May 2008, Government Fleet - Feature
Alabama Agency Maximizes GPS Value for Fleet
How Will Data be Utilized?
For the ADEM, getting the system up and running was relatively simple. Installed by a local supplier, it was activated and generating reports within 24 hours. However, data is only as good as one chooses to use it, so White and his partners took additional time to make decisions about how to utilize the data. "It took a few weeks before we settled on how the information would be tracked and distributed; now the process is second nature," White said.
White said the only drawback to the system is that the units draw current even while in "sleep mode." Vehicles equipped with units must be driven a few days a week to avoid dead batteries. For that reason, White says the units aren’t ideal for specialty vehicles not expected to be on the road regularly.
While some fleet managers might think the system is difficult to integrate into fleet culture, White found this issue a temporary and minor setback. "There was some reluctance and concern about the system at first, but now that our drivers have become accustomed to the system, I think it has become practically invisible," he said.
Make Informed Buying Decision
For fleets seeking to implement a similar system, White says it’s important to make an informed decision about which software to purchase. With several GPS tracking systems on the market, White suggests fleet managers ask vendors to "test drive" software.
"We were able to track a vendor’s car and run reports to see if we liked the system before committing to purchase from them," White said. "I would encourage fleet managers to talk to several different vendors before making a purchasing decision. The cost of installation and monitoring will probably mean that you will have to live with the system you choose for several years, so I would make sure that you do not compromise on the features most important to you."
Whichever telematics system fleets choose, the goal is to run a more efficient fleet. Because the ADEM has been using the system for less than a year, the department has yet to see exact numbers of dollars saved, but because of the improvements seen in the fleet’s performance, department officials are confident the hard data will support what they already know anecdotally.
"While I can’t put an exact figure on the savings so far, we do expect significant reductions in motor pool expenditures this fiscal year due to more fuel-efficient driving behavior, and more attention from staff to planning efficient routes," White said.
For government agencies in particular, those efficiencies should ultimately benefit the public in one way or another. For the ADEM, using the Networkfleet system helps them make the most of public funds, while also making strides to reduce air pollution. "Accountability is important to our management. GPS systems are very effective at ensuring public funds are being spent wisely in carrying out our duties in the field," White said.