Tag Archive for winter fleet management

Foresight Lights Up Winter

Are-You-Ready-for-the-First-Snowfall

It’s August, the air conditioning is turned up full blast, and all you can think about is… “I hope my snow plows will be ready when the first winter storm hits”. More likely, you’re thinking about a cool drink by the lake, but while you’re not thinking about winter, InterFleet is. Because, as sure as death and taxes, winter is coming.

“Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.”
? Sinclair Lewis, writer, thinker, Nobel laureate

Shouldn’t This Just Work?

Some people mistakenly assume that AVL technology doesn’t need to be checked after a summer of dormancy. “It should just work”, they say. That perception sometimes carries over to vehicles that have had their plow blades removed for summer work and even had their locators removed.

Even if a vehicle sits idle in the yard for six months of summer, you want the assurance that once the first snow storm hits, its AVL capabilities are ready to go. Statistically speaking, the bulk of accident claims are made against municipalities around the time of the first storm of the year, more so than later when drivers are re-acclimatized to winter conditions. If equipment isn’t ready, you can’t use the AVL data to defend against mistaken (or false) claims. Your winter operations department is on the defensive.

Get Your Fleet Ready for the Storm

According to James Dai, Manager of Winter Light Up, having your AVL components checked early produces significant gains. “After we completed the Winter Light Up service for five customers with a total of 199 snow plows, there were only two service tickets. In comparison, for customers who did not sign up for the WLU program, we received five service tickets for ten plows at one municipality, and six service requests from another municipality with over 15 plows. One city only discovered that ten of its winter maintenance vehicles had not even been reporting its controller data—until February!”

Given those kinds of statistics it’s no wonder field managers who’ve learned the value of using the Winter Light Up program well before winter arrives, endorse if fully. “Whatever you’re charging, it’s well worth it”, said Jim Kettle, Technical Specialist at City of Mississauga, Ontario.

Winter Light Up

Winter Light Up is a program from InterFleet that’s designed to ensure your winter operations are running smoothly before Old Man Winter arrives. InterFleet offers experienced project managers, project coordinators, solution engineers, and certified technicians to ensure your fleet is on-time and ready.  By having our Winter Light Up team analyze the technical details of your existing fleet, you are assured that your units have the right configuration files and the accuracy and details of your advanced reports are verified. This gives you the data you need to respond immediately to events as they unfold.

We ensure your spreader controllers, plow sensors, and temperature sensors are working and all locators are reporting as they should, so you get a thorough audit of your winter fleet’s AVL readiness. Let’s manage winter together so you can focus on storm fighting, not your AVL system.

InterFleet logo

For more information about the InterFleet Winter Light Up program, contact your account manager or call
+1 (877) 434-4844 (Option 2).

 

 

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?

Winter Fleets—Let’s Celebrate!

This winter, thousands of locals and visitors alike will don their skates and glide effortlessly along the Rideau Canal Skateway, a highlight of winter in Ottawa and the world’s longest skating rink. At 7.8 kilometres long, the Rideau Canal is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it’s best known as a winter wonderland as it wends its way from the steps of Canada’s majestic parliament buildings through the heart of downtown Ottawa and finally winds up at Dows Lake skating rink.

Unlike many cities, Ottawa comes to life in the winter when the frozen canal becomes the focus of winter festivities such as its Christmas Lights across Canada, featuring over 300,000 multi-coloured lights, and its popular Winterlude, held in February, make Ottawa a winter destination. For most city Public Works departments, winter is the time to prevent streets from becoming the world’s longest skating rink. But Ottawa’s got that handled too.

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the Webtech Wireless InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets, because it supports an extensive array of sensor integrations (road temperature sensors, spreader controllers, plow sensors) and boasts ten-second reporting and turn-by-turn navigation. With InterFleet, it gained visibility into how much salt its third-party contractors were using and with that came the ability to identify excess salt. Not surprisingly, by reducing excess salt usage, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

“Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

Due to its negative impact on the environment, particularly drinking water supplies, the City of Ottawa actively encourages residents and snow removal contractors to reduce the rock salt they use. Ottawa’s Public Works Department is always looking for innovative means to reduce salt usage and it found GPS technology linked to its electronic salt spreader controllers to be one of the most effective ways to track salt usage. It actively promotes the Smart About Salt Council to increase awareness about eliminating rock salt and using resources more effectively.

Ten-second real-time reporting provides supervisors with the information they need to handle winter effectively. No matter where they are—the office, home, or vehicle—supervisors can respond immediately to events as they unfold, confident that the information they are looking at in their InterFleet solution is completely accurate and up to date.

