a technician who doesn’t usually work there is closer to the problem, I can dispatch him and have him on site much faster. In those cases, I can get the technicians there twice as fast.”

According to Galloway, Wiregrass is currently considering installing additional GPS units on other vehicles and equipment. Eventually the company would like to more closely monitor vehicle performance indicators such as idle times and braking.

“The Telogis system has really helped improve our dispatching and our response times, and our technicians are confident that we can reach them quickly in an emergency,” Galloway said. “We hope to improve operations even further as we leverage more of the Telogis functionality on additional equipment.”

Telogis Fleet 9, the company’s next generation of fleet management software, is designed to give fleet managers greater flexibility in configuring reports to fit their exact needs. The software-as-a-service fleet management system integrates with Telogis Route, Telogis Progression and Telogis Mobile in a single strategic and dynamic routing, real-time work order management, telematics and mobile platform.

Telogis Fleet 9 features new configurable reporting functions and settings, including:
• Ad Hoc Reporting, which allows users to define data elements they want to see, organize them in a way that is the most logical for their operations, and create and run reports in real time;
• Terminology Module, which lets users rename key terms to match internal nomenclature;
• InSight Alerting Engine, which allows users to create unique alerts based on almost every piece of data that the system collects; and
• Layers, which enables organizations to quickly and easily integrate unique GIS layer data to locate relevant locations in their company infrastructure that do not appear on standard maps, such as power poles, oil wells, gas and water lines, land use grids, and forestry and parcel information.

Telogis Fleet 9 also incorporates new features of Telogis Asset, including asset-specific alerts and reporting functions that provide greater visibility as to how each asset is being used in the field. Users have the ability to view all assets in a single view, customize data by asset type and integrate that information into larger fleet-wide reports, an important feature in large, mixed fleets. Loss prevention and utilization monitoring tools also protect assets from theft and misuse. Visit www.telogis.com for more.

New Jersey American Water Uses Trimble Fleet Management to Lower Fuel Costs and Optimize Scheduling
New Jersey American Water, a subsidiary of American Water Works & Guarantee Company, provides water and wastewater service to 600,000 customers in six counties using a fleet of 600 vehicles.

“Our drivers read meters, change meters and fix main breaks,” said Jeff Bowlby, operations supervisor for New Jersey American Water. “To better serve this many customers and still maintain a high level of service, New Jersey American Water needed a fleet management solution to improve scheduling and raise worker productivity.”

The company chose Trimble GeoManager Fleet Management, a GPS cloud-computing platform that allows it to track vehicles in real time, confirm a vehicle is at its scheduled location on time, and view and print detailed reports about daily activities. “GeoManager has definitely been a helpful tool,” Bowlby added. “We can give customers a window and the driver will call half an hour before getting there so the customer is always updated on their service status.”

GeoManager Fleet Management offers visibility into day-to-day operations to identify, manage and improve key areas of the business so New Jersey American Water has better control of driver safety, customer service, back office administration, fuel consumption and field service vehicle efficiency. Another issue was excessive idling. “We were spending $2.6 million on fuel each year,” Bowlby said. “Now GeoManager sends an alert if a vehicle exceeds 15 minutes of idling. We’ve cut our fuel expenses almost in half.”

An added benefit of GeoManager is its vehicle diagnostics solution, which schedules vehicle maintenance and reduces the chance of mechanical failure. “Our drivers are very busy servicing customers and they don’t have time to track maintenance issues,” Bowlby said. “Sometimes they don’t even notice that the check engine light is on. Now we get a code when the light is on and we know right away whether the truck needs servicing.”

Trimble Field Service Management suite includes fleet management, work management and scheduling, worker safety and mobility solutions. The cloud-based portfolio offers industry-specific, enterprise-level solutions. Visit www.trimble.com/fsm for more.

DC Water Gains Real-Time Visibility Over Fleet Costs with Chevin Fleet Solutions
The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority provides wastewater treatment and quality drinking water to multiple counties in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia. DC Water supports these offerings with a fleet of more than 2,000 pieces of equipment.

Utilizing FleetWave from Chevin Fleet Solutions, DC Water can link each of its facilities together, allowing the utility to share resources, reduce on-hand parts inventories, and significantly improve maintenance practices and compliance with inspections and certifications required for its diverse fleet.

