Tuesday, December 20, 2011

GPS Reviews - Monitoring Keeps Buses On Track

With today’s increased fuel costs and tight budgets at all governmental levels, bus companies are under pressure to perform with fewer resources. Luckily, technology is making it easier. One of the most effective ways for a vehicle-based organization to stay up and running — and competitive — is by implementing GPS-based fleet tracking, available in a variety of software platforms from numerous vendors.

At its simplest, GPS utilizes a network of 24 U.S. Department of Defense satellites orbiting the globe. Because the system works in all weather conditions around the clock and worldwide, it has become a valuable mapping tool, to the point where it has even replaced the venerable road atlas in millions of cars traveling the nation’s highways and byways. It only makes sense that a commercial transportation company would take advantage of the same benefits.

In fact, some already do. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), as of January 2009, “about half” of the buses in the country utilize GPS technology to trigger automated stop announcements.

But GPS goes beyond simple driving directions. GPS-based fleet management software provides even more benefits — financial and operational — for any organization that relies on a fleet of vehicles to perform its work. For a bus company, GPS tracking essentially puts the dispatcher next to the driver’s seat of every bus in its fleet. By meticulously tracking each bus, the user can gain complete control over the entire fleet, significantly reducing costs, improving safety and boosting productivity.

Reducing Fuel Costs

Fuel is an obviously unavoidable expense for a bus company, and while such an expense can’t be completely eliminated, it can certainly be reduced. A recent study by the Aberdeen Group concluded that GPS vehicle tracking systems have helped companies reduce their fuel costs by an average of 13.2 percent.

Almost everything monitored by GPS vehicle tracking can work to help bring down fuel expenditures for an organization. For example, speeding is a huge factor in high fuel usage. A GPS tracking solution can provide speed information and send alerts when a vehicle exceeds the speed limit.

Excessive idling can also contribute to high fuel costs. A GPS fleet tracking system can help reduce idling times by alerting the user whenever a vehicle idles longer than a preset duration.

Conserving fuel has other benefits besides saving your company valuable money. With the ongoing concerns about depleting oil resources and the environmental impact of vehicles that rely on them, a bus company that’s actively cutting down on its fuel consumption can even be considered to be “going green.” That’s a key PR angle that should appeal to the public at large, and may even garner increased funds from local governments.

Improving Customer Service

It’s a fairly simple equation: When riders are confident in the performance of the buses they use, they’re happier about using them. By using the tools in GPS fleet tracking, a bus company can certainly serve its clients better.

Getting reports of a vehicle’s route can help the user track arrivals and departures. By providing accurate and verifiable proof of services, it’s a valuable tool for reviewing routes and frequency of stops, which can help a company streamline operations and run more efficiently.

Depending on the community you serve, some aspects of a fleet tracking system can also be shared with the public that relies on your buses. For example, in February 2011 Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., launched a bus-tracking website that gives students information on bus schedules and locations, and even enables them to wait in a safe and environment-controlled building until they see their bus approach their location. This helps students stay out of the rain, snow and other harsh environments.

Improved Routing

Of course, GPS tracking also delivers accurate, up-to-date mapping with traffic conditions. Some GPS solutions have partnered with trusted resources such as Google Maps, which provides zoom capabilities all the way down to street level. Dispatchers can use this information to adjust routes if necessary, help drivers avoid delays or make last-minute changes to service.

The mapping features of the software can help dispatchers quickly send a replacement bus to convey the passengers stranded by a broken-down or otherwise disabled bus. This can help save valuable time, mileage and fuel costs.

Increasing Security and Safety

GPS fleet tracking can also help improve security and safety for drivers and passengers alike. Should a bus go missing for whatever reason, GPS can help a company recover it and any onboard equipment quickly. Some systems even offer features that send an alert if a vehicle is used during off-hours. If the bus goes off its route at any time, the system will know. And in the unlikely — but not undocumented — event that a bus has been stolen, there isn’t a faster way to track it down.

Of course, proper maintenance is key to ensure that buses are compliant with safety guidelines and up to date on repair schedules. Some GPS fleet tracking systems feature alerting functions to let the user know when vehicles are due for routine maintenance or other scheduled appointments. This can greatly help reduce repair costs and other fees. And again, with the increasing concern about the environment, keeping vehicles properly maintained will reduce the risk of harmful emissions and fulfill other green efforts.

