The product saves fleet operations time and improves communication and accuracy when managing drivers.
Industry suppliers point out many operators who do use GPS products do not take full advantage of the many applications to integrate with their systems.
Operators who need to catch up to the technology include those who rely on chauffeurs to use their cell phones for navigation, or the company’s basic, stand-alone GPS devices that only provide point-to-point directions and a few other functions. That’s unfortunate, because today’s GPS products are loaded with many features to cut expenses, streamline operations, and improve communication from pick up to drop off, thereby creating a better customer experience.
In the highly congested Washington, D.C.-Northern Virginia metro corridor, Reston Limousine COO Tony Simon has installed GPS onto the company’s technology to help do all of the above.
“Our GPS is now integrated into our operational applications that feed information into the system providing us with real-time information for dispatchers and chauffeurs, client communication and alerts, vehicle diagnostics, chauffeur driving behavior, and more,” Simon says.
For example, the GPS performs onboard diagnostics that monitors fuel consumption, engine hours, chauffeur driving habits — all factors that provide Simon data he uses to reduce costs and improve productivity and efficiency.
“For example, we know if a vehicle is idling too long, or if a driver is speeding, our dispatchers can send the chauffeur an alert,” Simon says. “Today’s GPS systems have API’s (Application Program Interface) that can seamlessly feed data to multiple sources.” The technology provides real-time traffic updates and can alert dispatch if a driver roams outside of the designated coverage area.
Benefits Of GPS
GPS suppliers offer a wide range of products to fit transportation companies of all sizes and budgets. Products can offer minimal functions or scale up to provide complete fleet management components. Here is a list of what GPS can offer your company:
Source: GPS Insight
A big benefit is real-time information funnels to dispatchers and chauffeurs who can make better decisions, and provide clients with accurate message updates on arrival time. “When we show our clients our GPS system, they feel so much better about us because they see we are improving our service, enhancing their experience,” Simon adds.
Mike Rose, vice president and general manager of Flyte Tyme Worldwide in Mahwah, N.J., uses GPS tracking software on every vehicle in every company location that integrates with the company’s back-office software.
Vehicles are not only equipped with GPS devices, but chauffeurs get tablets that include GPS. This ensures the system is backed up.
“In some big cities you can lose a signal on a device, so chauffeurs have tablets as backups to ensure communication and service,” Rose says. He notes clients are provided online and mobile tools to monitor. The company’s GPS provides real-time fleet tracking and allows automatic text messaging to clients to see when chauffeurs are en route and estimated arrival times. It also allows dispatch to monitor the fleet to send the nearest vehicle for a pick-up, which saves fuel and wear and tear on vehicles.
“The technology also allows us to track driver time, especially since the industry has migrated to hourly pay structures, which allows us to monitor and maximize a driver’s driving time,” Rose says. GPS tracking also comes in handy for an incident report after the drop off. “If there was a problem, we have the data that shows where the driver was, time and place of pickup, which gives us the information to handle the situation.”
Another smart use of GPS is the ability to set up a geo-fence. For example, if Flyte Tyme has a large group coming in to an airport and have stationed greeters, they can set up a geo-fence (basically a digital barrier around the airport) which alerts the greeters a vehicle is on site as it passes through the geo fence. “We also do shuttle work and we can set up a geo fence that can automatically text a hotel clerk our bus is five blocks away,” he says.
The bottom line is GPS tracking saves money. “You don’t need as many dispatchers because the technology makes you more efficient,” Simon says. “There are fewer phone calls coming in to check where somebody is because the processes are automated, and basically just speeds everything up and improves quality control. You know if the vehicle is moving, on site, in traffic, or at the wrong hotel, which happens all the time in the industry. Now our dispatchers can see everything in real time and confirm information with clients. Less errors and better service is what it’s all about.”
Now that GPS fleet management has proven its worth in many facets of Reston’s operation, Simon sees more opportunity to enhance the technology to better serve clients. “We’re going to feed GPS into other systems and we want to get ‘predictive’ information on routes to improve service even more. Right now we get traffic updates every few minutes — but we need it every five seconds — how many blocks can a vehicle travel in a few seconds? Better, accurate service is what it’s all about.”
UpsideS of Using of GPS Electronic Logging for Your Fleet
Because Reston Limousine runs a fleet of motorcoaches, the company must comply with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) Electronic Logging Device (ELD) mandate that requires drivers of all regulated vehicles to use ELDs to keep hours-of-service (HOS) records by December 2017.
Although the rule does not apply to sedans, Reston COO Tony Simon will add ELD to his sedan fleet. “My view is if you run motorcoaches and you educate drivers about hours of service restrictions, your company now has that knowledge. Say you have a sedan chauffeur who worked 14-16 hours and gets into an accident, the lawyers will have a field day with that because your company knew and understood the hours of service restrictions in place to foster safe driving. It’s about reducing your liability.”
For example, Fleetmatics, a GPS tracking vendor, offers a device called Logbook, which helps transportation companies stay compliant, and provides all the hardware and driver input required by law to document hours of service records.
For example, if your chauffeur has to show logs at a roadside inspection, you know they have the information to stay on schedule. Logbook seamlessly tracks hours of service by collecting vehicle data and communicating engine and GPS data directly to the Fleetmatics Logbook mobile application. Drivers can log into a native application built for any Android tablet or smartphone and start tracking HOS with limited interaction from the driver. Dispatchers and office staff can see drivers’ status, violation alerts, and inspection results through Fleetmatics’ web-based interface, Fleetmatics REVEAL.
How To Select A GPS Solution Right For You
Like any technology purchase, you need to do your homework, get buy-in from management and staff, and make sure you use all of the product’s functions to get maximum return on investment. Because standalone GPS devices have evolved to full-blown fleet management tools, it’s important to figure out your needs first, then evaluate product offerings. According to one of GPS Insight’s white papers, operators should take these preliminary steps before purchasing a product:
Determine Your Needs: Analyze your business challenges and clearly define your goals and needs to maximize the effectiveness of your fleet management. Get buy-in from every department to ensure you achieve your short- and long-range goals.
Match Features To Needs: Think about your needs, but also consider the future, because some GPS products may not scale and accommodate your needs in the long run. Request a demo from a number of companies to determine the features you need and which ones they offer that you may want to add later.
Run A Test Pilot: From your list of finalists, ask to run a pilot on your own assets to test whether their capabilities meet your requirements. Run a few pilots from different vendors. While cost is clearly a factor, it’s certainly not the only item to consider.
Choose The Right Partner: It’s easy to get caught up on the initial price tag, but imagine the even greater expense of getting stuck with the wrong product just because it was the cheapest.
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