How telematics help fleet managers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

How telematics help fleet managers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

The use of fleet telematics to monitor government vehicles could help fleet managers reduce costs and greenhouse gas emissions while optimizing overall fleet operations.

Telematics uses global positioning systems and sensors to gather real-time data and location information on moving fleet vehicles. Besides helping agencies track vehicle performance, it is an important tool in helping fleet managers meet federal mandates that requires agencies with fleets of 20 vehicles or more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by a minimum of 15 percent by 2020.

“There’s an awful lot of focus right now for the different departments within the federal fleet to become aware of their carbon output and to install telematics technology in their vehicles,” said Colin Sutherland, executive vice president of sales and marketing for the telematics technology firm Geotab.

Telematics systems collect data from three sources: a GPS, a sensor on the engine diagnostic port and an accelerometer. The GPS provides location, date and time, and the sensor records vehicle health data such as fuel economy, service needs and carbon dioxide output. The accelerometer provides vehicle axis-based motion sensing, like forwards to backwards, side-to-side and up and down.

When the technology is installed in fleet vehicles, the data flows over secure wireless networks to a cloud-hosted environment, where fleet managers can log in and see exactly where vehicles are and pull up dashboards, summary reports and evaluations.

At its most basic, telematics can be used for government fleet asset utilization. “We’re seeing an awful lot of vehicles that are completely under utilized and sometimes, quite frankly, missing,” Sutherland said. In a fleet of about 500, it is not uncommon to lose track of about 10 percent of those vehicles when looking to install technology in them.

When all vehicles are accounted for and telematics technology is connected, fleet managers can see data on miles driven and engine hours, which helps determine if a vehicle unnecessarily sits idle, contributing to carbon output.

By tracking the full duty life cycle of a vehicle and how it’s driven, agencies also could identify when and if they should take advantage of new electric vehicle technology, which could greatly reduce carbon output. Electric vehicles for municipal-based parking enforcement could be more efficient if recharging stations are accessible.

The software also allows agencies to monitor and analyze vehicle data over time. Agencies with larger fleets could use the data to decide to retire a percentage of vehicles that are too old, underused or fuel inefficient -- or replace some with new or hybrids. “That’s the very practical day-to-day problem that a lot of the government fleets we’re working with are trying to address,” Sutherland said. Eliminating older vehicles could improve fleet efficiency and reduce costs.

Additionally, having the position data of snowplows, waste management or road maintenance vehicles exposed through an open application programming interface expands transparency with the public, and developers can use the data to create community-facing web interfaces.

In the future, integrating telematics with the Internet of Things, big data and other agency connected devices and datasets could improve overall road safety. For example, public works departments could use the accelerometer on vehicles to detect road bumps and potholes as they drive around. Telematics data could also be meshed with real-time crowdsourced traffic datasets and weather data to predict traffic risk factors and conditions.

According to Sutherland, it is time for more government fleet managements to adopt telematics to take advantage of this source of enriched data. “They are not collecting information or data, and they absolutely need to,” he added.

The General Services Administration has been working with AT&T to establish government fleet telematics, according to officials from GSA Fleet Services and Solutions.

GSA awarded a governmentwide blanket purchase agreement to AT&T on Sept. 30, 2015, and it is open for use by all federal agencies. The BPA gives agencies access to telematics technology, including GPS tracking, vehicle monitoring and diagnostics capabilities intended to improve safety and reduce fuel usage, greenhouse gas emissions and costs. This new contract will also help federal agencies meet the sustainability mandates outlined in Executive Order 13693 - Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade, GSA said.

Currently, GSA uses its Fleet Management System FMS2GO mobile app to gather real-time batch updates, vehicle assignments and business data loads from already-issued mobile devices.

This article was changed Oct. 26 to include information about GSA's telematics contract with AT&T. 

About the Author

Amanda Ziadeh is a former reporter/producer for GCN.


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