For the waste and recycling industry, it used to be that tracking assets in the field was like throwing darts. Dispatchers had a general idea based on time of day and periodic check-ins where a truck might be on its route. But knowing exactly where every truck in the fleet was in its route was a pipe dream.
Technology has since caught up. In fact, today’s fleet tracking systems not only monitor the location and status of vehicles and monitor the types of services the vehicles are performing, but also allow haulers to make real-time strategic decisions about operations and use historical information to identify and correct inefficiencies, reduce unnecessary costs and improve productivity.
“Over the past few decades the capability of fleet management technology has increased beyond just 'location' to include advanced features such as engine diagnostic trouble code (DTC) reporting, driver management and messaging, mobile electronic forms, navigation and route optimization and many more features,” says Kelly Frey, vice president of product marketing for Telogis. “Today, fleet management that incorporates these broader solution capabilities is more often referred to as Mobile Resource Management (MRM).”
Telogis, a Verizon company, is a global, cloud-based MRM software company based in Aliso Viejo, Calif.
For fleet tracking to work effectively, a GPS receiver records the location of the vehicles and communicates the data on a cellular network back to the fleet management staff in real-time.
“In the waste industry, fleet tracking can record proof of service such as when and where a cart is serviced, record exceptions such as cart not out or cart contaminated,” says Dave Gelvin, vice president of operations for Coretex USA (formerly Air-Trak). “Fleet tracking also can include an in-cab display to provide the driver with electronic route sheets, the ability to status a stop or record exceptions, the ability to message with the back office, and access turn by turn navigation. Advanced proof of service utilizes RFID to accurately identify each cart and its associated customer and when it was serviced.”
Coretex USA, under the Air-Trak name, offers fleet and service tracking solutions purpose-built for waste and recycling haulers and is based in San Diego, Calif.
Waste companies are recording data on location, time, speed, mileage of the vehicle, cart pickups, service exceptions, photo verification of exceptions and route statistics like first service time, last service time, total time on route.
“The waste industry is very competitive and municipalities are demanding a higher quality service from their service providers,” Gelvin says. “Proof of service and route monitoring is quickly becoming a mandatory tool to remain competitive and meet the requirements of municipal contracts.”
Real-time fleet tracking allows fleet managers to make strategic decisions on the fly about operations, for greater efficiency, and automated tools can correct behavior in the field before the money is wasted, according to Ben Van Avery, director of sales for Advanced Tracking Technologies Inc. (ATTI). ATTI is a Houston, Texas-based GPS tracking manufacturer, with a focus on GPS-based fleet management.
Real-time tracking also allows for more rapid response in the event of a driving violation that may be considered egregious—perhaps speeding in a school zone during a school day—or a DTC event that may indicate an accident has occurred, according to Frey.
“If driver hours of service (HOS) being recorded then a real-time alert of a violation to the HOS rules to the driver and back-office may be required to ensure the driver is taken off of the road before a fine or out of service order is incurred,” he says. “Real-time tracking with DTCs (engine diagnostic trouble code) can also help to keep the maintenance staff aware of any serious vehicle malfunctions that could lead to unnecessary downtime or increased maintenance costs.”
The data collected through fleet tracking technology consists of locations status, ignition activity, monitored power events, as well as speed and idle time. Other information is based on the needs of the company, such as assigned drivers, timekeeping, fleet maintenance information and customer activities.
“Specialized software and mobile apps provide the ability to view real time and complete historical routes on maps and organized reports can provide overview of operation or specific details depending on the customer’s needs,” says Avery.
The application of fleet tracking and mobile resource management solutions can help waste management operators drive significant improvements with cost efficiency, safety and productivity, according to Frey.
“They shouldn't limit their thinking to just the fleet management operations opportunities and driving down fleet operational costs, but more broadly to include everything that is mobile—vehicles, assets, workers etc.,” he says. “The opportunity to go beyond the 'connection' (the telematics) and into the optimization and automation of work processes is really where they should be thinking, because there are many more benefits beyond cost reduction, such as productivity, customer satisfaction and driver satisfaction that can be positively impacted. Many operators still think of telematics and fleet management as a tactical solution, as opposed to the strategic solution that it is.”