Monitoring Driver Behavior

Without a doubt, any transportation organization is only as good as the drivers it employs. As mentioned above, a GPS fleet tracking system can relay a variety of information regarding driving behavior, including speeding, idling time and unauthorized vehicle use.

Besides encouraging drivers to behave more responsibly on the job, it can also protect them in the event of an unwarranted complaint. The reports in a GPS fleet tracking system can prove, for example, that the driver was indeed following local speed laws, made stops at the appointed times and stuck to the established route. This can be a benefit not only for mass transit, but is key for buses that regularly transport under-age students.

Automated Timesheets

A recent study conducted by Motorola found that companies that use GPS technology save an average of $5,484 per employee per year. But that savings doesn’t just come from reducing fuel costs. The clerical features of a GPS tracking system can streamline processes in the office as well as on the road.

Many systems also provide the ability to automate timesheets. The user can know exactly when a driver starts and stops a route and takes a break, without having to rely on manual timesheets. This can greatly streamline payroll processes and help avoid costly expenditures due to timesheet falsification or unintentional errors. It virtually eliminates time-consuming checking about employee overtime.

Types of Systems

The GPS fleet management systems currently on the market offer one of two methods of tracking: active tracking and passive tracking. With active tracking, the data from the GPS receiver is transmitted at regular 60-second intervals to provide real-time location information. However, with passive tracking, all the GPS data is stored in the receiver during use, and is not transferred until the vehicle returns to the depot. Even passive systems that boast the ability to send updates every five, 10 or 15 minutes aren’t offering truly live updating, which is necessary to maximize the economic benefits of having the system.

Something else to consider is whether the system you choose is client-based or Web-based. Client-based systems involve software that is installed on the user’s computer. As with most software, this requires manual upgrades and downloads to stay current with updates and can only be used on the computers that have had the software installed.

With a Web-based system, information about a company’s fleet is provided securely over the Internet, accessible via login and password. Some providers have even evolved with the latest smartphone technology to offer tracking via a mobile application, giving the user the ability to access maps, reports and alerts about a fleet from an Android-based handheld or iPhone.

While the products on the market differ in a variety of ways, most are defined by their alerting and reporting capabilities. In the short term, alerts can notify the user of events via e-mail or mobile device. Triggers can include excessive speeding, excessive idling, engine start-up or shut-down during off-hours, unauthorized vehicle usage and when a vehicle enters or exits specific geographic areas.

Alerts can also be flagged in relevant reports. With equal emphasis on comprehensive information and ease-of-use, these can be generated on a weekly or monthly basis, or even on demand. Data can include information about bus activity, speeding violations, vehicle starts and stops, excessive idling times and more. Extensive historical reporting functions enable the user to compare the performance between two employees, or against the company average in such areas as speeding, idling, miles driven and engine-on or off times.

Getting Drivers On Board

Not everyone embraces technology, so introducing GPS fleet tracking to your organization may meet with some resistance — particularly from drivers who may feel as if this means management doesn’t trust them.

Hopefully, by focusing on the economic benefits of the system, you can assuage their concerns. Here are a few talking points:

  • GPS fleet tracking rewards hard work and eliminates bad habits that can lead to serious financial loss.
  • It provides important safety functions for the vehicles as well as the drivers.
  • The system protects drivers against false complaints about behavior and services not rendered.
  • The numerous benefits of GPS tracking help increase revenue, which adds to the company’s financial stability and provides drivers with job security.

GPS is fast becoming the industry standard for any organization with vehicle fleets. The economic and safety benefits alone should be enough to convince companies that have yet to implement it to do exactly that. Best of all, its growing worldwide ubiquity should help bring any doubters of its usefulness on board.

(source: Mass Transit Magazine)

New vehicle CCTV, Mobile DVR and Efficiency System for Waste Industry

(openPR) - A revolutionary new vehicle efficiency system, incorporating vehicle CCTV, mobile DVR and vehicle weighing, will change the face of the waste industry, claims vehicle safety company Vision Techniques.

The waste industry is set for a technology revolution, following the creation of a radical new system designed to eliminate hundreds of headaches facing councils and waste management companies today.

Designers claim it is ‘the ultimate waste collection solution’, incorporating vehicle CCTV, mobile DVR and other efficiency systems, making waste vehicles significantly more efficient, secure and safe.

According to industry experts, the new innovation, simply known as the ‘OWL’ (Optimised Waste Logistics), will save councils and waste companies a huge amount of money as well as protecting staff and maximising resources.

