Fleet management used to mean drawing lines in the dirt
with a pointed stick to attempt to find water for your horses. Years later,
a radio-dispatched fleet was the height of high-tech. Today, computers
and GPS systems are a normal function of fleet management.
Software packages exist today that can do almost anything
you want, from tracking trucks to managing vehicle maintenance to sending
real-time photos by satellite. Other features may include voice recording,
fuel reporting, customized maps for driver routing, and in-truck printouts.
It’s a big improvement over the days when drivers
needed to carry change for pay phones and dispatchers tracked everything
manually. Mike Williams at Integrated Systems Research Corp (ISR) said,
“We’ve taken the pen and paper and automated that, so there’s
Making the job easier isn’t the primary function
of the software, however. As Williams pointed out, trucks make up a large
portion of a business’s expense, and keeping track of that expense
can save money. Sophisticated software is one way of “making sure
the equipment is doing what it is supposed to do,” Williams said.
ISR’s FleetTrack system includes a black box in
each truck that records the truck’s movement, its speed, where the
truck stopped, when it stopped and how long it was stopped. It can also
be wired to record any mechanical data the customer needs, including when
doors are opened or closed, when truck arms are raised or lowered, or
when a tailgate is opened or closed.
The black box can be set to store more information that
it sends, and the stored data can be accessed later. For example, a customer
may only need data updates every 15 minutes so the truck’s position
can be tracked, but in case of an accident or a dispute, the box could
do a graphical playback of the truck’s every movement.
Communication is handled via a terminal in the truck
that tells the driver when he has a new assignment. As soon as the driver
acknowledges that he has received the assignment, confirmation is sent
back to the dispatcher.
Pat Fahey, CEO of Pacifica Systems, said that Accu-Trax
Office software works with Windows XP compatible touch-screen computers
installed the trucks. These computers are “hardened,” which
means they are built for use the rough and/or dirty environment typical
in many trucks.
A GPS in every truck sends updated data every 15 seconds,
and future plans include real-time data as well. A camera mounted on the
truck is integrated into the system so that photos can be sent wirelessly
to the office. These photos can be automatically inserted into a customer’s
account information. This single feature can save thousands of dollars,
Fahey explained, since having photos “explains why a customer may
be charged extra” when there is a problem at the customer site.
Tami Fahey, office administrator at Pacifica added that
while Accu-Trax is popular with many waste management companies, the software
can be tweaked to accommodate customer needs. “We’re willing
to work with anybody,” she said.
Jason Kretzer, sales manager at Axon Development Corporation,
explained that Axon has been in the fleet management business for 23 years,
and they have “an extremely diverse customer base.”
Kretzer said, “We designed our software so that
we can easily modify it for our customers’ needs.” The software
is real-time and fully integrated and communications flow both ways. There
is no need to post information at the end of the day after trucks report
in, since the data is immediately available to everyone.
For communication, Axon software can be used with any
satellite company’s devices. Many customers already use Qualcomm
for communication, and adding Axon’s software is seamless.
Joel Smith at Clear Computing, Inc. described their
Total Activity Control (TAC) software as an operational system. Not only
does it track the fleet, but it also manages the data from beginning to
end so it “makes sure it flows through the invoicing process so
you get your money.”
Smith said that about 60% of a trucking business’s
expense is in the truck, so “if you can squeeze 10% more out of
the vehicle, it affects the bottom line.” In the past, the data
you used was whatever the driver turned in at the end of the run.
Now, software can estimate a “run rate”
which is how long the run should take based on route, road conditions,
and other variables. If runs are taking significantly longer than expected,
it’s something to look into. Smith said, “Your direct labor
costs go down because both you and the driver know how long it’s
supposed to take.”
Alex Bell, controller for Trux Route Management Systems,
Inc. described their Haul-It software as billing and routing software
with “handy tools that make it simple.” Haul-It lets you enter
customer information and services, and it bills the customer and records
payment when it arrives. The software integrates with other vendors’
devices in trucks, and can download that data for use within Haul-it.
Map-it is routing and mapping software that works with
Haul-It to let the dispatcher visualize the data on a grid or a map, making
dispatching decisions more efficient. Bell said, “Our system helps
you run the business.”
John Leeds, vice president of Carolina Software explained
that WasteWORKS software is designed primarily to handle activity across
scale facilities, but that it also has a container billing feature for
managing roll-off container use.
A new add-on module for WasteWORKS will help track containers
so you know “where you put it, who has it, what day of the week
you’re going to pick it up,” Leeds said. The add-on will be
available to existing customers as well as in new versions of the software.
A future consideration is integration with a hand-held PDA-like device
that drivers will use to enter data, receive instruction, and report back
to the office.
Fleet Logistics, Inc. considers themselves a consulting
firm that customizes their proprietary hardware and software to suit the
customer. Randy Giddings, director of marketing, said, “We are flexible
and adaptive to our customers’ needs. We don’t have a cookie
Giddings explained that a black box in each vehicle
is used to audit and verify routes, and can be customized to get whatever
data the customer wants. Data can be exported to maps, charted graphically,
replayed on a computer, or exported to other programs like Excel.
Customers might use the data to compare expected and
actual routes, or to help train new drivers by showing them routes the
experienced drivers use. In a municipal recycling program, data can identify
participation in the program by neighborhood based on the stops the truck
Ron Turley Associates looks at fleet management from
a different perspective with their RTA Fleet Management software. Rather
than monitoring fleet movement, they monitor the health of the fleet.
Larry Turley explained that it’s shop-based software for the “maintenance
side of fleet management.”
“How are you running your fleet?” he asked,
referring to the maintenance and safety aspects. With proper preventive
maintenance, the trucks run more efficiently, with less downtime, while
detailed maintenance records verify that the trucks are safe to be on
The software runs on almost every computer platform,
and can manage small fleets or those with 20,000 units, creating work
orders, managing the mechanics, and ordering and tracking parts. While
the software can create purchase orders and receive parts, it won’t
cut a check to vendors. It does, however, interface with accounting packages
so the appropriate departments can pay bills and monitor fleet expenses.
The software options available for managing a fleet
are diverse, so there’s sure to be a package that’s just right
for your business. Many of the companies featured here have demo software
available, making your search a little easier.