NAFA Drives Business by Telling Great Stories

Atlantic-City

Business intelligence tools are designed to retrieve, analyze and report data, and anyone trying to manage a business these days knows this: Data is everywhere. But how do you make sense of it all? On a vast scale, Google’s ability to handle large data sets in an efficiently has contributed $54 billion to the U.S. economy in 2009. Handling data effectively is big business.

At Webtech Wireless, we measure success by how your business implements our telematics solutions. Telematics is data. Data is information. Information allows you to gathering stories about how well your fleet is performing, and knowing how to use these stories is key to running your business better.

What Is NAFA’s Institute & Expo?

Another intelligent way to make sense of a lot of data is to attend a trade show and that’s what we’re doing­­—this time we’ll be at the NAFA Institute & Expo Show Management running April 23 to 26 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Billed as a “Created BY Fleet Managers FOR Fleet Managers” event,

NAFA’s annual Institute & Expo is known as “the largest event of the fleet management industry”. It’s a great opportunity to network with thousands of fleet professionals and take part in cutting-edge training and education.

We recommend:

We’ve culled through their extensive list of seminars to recommend a few must-see seminars. As well, we found a link so you can easily download a schedule of the entire event (at bottom). If you’re planning on attending 2013 NAFA Institute & Expo, make sure you come see us at booth 728.

TUESDAY, APRIL 23

10:30 am “Thinking Ahead: Using Remarketing Trends to Forecast the Future”

TUESDAY, APRIL 23

1:00 pm “Breakthrough Technologies and Future Trends for Fleet Telematics”

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 24

10:30 am “Make Better Decisions through the Power of Technology”

THURSDAY, APRIL 25

3:30 pm “Safety 101 – Using Insurance, Driver Training and Crash Analysis to Manage Fleet Risks”

FRIDAY, APRIL 26

9:30 am “Getting to the Top: How Fleet Managers Can Gain Access to Executive-Level Decision Makers”

Download the 2013 NAFA Institute & Expos schedule

 

 

Avoiding a Bridge Too Low

ABridgeTooLow

Known as the “truck-decapitator”, a bridge in Durham, North Carolina found wider fame last fall when it was featured in an Atlantic Cities article on aging infrastructure. An accompanying video, ­“The Toughest Bridge in the World”, featured a montage of ill-fated trucks (set to music from the film Rocky) getting peeled like sardine cans as they career under the century-old railway bridge. To make matters worse, wilting commentary from amused readers specifically targeted the hapless truckers. There were also some helpful suggestions, but none thought to propose a GPS navigation system that could route truckers away from these kinds of dangerous roads.

Bridging the Knowledge Gap

Many small and independent trucking companies, in a misguided attempt to put cost savings ahead of other concerns, purchase off-the-shelf GPS navigation systems that don’t provide enough detail for truckers to avoid these disasters. They’re buying consumer GPS navigation systems designed primarily for cars where there is little concern about height clearances and other routing conditions needed by commercial truckers.

The situation is serious enough that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is now distributing visor cards to truck drivers warning them that consumer-oriented GPS navigation devices pose life-threatening risks to truck drivers. FMCSA also faulted trucking operators with ineffective driver training and therefore advised operators to get their drivers trained on industry-standard commercial grade GPS navigation systems.

Truck-Specific GPS Navigation

In a complementary article in Overdrive (March 11, 2013), U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer stated that trucks using inappropriate GPS systems, which don’t support routing around “low bridges, hazmat routes and other information relevant to truckers”, are the chief cause of bridge strikes.

FMCSA Recommends

Michael Scott, Software Engineer at Webtech Wireless says, “We have chosen to integrate our MDT 3100s with a truck-specific GPS navigation solution that supports the kind of truck routing the FMCSA wants truck drivers to use”. He’s referring with our partnership with ALK Technologies to enhance our Quadrant® In-Cab solution by adding ALK CoPilot® In-Cab navigation.  Michael went on to point out that while we meet all the requirements the FMCSA recommended for “safe use of GPS navigation systems”, drivers still need to be alert to road signage. “No GPS navigation system absolves drivers from responsibility on safe routes”.