OWL is the result of three organisations, with different expertise, working together to enhance the efficiency of waste vehicles – vehicle safety specialist Vision Techniques, in partnership with major companies CMS SupaTrak and Vehicle Weighing Solutions.

“OWL is everything you need to make waste vehicles 100% efficient,” says industry expert Andrew Kelly of Vision Techniques.

“It is, quite literally, the ultimate waste collection solution – certainly not your average vehicle safety or management system.

“It monitors driver behaviour, weighs the waste in the vehicles, provides onboard vehicle CCTV and mobile DVR recording and manages your vehicle for optimum efficiency.

“This, in turn, saves fuel, reduces false claims, reduces repair costs and protects front line staff.”

OWL brings together VT ‘Live’ vehicle CCTV and mobile DVR, Fleet ‘Telematics’, and Onboard Weighing into one simple back office user interface.

Using its integrated live 360° vehicle CCTV and mobile DVR recording system, called VT ‘Live’, OWL streams live video footage from vehicle-mounted cameras to any location using its remote connectivity.

Designers say this will eradicate fraudulent claims while protecting staff members, assets and the public.

Andrew Kelly said: “As well as increasing vehicle and crew safety, VT 'Live', eliminates false and fraudulent claims made against companies and provides efficiency savings whilst developing the capacity of the front line staff.

“Not only will OWL eliminate false and fraudulent claims made against companies, using its vehicle CCTV and mobile DVR cameras, it also provides efficiency savings and develops drivers and vehicle operators.

”OWL’s vehicle management system monitors and manages driver behaviour. It educates drivers to demonstrate more efficient driving styles so that waste vehicles can maximise the miles per gallon achieved and, ultimately, reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions.

Using its innovative vehicle weighing technology, OWL prevents vehicles from overloading.

“The vehicle weighing technology eliminates the possibility of potential fines, increased fuel usage, increased stopping distances and vehicle damage,” said Andrew.

“And OWL’s vehicle management system will save fuel, increase operational efficiency and reduce maintenance and service costs by checking for vehicle damage and educating drivers.”

The creation of ‘OWL’ is part of a more general campaign the companies have undertaken to improve efficiency and safety in the waste management sector.

The multiple companies working together as one unit has resulted in the production of what they call ‘the very best vehicle safety and money saving solution.

’Andrew said: “Everything a waste management organisation needs to optimise resources and increase safety is incorporated in OWL – including Live, instant access vehicle CCTV and mobile DVR, dynamic bin weighing, job tracking and fuel saving technology.

“Vision Techniques, CMS SupaTrak, and Vehicle Weighing Solutions have created a fully integrated waste collection solution.

”As individual organizations, the companies supply stand-alone solutions too and support the waste management sector.

Vision Techniques is at the forefront of vehicle safety, offering a comprehensive range of products.

Vision Techniques’ safety solutions are designed to reduce the risk of collisions and maximize efficiency - and are suitable for all commercial vehicles and industry types.

CMS SupaTrak provides cost effective vehicle tracking, driver behavior and fuel monitoring solutions, which are easy to install and scaleable to any size of organization.

Vehicle Weighing Solutions is part of Applied Weighing, the UK's leading manufacturer and supplier of process weighing systems and Applied Traffic experts in traffic monitoring systems and weigh in motion.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fleet Management Technology Heats Up

Telematics suppliers in the commercial segment are making strategic moves as analysts predict solid double-digit growth for fleet management technologies. New product rollouts and mergers are occurring as suppliers try to expand their market share.

Many are beefing up product offerings. In November, Networkfleet unveiled its Networkfleet 5000 Series of fleet tracking hardware. Networkfleet 5000 series lets fleet managers monitor vehicle locations and data such as mileage, speed, fuel consumption, and diagnostic trouble codes. That helps them improve operations and reduce costs.

At the same time, TomTom Business Solutions rolled out its TomTom Pro 7150 Truck. The solution gives truck drivers and fleet managers automated routing that analyzes vehicle profiles and road attributes and restrictions. It includes a comprehensive collection of truck attributes, such as weight and dimension limitations to avoid low-bridge clearances, and load characteristics such as HAZMAT restrictions.

These moves follow some consolidations that came as companies moved to expand their offerings. In the spring, Trimble acquired PeopleNet, a provider of integrated onboard computing and mobile communications systems for fleet management. In Europe, Cybit and Masternaut merged to cover the region as a single, focused service provider.

