GPS tracking systems chart the path to fuel savings

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Updated Jul 29, 2013
A FleetMatics fuel efficiency report combines fuel purchase and location dataA FleetMatics fuel efficiency report combines fuel purchase and location data

Software and wireless networks are rarely, if ever, priced like water, gas and other utilities on the basis of units of consumption. With a license or monthly subscription, users gain access to an entire package that likely contains more features and data than they need.

On one hand, technology pricing models may leave users paying for features they don’t need. On the other, a small set of features may be all they need to justify the cost. Meanwhile, the extra features lie in wait as opportunities to multiply return on investment.

Kevin Fagen, president of Coast to Coast Express, says the company’s GPS fleet tracking system fits the latter description.

“We know we are only using a small portion of the capability,” he says. For instance, when it comes to managing the fleet’s fuel economy the company uses the basic features.

While using the map view, Fagen looks for driver activities that are contributing to fuel performance. The tracking system from FleetMatics identifies speed by location. Alerts are sent when trucks exceed the speed limit. If the driver speeds up while approaching a hill, Fagen can see a driver is doing the right thing to conserve fuel.

The system also identifies areas where trucks are idling. Fagen says the system updates positions and other data every 13 seconds. This rapid communication provides him with a very granular, detailed view of route activities.

Coast to Coast Express has been using FleetMatics for the past seven years. The Windsor Locks, Conn.-based carrier operates nine company tractors and seven owner-operators.

A future opportunity to improve fuel economy is to use an integrated fuel card. This feature is not useful for Coast to Coast Express, Fagen says, since the company operates within a 150-mile radius and has a vendor fuel its vehicles onsite.

For carriers that want the feature, FleetMatics bundles a fuel card with the system. When making fuel purchases, the data flows automatically into the user’s account to give instant visibility to fuel expenses and location data. FleetMatics uses GPS readings to calculate vehicle distance on a second-by-second basis so that its fuel economy reporting is highly accurate.

The integration of fuel data with locations can also be used to validate that vehicles are at fuel stations when fuel purchases are made. This combination adds a layer of protection that card controls alone do not provide.

FleetMatics offers a very modular system, says Jonathan Durkee, vice president of product management. As fleets want to add more features, like connecting the system to the engine to capture and monitor ECM data, they can do that. Unless a customer wants to use electronic logging, the added expense may not be justified. “We find that customers are just as happy with fuel card integration,” he says.

FleetMatics has more than 19,000 customers in a variety of industries. With this large amount of data collection, FleetMatics offers a built-in benchmarking feature that can assist fleets in managing fuel economy. If a customer sees vehicles are idling for 1 to 1.5 hours a day, on average, FleetMatics can provide an industry benchmark for idling or one that is localized to a region or state.

“It gives a point of perspective on how much I can improve,” Durkee says. Additional features related to fuel economy include monitoring of driving characteristics like harsh braking, acceleration and cornering, he adds.