By selecting a GPS navigation system intended for use by professional truck and bus drivers, ensuring drivers are properly trained in its use, and remaining alert to changing conditions, you can expect to navigate safely to your destination.

Mississauga Brings Winter Smarts to APWA

City of Mississauga plows
Images courtesy of City of Mississauga

Today marks the first day of spring and, with winter storms still ravaging the continent, most North Americans want to put winter firmly behind them. But for some, winter endures in relatively balmy Charlotte, North Carolina, host city to this year’s American Public Works Association (APWA) Snow Show. On April 7, more than 1,500 “snowfighters” will descend on Charlotte for four days of networking, technical tours, and educational programs. For those attending, one highlight not to miss is hearing Bob Levesque’s success story from the City of Mississauga’s Works Operations department. I phoned Bob to get a sneak preview into the issues he’ll be describing in Charlotte.

Risk Mitigation is Foresight

City of Mississauga sidewalk plow
Bob shows me a picture of a sidewalk plow. It looks like an ordinary urban winter scene in Ontario—a plow, a parked car, a small brick fence by a neighbour’s front yard. Bob sees much more than I do. “If the plow operator isn’t careful”, Bob points out, “he or she could shred the side of the car at the curb”. Then he points out that the neighbour’s decorative brick fence is encroaching on City property and that there are other unknown hazards hidden in the snow.

There are other types of liability too. In the days before Works Operations had implemented their InterFleet GPS/AVL solution (2010), it was very difficult to prove that the department had plowed a street to standard in the event of a complaint or a law suit. “Now we have hard data,” Levesque says, underscoring a certain level of shared responsibility between the City and its residents to take care in winter conditions. “Citizens have to dress appropriately for winter conditions, and we have to provide due diligence in keeping a minimum standard for cleared roads and sidewalks.”

He cites another time when he received a call from the police department about a particularly icy hill. Bob was able to respond immediately by dispatching a salter truck to the hill, thereby preventing a car pile up. With several more examples, Bob convinced me that the best use of a GPS/AVL winter maintenance solution is foresight—knowing what’s going on in real-time allows Operations to make better and quicker decisions about situations before they escalate.

“Our goal is to catch a missed street and dispatch a plow there even before it gets back to the yard.”
­—Bob Levesque, Operations, City of Mississauga

Faster than a Speeding…Snow Plow?

Everyone wants his or her street plowed first and fast, and that puts a lot of pressure on Public Works departments. It comes as something of a surprise then that one of complaints plow operators get is speeding snow plows! Bob attributes this to an optical illusion created by a truck with its plow blade down, “It may be going only 25 mph, but it appears to be going much faster”.  He also describes that the salt controller is attached to the speedometer, so a genuinely speeding snow plow would leave an erratic trail of salt in its wake (perhaps the source of citizen complaints?). Nonetheless with GPS/AVL, the department has speeding covered too as InterFleet can provide reports showing vehicle speeds along routes.

Winter Light Up

Before next winter, Bob plans to take advantage of InterFleet’s Winter Light Up program to ensure that fleet and drivers are ready to go for next year. “Getting prepared ahead of time is going to help in the long run”, says Levesque. Aside from the usual readiness preparations needed after a long hot summer—plows ready, drivers retrained, contractors engaged, and so on—there are sometimes unexpected surprises. “Last year we had a plow reporting in from somewhere in Europe”, Bob says adding that older vehicles are sometimes sold at auctions over the summer months and this one had apparently gone overseas with its Locator still installed. I’m just thinking, “now that, I want to see on a map—with breadcrumbs”.

Come Down to Charlotte for the Snow

City of Mississauga - Bob LevesqueIf you’re attending the APWA Snow Show in Charlotte, make sure you catch Bob Levesque’s presentation, Reducing Liability and Improving Winter Operations Using a GPS/AVL Solution.

Testing Technology: The Key to Top-Quality Fleet Management Solutions

 

WEW-QA_Time-Machine As a pioneer in automated GPS location-based technology at Webtech Wireless we design our own hardware and software solutions. This provides us with the necessary control to build and deliver the solutions our customers rely on. In order to ensure our products are secure, reliable, and robust enough to outlast diverse road conditions and meet industry standards for heavy-duty vehicle applications, the key to our success, (we have delivered hundreds of thousands of Locators that process millions of transactions a day), comes down to one thing—TESTING.

