Optimize Fleet Operations with Wireless Vehicle Management

Managing a fleet of vehicles can be one of a utility company’s largest expenses.

Mar 1st, 2008
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Managing a fleet of vehicles can be one of a utility company’s largest expenses. Even if you have a small fleet, the average annual maintenance can cost more than $2,000 per vehicle. Fleet owners are increasingly turning to economical wireless solutions to help them better use and maintain these expensive assets.

What is Wireless Vehicle Management?

Most of you are likely familiar with GPS location tracking for fleet vehicles. A wireless vehicle management system takes location tracking to a new level by combining it with the ability to remotely monitor and collect data on vehicle speed, fuel consumption, mileage, stops, hours in service, idle time, engine diagnostics, and more. This gives fleet managers the ability to identify problems, be proactive and fix problems early.

Wireless vehicle management systems collect and wirelessly transmit data directly from a vehicle’s engine computer and from a global positioning system (GPS). Fleet managers can access and view specific vehicle performance data and monitor vehicle activity through a secure, easy-to-use Web application.

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Wireless vehicle management systems can also notify fleet managers via email when an exception occurs within the fleet, such as when a vehicle has an engine problem. By identifying issues in near real time, managers can fix vehicle problems before they escalate into larger issues. This keeps vehicles running and in production.

Benefits of Wireless Vehicle Management

Wireless systems that track vehicle location give fleet managers the ability to improve vehicle management, driver management, and vehicle maintenance. Fleet owners can verify the current location, historical location and route of an individual vehicle as well as an entire fleet of vehicles from any computer, via the internet. This enables them to streamline dispatching, differentiate between business usage and personal usage, and improve customer service by knowing exactly where their vehicles are at all times. It also helps managers to improve driver management by enforcing driver policies that encourage business-only use of vehicles and safer vehicle operations.

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The integration of remote vehicle diagnostics with vehicle location tracking not only provides additional value in vehicle management and driver management, but also improves vehicle maintenance. For example, without wireless vehicle management, fleet managers may have to wait days or even weeks for drivers to report that a vehicle’s check engine light is on. With wireless vehicle management, fleet managers are notified automatically by e-mail when a vehicle registers a check engine light in the form of a specific diagnostic trouble code (DTC). This allows technicians to begin their repairs immediately instead of spending time trying to determine what is wrong.

Here are just a few examples of how wireless vehicle management helps lower fleet operating costs:

Reduce Fuel Consumption: Monitoring unauthorized vehicle use, excessive speeding, MPG and engine idle time can greatly reduce fuel usage. If your utility vehicle burns 1.5 gallons of fuel per hour of idle time, a reduction of a few minutes a day can add up to big savings.

Lower Vehicle Wear and Tear: Any unauthorized or unnecessary vehicle use can contribute to vehicle wear and tear. Fleet managers can use wireless vehicle management systems to verify daily route and stop locations as well as check hours of usage. By analyzing driving patterns, optimizing routes, and reducing unauthorized driving, the system can limit unnecessary vehicle use.

Reduce Maintenance Costs: Monitoring engine diagnostics remotely can help fix vehicle problems before they escalate into larger issues. By identifying maintenance issues early, wireless vehicle management helps you avoid larger repair bills and keep vehicles running longer.

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Automate Maintenance: Access to accurate mileage information is essential to a good preventive maintenance program. This allows you to schedule regular maintenance using odometer alerts when vehicles reach predetermined maintenance intervals. You can also use the system to maintain a complete online service history, including recall notices, to improve your vehicle’s resale value.

Reduce Emissions: Many states are instituting stiff requirements to reduce vehicle emissions. Wireless vehicle management systems can continuously monitor vehicle emissions and ensure compliance while reducing repair costs by uncovering faulty emissions systems.

Utility Fleet Experience with Wireless Vehicle Management

ATMC is a member-owned telecommunications cooperative providing a multitude of communications services, including telephone, long distance, paging, business systems, wireless, Internet/Broadband and cable television service in Brunswick County, North Carolina. The cooperative currently provides service to more than 37,000 members and is one of the largest telephone cooperatives in the country. ATMC recently installed the Networkfleet vehicle management system from Networkcar for its 82 vehicle fleet.

“Although ATMC has historically maintained strict driving policies, the installation of the fleet monitoring system has improved our drivers’ behavior behind the wheel,” said Allen Russ, CEO of ATMC. “This has resulted in a reduction in overall travel speeds and soft stops. While travel speed improvements are more difficult to quantify, in some areas we have measured up to a 53 percent reduction in idle times.”

In addition, ATMC has reduced maintenance costs by utilizing the diagnostics provided by Networkfleet. This timely information has enabled the company to take a more proactive approach to vehicle maintenance and repair as well as arm them with the specific information to direct the work performed by repair facilities.

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“We can now initiate very specific repair requests rather than depending on the recommendations from a repair facility,” continued Russ. “There are many cost savings associated with this implementation that cannot easily by measured, but the gas savings alone has made this a profitable investment for ATMC.”

For utility fleet managers, nothing is more important than keeping vehicles in top condition to support utility service and maintenance crews. Maintaining vehicles, including repair, upkeep and downtime, can have a huge impact on a fleet’s bottom line. A wireless vehicle management system can help fleet managers reduce operating costs and keep vehicle downtime to a minimum.

For more tips on how a wireless vehicle management system can help streamline fleet maintenance, download a free white paper at http://www.networkcar.com/networkcar/pub/whitepaper

About the Author: Craig Whitney, an industry veteran with more than 25 years experience in technology marketing and product management, is the Director of Marketing for Networkcar.

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