With integration to the utility’s enterprise financial system as well as external maintenance providers and fuel management system, FleetWave can streamline labor- and paper-intensive processes. Additionally, with FleetWave’s support of auto-generated email notifications of pending, due, and past due PMs and safety inspections, DC Water has enhanced its management and oversight of statutory and safety-related tasks.

With extensive fleet management requirements from complete asset and life cycle management, workshop, inventory, purchasing, warranty and campaign management, and driver management as well as accident and risk management, DC Water’s fleet management team is able to use FleetWave to manage its fleet using a simple deployment over DC Water’s intranet.

“With FleetWave, DC Water’s extremely diverse requirements will be accommodated,” said Ron Katz, senior vice president of North American sales for Chevin. “In addition, with FleetWave’s flexible capabilities, DC Water’s future needs can be easily met without the need for expensive and time-consuming programming.”

Chevin Fleet Solutions is a provider of enterprise fleet management software with two primary products. FleetWave is a Web-based fleet management information system and RoadBASE is a PC-based fleet management system. Visit www.chevinfleet.com/us/fleet-management-software/ for more.

East Bay Municipal Utility District Uses AssetWorks FleetFocus to Manage Resources and Increase Customer Satisfaction
The East Bay Municipal Utility District supplies water and provides wastewater treatment for Alameda and Contra Costa counties along the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. The utility has approximately 1,215 vehicles and uses the AssetWorks FleetFocus Enterprise Asset Management solution to manage its fleet operations.

“To run a fleet well, you need good information for constant evaluation,” stated Bob Sonnenfelt, EBMUD equipment supervisor, fleet management. “FleetFocus allows us to know about problems long before they impact business, which helps us be a better service provider within our organization.”

EBMUD fleet management processes 6,000 work orders a year, averaging 12 to15 vehicles a day. Some of the ways in which the utility uses FleetFocus include developing a systematic replacement analysis function that includes a hands-on evaluation of the unit as well as a cost-benefit analysis and history review. By accessing accurate maintenance and repair data in the work order center of FleetFocus, EBMUD can better determine the reasons for maintenance and repair. Over time, this practice saves labor time and costs, and has extended the PM cycle on most vehicles.

EBMUD is also able to set parts operations parameters that match specific terms with FleetFocus. This practice helps the fleet management department accurately provide needed items while carefully managing inventory costs. Additionally, EBMUD uses FleetFocus to capture all shop labor in real time. Technicians log on and off tasks in the application via shop floor computers. By tracking direct and indirect time in real time, the utility can accurately assess productivity as it relates to mechanics, vehicles and tasks, establishing standards and goals for productivity.

FleetFocus also integrates with EBMUD’s other systems, including its automated fuel system, which provides both fuel consumption and updated odometer readings. The system integration includes the Networkfleet AVL/GPS wireless vehicle management system, which provides another point of data capture for odometer readings as well as vehicle diagnostic information, alerting maintenance when a vehicle engine reports a fault code.

FleetFocus is seen as vital to EBMUD’s efforts to effectively and efficiently run its fleet operations while offering impeccable service to its internal and external customers. “AssetWorks built FleetFocus to include functionality that is the best in the market,” said Sonnenfelt. “We’ve been able to extend PM cycles, extend replacement cycles, minimize our parts inventory, and identify and manage where our labor is going. All this results in productivity gains and makes our operation stronger.”

AssetWorks FleetFocus tracks all functions related to the maintenance of vehicles and equipment, including processing repair and preventive maintenance work orders, capturing operating expenses, and billing and tracking for vehicle usage. FleetFocus also integrates with an automated fuel management system, FuelFocus, in real time. Other integrations available with FleetFocus include the AssetWorks Vehicle Data Collector for capturing engine data and error codes and transmitting them directly into the FleetFocus database; Networkfleet wireless in-vehicle technology that merges remote diagnostic systems with GPS-based automatic vehicle location technology; NAPA’s parts inventory management system; Lincoln’s fluid inventory control system; and the Zonar Electronic Vehicle Inspection Report system. Visit www.assetworks.com for more.