We hire the best network operations and engineers available in the industry and it’s on their shoulders to ensure our GPS fleet tracking solutions keep working around the clock every day of the year. I dropped into our testing area to find out more about why it is that Webtech Wireless is indeed an end-to-end solution for fleet GPS tracking.

Quality Assurance Means Testing, Testing, Testing

Sarkis Teghararian, Manager of Hardware Engineering provided me with an excellent overview of the facility while Kevin Lockwood, Hardware Engineer, continued testing Locators in the background, occasionally adding valuable commentary to my questions.

 

WEW-QA_Kevin-Sarkis

As we entered the work area Sarkis explained, “We develop and test all our products and increasingly we test third-party products as well. Depending on the needs, complexity, and phase of the project, testing is done either in-house or outsourced to other testing labs” Testing equipment is arranged in a series of stations, each dominated by some device I would later learn has a specific testing role to play. Before I could learn more about all these cool testing stations (and about the intriguing command module-like chamber in the corner), I first needed a quick lesson in quality assurance.

A Quality Assurance Primer

Depending on the needs, there are different types of testing. For example, derivative testing verifies only changes to a product, pre-qualification testing ensures a prototype will stand up to its design specifications, and regression testing validates new features including their impact on pre-existing components (i.e., it tests that new features don’t compromise the old ones).

In addition, I needed to know that there are two distinct phases of testing:

  • Development testing to validate new designs
  • Manufacturing testing to validate that manufactured units are built according to specifications

Testing for an End-to-end Solution

When testing gets to the manufacturing QA phase (ensuring manufactured quality) it’s tested differently. With the design already verified, testing becomes more granular, “but” insists Kevin peering up for one of the WT 5130 Locators, “each and every unit is tested”. Because each unit must be tested individually, testing is to a large extent automated. “Some components are manufactured in China”, continues Kevin, “and some locally, so we test to ensure all are manufacturers are building according to specifications.”

A key component of Webtech Wireless’ offerings is end-to-end solutions, but what does that mean for quality assurance? The answer is system testing. Units aren’t just tested by themselves, but also as they relate to a custom-designed solution for a specific client. So, a Locator that’s tested for compliance with manufacturing specifications is also tested with Webtech Wireless software and then again with an EOBR (electronic onboard recorder) such as the MDT 3100 to ensure they work in concert.

Enter the Time Machine

WEW-QA_Enter-the-Time-Machine

Sarkis refers to it wryly as the “Time Machine”, but it’s no joke—on closer inspection, I see that it is in fact branded officially as the GTEM ETS Time Machine. Before my imagination can run too wild, Sarkis brings me back patiently explaining that this machine tests the long-term effects of radiation from GPS and cellular transmissions. During the design phase, for example, a new Locator is placed into the time machine, which tests that its design is solid. The machine is able to speed up the exposure rates and thus reduces both the time it takes to test, and also the cost of testing. Among other criteria, the Locator is tested against its radio frequency rates, how well its circuitry responds, and how well it is able to communicate wirelessly with the base station.

Future Proofing

Quality Assurance is about “continuous improvement”, asserts Sarkis who cites the development of a new audio/acoustic booth to the roster as well as empirical testing to increase the precision of testing. In the future, we also plan to increase the testing of third-party integrations and products. All of this so that we can deliver the incredible reliability that our customers expect of us in a GPS/AVL solution that customers trust to make decisions with every minute of every day.

Exceeding Speeding Expectations

Sarah_Coach-CanadaWhen Coach Canada decided to really put its Webtech Wireless Quadrant solution to the test, it never expected the data on speeding to exceed expectations. Coach Canada prides itself in its commitment to providing safe and reliable scheduled and chartered bus services throughout Ontario and Quebec as well as service via third-party carriers to New York City and beyond.

Ensuring its passengers a safe ride is key to its success, so having visibility into individual bus speeding information is likewise important. “The number one benefit of Quadrant for us is the ability to verify speed”, says Sarah Pridie, Operations Clerk in charge of driver and fleet monitoring at Coach Canada.