So, when the temperature drops this winter, it’s time to celebrate!

Check the skating conditions on the Rideau Canal Skateway.

Find out more great ideas about things to see and do when you visit Ottawa and Gatineau this winter at Canada’s Capital Region!

Photos courtesy of National Capital Commission

Ville de Québec Top Finalist for Intelligent Community Award

Ville de QuébecWe are thrilled to report that Ville de Québec (Quebec City) is among seven finalists for the municipally coveted 2012 Intelligent Community award.

Since 2001, Ville de Québec has been actively developing its broadband infrastructure and, in 2009 as part of its commitment to bettering itself as an intelligent community, implemented our InterFleet solution to its winter fleet operations.

Each year, the Intelligent Community Forum presents this award to intelligent communities that “have come to understand the enormous challenges of the broadband economy, and have taken conscious steps to create an economy capable of prospering in it”.  The awards program has two goals: to salute the accomplishments of communities in developing inclusive prosperity on a foundation of information and communications technology, and to gather data for ICF’s research programs.

As part of Ville de Québec’s commitment to promoting web-based solutions, the city launched an interactive Web map to provide high-quality cartographic and zoning data. Among other capabilities, the map displays real-time locations of the city’s snow plows. “Through smarter deployment of plows, the city has been able to reduce the number of vehicles and operating expenses per vehicle while providing better results.”

In 2009, Ville de Québec chose Webtech Wireless’ InterFleet solution for their snow plows and winter fleet operational information, because it offered real-time information (five-second reporting and automatic map updates), support for multiple spreader controllers, and great road salt management capabilities.

The seven finalists for the Award (in alphabetical order):

  • Austin, Texas, United States
  • Oulu, Finland
  • Quebec City, Quebec, Canada
  • Riverside, California, United States
  • Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada
  • Stratford, Ontario, Canada
  • Taichung City, Taiwan

More About Québec’s Award Nomination

Are Your Winter Fleet Contractors Worth Their Salt?

City of  OttawaOne of the hidden costs of winter road maintenance is its affect on the environment. Much of the salt applied to keep roads ice free finds its way into soil and waterways. Toxins found in fish, either from surface water or metals dissolved in water by salt, are among the toxic effects of excessive salt usage. A municipality’s ability to supply quality drinking water is also compromised by surface or groundwater that’s contaminated with salt. Soil retains salt year after year, destroying its ability to sustain plants leading to increased erosion. Also, salt residues by the side of roads serve as an enticing salt lick, luring animals into dangerous on-road encounters with vehicles.

“We cannot keep trading short-term cost for long-term cost.”

Reducing salt usage is good for the environment and fits well with municipal, provincial, and state environmental efforts. To address environmental concerns, some municipalities have experimented with other solutions over rock salt, such as using calcium magnesium acetate (as it has far fewer toxic effects). While less toxic, calcium magnesium acetate has the drawback of taking longer to melt ice than rock salt and it’s 20 times more expensive.

One remedy is to drastically reduce the use of cheap rock salt and phase in one or more of the expensive alternatives. But to really reduce your salt usage, you need to increase your ability to track excessive salt usage with precision—especially when it comes to third-party contractors (some of whom charge for salt and thus may be incentivized to use it to excess).

In 2009, The City of Ottawa implemented the InterFleet winter operations solution for government fleets. By gaining the ability to identify excess salt usage by its contractors, the City reduced its salt costs by 20%.

 “Installing GPS technology in our salt spreader vehicles is a great way to help us reduce the amount of road salt we use, and reduce costs at the same time,” said Mayor Larry O’Brien, “By installing these systems, we will both prolong the life of City infrastructure and keep more money in the pockets of Ottawa taxpayers.”

In Ottawa, where they don’t use contractors, InterFleet’s Live Material Monitoring tool saves costs by highlighting in real time when an operator is using pure salt (icon appears red), as opposed to the environmentally friendly alternatives (such as pre-wet applications, allowing for less overall salt usage).

Other government scenarios, which use contractors, utilize InterFleet’s real-time visibility to verify contractor compliance with salt-usage standards. This is particularly advantageous if contractors are charging for salt used.

The most impressive advantage of InterFleet’s real-time visibility is that, unlike passive GPS tools that merely store data and upload it when the vehicle returns to the yard, live data allows a fleet manager to bring immediate attention to help an operator if salt levels are too high. Real-time alerts provide operational efficiency that can foster an environment of cooperation between government and its third-party contractors, and in the end, less salt on the roads means a better environment for everyone.