Analysts are bullish on the market, predicting double-digit growth rates. Berg Insight predicts that the number of fleet-management systems deployed in North America will grow from 2.1 million in 2010 to 3.8 million by 2015. In Latin America, deployments are expected to increase from 0.9 million this year to 2.3 million in 2015.

ABI Research expects global commercial telematics equipment shipments to increase from 1.94 million in 2011 to 6.43 million in 2016. Asia-Pacific is set for strong growth, but North America will remain the leading market.

Networkfleet and TomTom are also highlighting user experiences to illustrate the benefits telematics can bring. Campbell Oil Co., an oil and lumber delivery service, reduced vehicle idling and saved $1800 in fuel costs within the first month of implementing Networkfleet. Campbell also reduced speeding, increased on-time deliveries, and streamlined fuel tax reporting.

British cleaning specialist Zenith Hygiene Group, which has 56 cars and 63 trucks, expects to reduce fuel costs by $140,000 a year following the installation of TomTom’s fleet management technology.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Kanata-based Surveillance Firm, March Networks, Bought By Chinese Company

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Ottawa: Union & Transpo Agree on Bus Cameras

Ottawa's transit commission and its biggest transit union have a testy relationship, but they agree on one thing: It's probably time to install security cameras on OC Transpo buses.

"They are a great tool for safety for the drivers as well as the passengers," said Mike Aldrich, vice-president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279. "We've got to get on with it."

Councillor Diane Deans, who chairs the city's transit commission, is only a little more cautious.

"We'd have to consult the workforce and we'd have to do a cost-benefit analysis," she said.

The last time the city considered the idea, in 2008, the union was concerned about Big Brother-type monitoring of bus operators and the city was worried about the cost, Deans said. Camera technology has plunged in price, she said, and, if the union is on board, there seem to be no big obstacles left.

Deans has asked OC Transpo to review a bylaw that forbids cameras on its vehicles and property unless Transpo general manager Alain Mercier has given written approval or the cameras are for "personal use" since the first of several recent incidents in which riders recorded or reported ugly confrontations between drivers and passengers. She thinks the possibility of security cameras is included in that review.

Aldrich said the union would still want an agreement written into its contract with the city saying that security cameras would only be used to investigate specific incidents where there were allegations of criminality or health and safety violations.

When a passenger recorded about a minute's worth of a driver on a late-night No. 96 swearing at and threatening a rider who'd been annoying him, Aldrich said, the public reaction was volcanic. "Hang him, fire him, take his family out and stone them," Aldrich said.

"But then you learn more about it and you find out that, hey, maybe terminating him isn't the right thing to do."

A city camera would have recorded before, during and after the incident and would have given a much more complete perspective.

Cameras would be useful for dealing with claims from people who say they have been hurt by abrupt braking or jackrabbit starts and for fights between passengers, Aldrich said.

Sometimes people in domestic disputes board buses as "places of refuge," he said, and abusive partners follow them on and keep an argument going. A deadly stabbing on the No. 118 in 2006 would have been easier to solve. A teenager who allegedly punched a different driver on a No. 96 on Wednesday after a fare dispute would probably have been arrested by now.

Ottawa taxis have cameras in them for exactly this reason, though the recordings can be downloaded only by the police for criminal investigations.

After Toronto installed security cameras on its buses, Aldrich said, assaults on drivers plunged. Even if the assaults can't be prevented, perpetrators can be caught quickly, he said, citing the case of Edmonton transit driver Tom Bregg, who was sucker-punched, knocked out, dragged off his bus and stomped into a coma in 2009 by a vicious drunk who has since been ruled a dangerous offender.

"They caught that guy an hour and a half later because they had the footage," Aldrich said. The Bregg case was behind a private member's bill in the House of Commons from Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber that would have stiffened penalties for people who assaulted transit workers. Aldrich and Deans back the idea, but Rathgeber's bill died when the last election was called.

"You don't answer your door and punch a postal worker in the fact because he's 10 minutes late with your mail," Aldrich said. "The law would treat you harshly for that. Should be the same with transit operators."

Deans said this was an opportunity for a tough-on-crime Conservative government to take action on a real problem. Similar requests have come from Winnipeg and Vancouver after attacks on drivers in those cities, she said. "I'd be encouraging the federal government to strengthen the Criminal Code when it comes to drivers," she said.

dreevely@ottawacitizen.com ottawacitizen.com/greaterottawa