Speeding is Serious Business

Speeding is one of the most prevalent factors contributing to traffic crashes. According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis (NHTSA), “In the US, the annual economic cost to society of speeding-related crashes is $40.4 billion”. Furthermore, research by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) found that “when speed limits were raised by many states in 1996, travel speeds increased and motor vehicle fatalities went up significantly on Interstate highways in those states”.

Driver Behavior

For Coach Canada, safety assurance through speeding prevention is the best remedy it can offer. Coach Canada has undertaken a pro-active stance to ensure its drivers comply, first, with posted speed limits; and second, with company speed limits (sometimes its standards are more stringent than those enforced by highway authorities).

But rather than be authoritarian, pro-actively enforcing speed limits in real-time with its drivers is, if not welcomed, certainly respected. “We have had drivers thank us for enabling the MDT Speed Alert beep as an added safety measure for them and their passengers”, says Pridie who monitors driver behavior through Quadrant reports.

Key Quadrant Benefits for Coach Canada

  • MDT speeding alerts beep to indicate to drivers when they’re exceeding speed limits.
  • Two Quadrant reports provide the data Sarah needs to ensure Coach Canada’s drivers are driving safely:
    • Speeding Duration report – Uses Vsend configuration to capture length of time the vehicle traveled beyond a pre-defined speed.
    • Driver Performance report – shows data from all vehicles and highlights driving behavior issues such as hard breaking or sharp accelerations, indicators of potential dangerous behavior by drivers.

How does Sarah and Coach Canada know they’re getting ahead of speeding? According to Sarah, “Management treats it [speeding] seriously and so do drivers”. Then she adds matter of factly, “We’ve seen a 90.4 percent reduction in speeding after implementing these Quadrant Features in 2012”.

Measuring Safety and Efficiency

–By Chuck Lane, Solution Engineer, Webtech Wireless

Chuck Lane is a solution engineer with Webtech Wireless who lives in central Florida. He contributes blog posts focusing on technical solutions in the field. Below he describes one solution we’ve developed to help Tampa Electric improve its safety and efficiency of work crews.


Co-Location Report – Where Are Our Supervisors?

When we approached Tampa Electric in 2011 about the need for a GPS fleet tracking system, we found the words “safety” and “efficiency” were of utmost importance. Tampa Electric was interested in how the system would help them to operate more safely and increase overall efficiency of their vehicle fleet relating to customer service. As the two companies sorted through the business requirements and what possible Webtech Wireless features may be of interest to Tampa Electric, the issue of the need for a Co-Location report came up.

A Co-Location report shows how much time a supervisor spends supervising a service crew. Tampa Electric was convinced that a supervisor’s time should be spent in the field supervising work crews rather than in the office. Tampa Electric maintains that this will increase the safety of the crew as well as efficiency.

How does the Co-Location report improve safety and efficiency?

Safety – Much of the work Tampa Electric crews do is dangerous work. There is the persistent risk of workers getting injured or kill through falls from hydro poles or electrocution. Having the supervisor on site reduces these risks. Tampa Electric wanted to know where its supervisors were. As with GPS-based speeding data, behavior changes if people know they’re “being watched”. Visibility increases compliance.

Efficiency – Tampa Electric uses its fleet GPS tracking in a number of ways to improve efficiency. For example, knowing when vehicles enter and exit geofence areas ensures drivers and supervisors are working together towards a common goal.

Overcoming Challenges

A number of issues needed to be overcome in order to get the report to work properly. The situation where a vehicle is parked on or near a parking lot boundary (night time off duty area) had to be compensated for due to the fact that GPS “jump” readings sometimes occur. The fact that the lead and supervisor vehicles could move at any time creating the need for the creation of new geofence boundaries and calculations was also a concern that must be accommodated.

Several design sessions were held and Tampa Electric input was captured. A rollout of GPS/AVL units to the Tampa Electric fleet was started with the expectation that the Co-Location report would be available in the near future. A report release was made available several months later. The design and functioning of the report went through several changes, particularly overcoming the challenge of parking lot boundaries mentioned above as well as remedying GPS data, which required some trial and error adjustments. When these were addressed by Webtech Wireless engineers, the new report was released.