Orangeville Hydro Manages Projects and Tracks Costs with WennSoft
Orangeville Hydro Limited, based in Orangeville, Ontario, 46 miles from Toronto, supplies power to more than 10,000 customers from five substations. To assist in providing quality service, Orangeville Hydro has utilized WennSoft Job Cost since April 2006.

“Prior to using WennSoft, we did not have a work order system,” recalled Jan Howard, Orangeville Hydro’s manager of finance and rates. “We tracked everything through general ledger, including budgeted and minor capital jobs. However, we lacked the ability to report on costs and had no ability to determine current value of an asset when replacement was required.”

With WennSoft, Howard is able to track costs to see if Orangeville Hydro is coming close to budgeted amounts. Work orders for chargeable work are tracked in the work order system and directly invoiced. The utility’s operations department also tracks maintenance.

WennSoft helps provide accurate information and a history about jobs or projects to refer to at a later time. “In the past we couldn’t go back and see the initial cost of a project,” Howard said. “With Job Cost, we have access to historical project costs. That allows us to compare historical information to similar projects under consideration. We build a history, call up the last project, examine historical costs and go from there.”

WennSoft Evolution is a complete solution for work order management, asset management, installation, field service and maintenance designed for equipment in energy, construction, communication and other industries. Built on the Microsoft xRM framework, Evolution delivers asset management, maintenance agreements, simple and segmented work orders, field service, advanced dispatching and scheduling, mobile solutions for field technicians, quotes, purchasing and invoicing.

Evolution can operate as a stand-alone solution or be integrated with Microsoft Dynamics ERP and other business application software and services. The software can be implemented in phases or across an entire organization, and can be deployed on premises or in the cloud. In addition, technicians in the field can use multiple devices across operating systems to access FieldTech, a mobile solution that has both online as well as store and forward capabilities. Visit www.wennsoft.com for more.

Utility Equipment Leasing Corporation Adds to Rental Fleet
To meet electrical transmission and distribution customer demand, Utility Equipment Leasing Corporation has added more than 60 new trucks to its fleet in 2012. This is the third consecutive year the company is investing in trucks for U.S. utilities. The most recent expansion included RMX 75- to 100-foot buckets, Commander 6000 diggers and Generals for transmission customers. The company also added 45- to 60-foot digger derricks, 29- to 40-foot bucket trucks, and other digger derricks and cable placers for the distribution market. Visit www.uelc.com for more.

Ditch Witch Offers Financing and Leasing Options
Through Ditch Witch Financial Services, customers now have a variety of financing and leasing options available, including zero percent financing, 90-day and 6-month delayed payment plans, skip-payment plans, lease options and other programs tailored to customer needs. Visit www.ditchwitch.com for more.

City of Sacramento

For the City of Sacramento, Calif., the recent implementation of vehicle telematics has led to significant reductions in fleet fuel consumption and operating costs. Recently, the municipal fleet equipped more than 400 of its vehicles with electronic fleet management products from Zonar Systems.

“Utilizing trip-level metrics on operator behavior and vehicle performance directly impacts behavior and leads to improved fuel efficiency,” said Keith Leech, City of Sacramento’s fleet manager. “Visibility into fleet operations brings automatic accountability that impacts workforce productivity.

“Performance and cost data prior to and post-Zonar installation, for a sampling of 184 of the city’s fleet vehicles representing 14 different vehicle types, was analyzed to conduct an ROI analysis,” Leech continued. “The analysis identified savings in excess of $60,000 a month in fuel costs alone, quite an impressive figure considering the cost to equip those 184 vehicles was just over $110,000. Simply stated, the Zonar system paid for itself in just two short months, making it an excellent investment for the city and a real money-saver for the taxpayers.”

The Zonar solution optimizes vehicle routes, monitors vehicle performance, identifies opportunities for improvements in driver behavior and streamlines the pre- and post-trip inspection process. Products include an Electronic Vehicle Inspection Report (EVIR) that ensures pre- and post-trip inspection compliance while eliminating paperwork and speeding vehicle repair; V2J with HD-GPS capabilities that combine real-time delivery of vehicle location, operation, fuel consumption and performance data in one device; and Ground Traffic Control, a Web-based fleet management portal that provides managers with visibility into fleet performance information.

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