How telematics can green the fleet

How telematics can green the fleet

It’s hard to say whether diesel prices or CO2 levels are rising faster, but both factors make it essential for fleet operators to limit fuel consumption—spelling opportunity for telematics providers.

One way to reduce fuel use is to cut down on total miles driven.

Networkfleet’s hosted application lets fleet managers set parameters for vehicle use and also reports on indicators, such as number of miles driven and number of trips taken, allowing managers to identify those that don’t follow normal patterns.

Customers also can set up a ‘geofence’ that defines the area in which a vehicle should be and a history detailing when a vehicle entered or exited a geofence and the duration of time spent within the specified area.

Networkfleet’s product includes hardware in the vehicle that connects to the OBD port, sending information about the vehicle’s usage and performance to the company’s data center via a wireless network.

“Almost all our customers will see reduced total miles traveled, which leads to fuel savings,” says Chris Ransom, director of product management at Networkfleet.

“If they know someone is watching, employees don’t go home at lunch or places they shouldn’t, and they don’t take routes that are longer than they need to be.”
Access to the OBD port also allows the company to perform what it calls “continuous smog checks.”

“Checking continuously means the vehicle gets fixed immediately, rather than waiting a year or 18 months,” Ransom says.

He points out that the gases emitted by an engine in trouble, including nitrous oxide, carbon monoxide, and hydrocarbons, are often more harmful than those produced by a clean-burning engine.

Driving down pollution

Drivers actually have a much greater effect on CO2 emissions than we might assume.

A driver with a heavy foot may use a lot more gas to go the same distance than one who accelerates more smoothly and anticipates changing traffic speeds.

Jim Sassen, senior product marketing manager for Qualcomm Enterprise Services, estimates that driving behavior accounts for 20 to 35 percent of fuel consumption.

The company’s performance monitoring service includes a fuel monitor module that allows operators to track 16 metrics, including idling, shifting, revving in gear, speeding, and time spent in cruise control—all of which impact miles-per-gallon.

Customers set their own thresholds and then use a dashboard to see how the fleet is performing.

They can also see drivers ranked against that metric.

Sassen says one customer reduced its fuel consumption by .7 percent, a factor he says is likely close to the average.

GreenRoad’s 360+ is a subscription-based service that includes sensors, a GPS receiver, and a cellular modem on vehicles, along with a feedback display with green, yellow, and red lights mounted on the vehicle dashboard.

The display flashes yellow ten seconds after a driver finishes an inefficient maneuver, such as braking inefficiently; if the driver does something dangerous, the red light comes on.

The system can recognize 120 different maneuvers.

“We coach drivers and organizations to make smarter driving decisions,” says Dan Steere, CEO of GreenRoad.

“Slightly better decisions every day during the normal course of the driving … lead to very significant reductions in the number of times they crash and the fuel they burn.”

The system software automatically generates weekly emails to drivers, which may include tips to improve efficiency as well as reports that aggregate all driving data.

Managers and drivers also can log onto a secure Web portal to drill down and look at every maneuver.

According to GreenRoad, more than 80 companies are using the technology and have found that it reduces fuel usage (and emissions) on average by 10 percent.
Networkfleet’s solution can track vehicle speeds and immediately alert fleet managers via text or email when a driver is speeding.

It also produces reports allowing managers to identify drivers with the heaviest feet.

While managers can then call drivers and tell them to slow down, Ransom says a best practice is to instead identify those with a pattern of speeding and coach them when they’re not on the road.

Of course, the wheels of a vehicle don’t have to be moving in order for it to consume fuel; especially for large trucks, engine idling can eat gas while pumping out CO2.

According to California Green Solutions, a big-rig truck uses approximately one gallon of gas per hour of idling time.

Networkfleet’s offering reports on which drivers are idling the most, so that managers can work with them to change this behavior.

Roadblocks to adoption

There are a few barriers to adoption of green fleet solutions.

The upfront cost is a factor for managers who need to wring every dollar they can out of their operations.

Learning to use the systems is another barrier; fleet managers need to proactively use reports in order to obtain value.

The biggest barrier may be social, says Ransom.

“People don’t like Big Brother,” he says. “For employees and unions, this is a culture shift.”

But it’s a shift that’s probably inevitable, given the potential impact on the environment and on budgets.

“It’s very important to not position it as something used to catch drivers doing something wrong,” Sassen says.

Smart managers, he advises, can also use these services to reinforce and reward drivers who are doing a good job.

Qualcomm’s fuel manager can even quantify how much money each good driver is saving the company.

Says Steere, “Saving 10 percent is huge if you’re running thousands of vehicles. The top three cost centers for vehicles are depreciation, crash costs, and fuel.

Just by using what you have more efficiently, that’s several million dollars that goes straight to the bottom line.”

If you find this interesting, take a look at our Fleet & Asset Management USA Show taking place in Atlanta next week.

Susan Kuchinskas is a regular contributor to TU.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *