Commercial fleets and police departments have been successfully using GPS tracking to manage their vehicles for quite some time; towns and cities are now jumping on the vehicle-tracking bandwagon and reaping similar benefits. As municipalities and other local governments find themselves working with shrinking budgets, GPS vehicle tracking has become an increasingly popular way to cut costs and boost productivity. Without GPS tracking, municipalities are faced with the task of managing a fleet they can’t see: Installing tracking devices on waste management vehicles, street sweepers and more can provide valuable insight into how fleets are being used and help towns more effectively utilize their existing assets. Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of GPS tracking for municipal vehicles.
Fuel costs add up to a significant expense for local governments that have a sizable fleet. A GPS tracking system can help curb the speeding and unnecessary idling that leads to wasted fuel. These seemingly innocuous driving behaviors can make a big difference in fuel costs; in fact, driving even a few miles above a posted speed limit can have a marked impact on fuel efficiency. In addition, GPS tracking data can help towns and cities develop more efficient snow-removal and waste-management routes to conserve even more fuel. The Town of Islip, a 106-square-mile network of communities in New York State, experienced some of these benefits after implementing a GPS-based fleet management system in 2007. Fuel usage during the months of May, June and July of that year fell by nearly 14,000 gallons compared to the same three months of the previous year; this reduction in fuel usage saved the town over $32,000.
Using fuel more wisely doesn’t just save money for these local governments; it also reduces the carbon footprint of a municipal fleet. Since a large amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States come from vehicles, reducing inefficiencies like idling and poorly planned routes can make a big difference in a fleet’s emissions.
GPS tracking technology can provide a simple way for towns and municipalities to manage their employees more effectively. With data from these systems, local governments can ensure that workers are making the stops they need to make. Tracking data can also be used to confirm that workers move efficiently from stop to stop and don’t waste time idling. In addition to tracking vehicle usage during work hours, GPS data can also help deter the unauthorized use of public vehicles during off-hours.
GPS vehicle tracking can improve the efficiency of municipal fleets in a wide variety of ways. Snow removal, for example, is a significant expenditure in a town or city’s budget. GPS technology can help cities plan the most fuel-efficient routes for snow removal; speed and location data can help improve routes by avoiding recurring traffic delays. Trackers can also help town officials determine which streets and roads have already been plowed and which ones still require snow removal. In the event of an emergency such as a water main break, GPS tracking can help dispatchers determine the closest crew to send to the scene.
GPS technology can help municipal fleet managers improve the safety of both their vehicle drivers and the general public. Remember those bumper stickers that asked “How’s my driving?” and invited observers to call and report on a driver’s behavior? Tracking data can render those stickers obsolete, providing a wealth of information on driving habits such as speeding and unsafe braking. After the city of Augusta, Georgia implemented a GPS fleet-tracking system in late 2008, the number of accidents in which city employees were determined to be at fault decreased by nearly 30 percent during the first 12 months of the system’s use. GPS tracking can also help keep drivers safe by identifying harsh weather or other dangerous conditions and diverting drivers to a less hazardous route.
Keeping municipal vehicles well-maintained doesn’t just extend their useful life; it also makes them safer. Automated reminders can alert fleet managers about upcoming maintenance such as tune-ups and oil changes, and usage information from GPS trackers can even provide fleet managers with insight about possible repairs that may be needed. Taking care of municipal vehicles lowers the risk of potentially dangerous situations on the road.
Municipal fleets occasionally end up involved in lawsuits; GPS tracking data can help refute erroneous claims surrounding these vehicles. With information from GPS tracking software, a vehicle’s exact location and speed at a given time can be retrieved, providing valuable evidence during litigation.
It’s clear that towns and other local governments are making good use of GPS vehicle tracking for their municipal fleets. With increasing integration of driver and vehicle data, the future looks bright for tracking devices: These real-time tracking systems will be able to deliver even more benefits to municipalities going forward. The true value of a GPS tracking system lies in the way that data is used, and local governments are making great use of this information.