At this point it is probably good to point out how the report works and some of the challenges that had to be overcome in order to get the report to produce good information:

How it works…

A worksite is defined by the location of a “lead vehicle”. The lead vehicle must be stopped (ignition off or idle) for more than five minutes before a worksite is created (configurable). Worksites extend a configurable radius from the lead vehicle (default: 200 feet).

Special Geofences can be created to ensure that the lead vehicles do not create worksites when parked in company depots or other common locations. The worksite is a dynamic landmark, meaning it does not appear on the map, is not visible in Landmark reports, and is deleted when the lead vehicle moves on.

Co-Location Admin

The Report…

The report is grouped by supervisor vehicle. For each supervisor, the information is grouped by lead vehicle and by day. Information includes time range, lead truck location by address, total time in range of lead vehicle, number of visits, and percentage of time in range of lead vehicle.

Co-Location Vehicle Name
Daily totals for each supervisor are easy to view!
Co-Location Daily totals

Measuring Success

Although there were challenges, Tampa Electric stood by the solution as report modifications were made to produce a report that was reliable and could be distributed to Tampa Electric supervisors with confidence of accurate results.

Currently, Tampa Electric is using this report and distributing among supervisors for review. The original goals of increased safety and efficiency have been met. The Tampa Electric supervisors are aware that their actual time in contact with their work crews is now being measured.

An Ounce of GPS Prevention

CalVans

For CalVans (California Vanpool Authority), success is not measured by how it makes the news, but from its successful avoidance. While the Media may feast on stories of accidents and negligence, CalVans relaxes in the knowledge that “No news is good news”.

Originally established in 2001 with just one van, CalVans was since grown to more than 200 vanpools designed for the unique needs of commuters, students, and farm workers. By providing a cost-effective and convenient alternative to commuter driving, while meeting the needs of the State’s environmental and transportation needs, CalVans is a vital part in a growing community transportation network.

Using Webtech Wireless’ GPS/AVL tracking is part of what makes CalVans a no-news success story, because it helps prevent accidents, theft, and other bad news from filling the papers:

  • Drivers, passengers, and all users of the road are safer because drivers are alerted in real-time when they speed, and speeding reports help CalVans monitor its drivers.
  • Through theft prevention and driver authentication, insurance premiums are kept low.
  • By providing an alternative to California’s notorious highway gridlock while helping to reduce C02 emissions, CalVans qualifies for State grants and other funding.
  • Fleet vehicles last longer because the Webtech Wireless Maintenance Portal enables CalVans to pro-actively monitor engine status and schedule van maintenance.

Navigating the Digital Oil Field

Digital-Oil-Field

With supplies of easy oil running low, oil and gas companies are increasingly turning to technology to help them get the most out of the extraction process.  Around the world, energy companies are advancing the limits of digital oil field technology, a recently coined term to describe this emerging segment of the industry.

The “digital oil field” describes computer technology deployed to automate oil and gas extraction, and it’s given a lot of attention for good reason. The digital oil field is worth a lot of money. According to Booz & Company, a leading global management consulting firm, “digital oil field technologies could increase the net present value of oil and gas assets by 25%”. The global digital oil field market is estimated to be worth $18.7 billion and is forecast to reach $33.3 billion by 2022.

Digital oil field technology aids a wide array of Oil and Gas activities from exploration, surveying, development, and well completion to data integration of seismic imaging, drilling, process completion, reservoir modeling, and production optimization. This information is then fed to data centers in real-time, allowing experts in the industry to optimize production and minimize downtime.

While not generally included within the description of digital oil field technologies, telematics operates on the same principle—making better business decisions because you have the data to show where your vehicles are and what your drivers are doing in real-time. For example, with an automated tool for tracking vehicle whereabouts, IFTA fuel-tax information is gathered automatically and therefore accurately and these accuracies save you substantial revenue from higher taxes. Also, you don’t miss out on additional savings if you operate in jurisdictions in which offer off-road usage earns fuel-tax credits.

Operationally, you can maximize your resources as we have proven by doubling efficiency at
Troyer Ventures. And as data accumulates over time, your ability to budget and forecast improves exponentially because you have accurate and historical data at your fingertips.

Finding the Right Fleet GPS for a Livable City

Port Metro Vancouver
Images courtesy of Port Metro Vancouver

Vancouver has always prided itself as a livable city. Year after year, Vancouver tops the list as “world’s most livable city”. One unintended result—stemming from its freeway wars of the 1960s and 70s that put a finish to highway construction—was that the city’s residential streets would find themselves hosting long queues of Port container and long-haul truck traffic.

While Port Metro Vancouver does not operate container trucking companies or container trucks of its own, with 149 privately-owned trucking companies sending over 2,000 trucks to the Port, it has found itself at the diplomatic center of a delicate balance between trucking and city politics.

Last year after Port Metro Vancouver closed its receiving entrance on Clark Drive (a designated truck route), residents quickly noticed a huge increase in container truck traffic on Nanaimo Street (a primarily residential street). With complaints flooding in from constituents, City Hall put pressure on Port Metro Vancouver to do something to reduce this congestion.

In a special pilot program, Port Metro Vancouver equipped 300 container trucks with GPS tracking devices to send information to Port authorities about what routes Port-bound trucks were using. In a recent interview with The Vancouver Sun, Port Metro Vancouver CEO Robin Silvester described the pilot program  as having “already brought results”.

As with CP Rail (another customer of the Port), it vastly improved turnaround time at the Port. “It’s really looking at having a minimal number of trucks in the Lower Mainland,” Sylvester said, adding the Port hopes to reduce the number of trucks leaving without cargo by 30 to 40 per cent. “That would be fantastic. We’re building the tools to move toward that goal.” Based on the improvements in efficiency, the Port is looking to outfit all licensed trucks to its facilities with a GPS solution soon. The program is voluntary and free to licensed trucks serving the Port facilities.

Port Metro VancouverWhile the City of Vancouver is always keen to retain its “most livable city” designation, it also has big incentives to see trucks and commercial vehicles move efficiently.  With over $200-million worth of cargo moving through the port each day, the City must balance the needs of trucks and commercial vehicles positively with the overall health of the city.

The City enforces truck route regulations based on public complaints and safety inspections, but now Port Metro Vancouver can be pro-active. “The GPS (units) will create a system where we’re more pro-active rather than waiting until a community raises a concern”, Silvester said.

Business Intelligence from Intelligent Communities

Business Intelligence from Intelligent Communities

You need to have some forbearance for municipalities that raced to keep up with demand for web-based communication systems suitable to desktop computers only to watch their constituents abandon fixed computers in favor of mobile devices, particularly smartphones. While the trend toward increased mobile device usage by constituents is only speeding up, the core theme (beyond the flip flops in technology) continues to be toward citizen-driven real-time communications.

“Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.”
—Stephen Hawking

Municipalities are now embracing new technologies (such as smartphone apps) not just to keep up with their constituents, but as a means to making their services readily available and scalable to people’s diverse needs. For example, municipalities must respond to a pro-active population that takes for granted the ability to see details about snow plow route completion, traffic congestion, parking restrictions and emergency situation alerts. Constituents want to live in intelligent communities. But what makes a community intelligent?

Citizen-Centered Services

Martin Duggan, vice president of market strategy at IBM, recently described in The Atlantic how public-sector departments must depart from the old service-delivery models and become more collaborative with their constituents. He stresses that “Today there is a shift toward citizen-centered services…” which in effect is saying communication has left push mode (government) and entered pull mode (citizen) as never before.

In Drawing Intelligence from Data, I described how business owners are becoming overwhelmed with the amount of data that’s now being collected—93% of CEOs believe they are losing opportunities from a lack of tools to handle this data. While constituents demand information at ever-increasing rates—and in real-time—organizations and businesses must make sense of it all.

One of our customers, Ville de Québec, sought to make sense of it all by tying the data it gathered from its snow plows using Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution to how it communicated with its constituents. It had large amounts of information it could use to inform constituents via an interactive web map and provide real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. For this, and other intelligent initiatives, Ville de Québec was nominated as an intelligent community.

What’s next for communities with data on their hands? Could past seasons of weather data be layered to forecast upcoming budgets for salt requirements on city roads? What are municipalities doing to become intelligent communities with business intelligence?