Express employs drivers and operators for trucks, tractors and specialty equipment engaged in testing and drilling oil wells, laying pipelines and plugging wells when they are done. The company uses a map-based dashboard from Fleetmatics, which installs a black-box-like telematics device in each vehicle. The GPS sensor and accelerometer detect location, log speed and directional headings, and relay data every 90 seconds while a vehicle is in motion; the system also records trends over time. Fleetmatics displays vehicle location data on a Web-based dashboard using Google Maps and also shows Street View imagery.
From his dispatch center in Houston, Powell can direct vehicles to where they are needed among the company's 31 sites in six states, whether it's the well-testing center in Montgomery, Pa., or the plugging operation in Houma, La. In addition, Powell uses Fleetmatics reporting functions to assess driver performance and to manage risks associated with severe weather.
For example, Powell says, by correlating weather reports and forecasts with vehicle locations, the company can warn drivers when Texas heat reaches into the triple digits, or when it's 30 below zero on the North Dakota plains.
And the system can tell him whether drivers are operating effectively. Heavy use of truck brakes at the wrong time of day -- say 1 a.m., as opposed to rush hour -- signals a problem. Poor driving habits waste fuel. Drivers are rated monthly on a 100-point scale, and anyone who scores below 85 gets invited to a meeting. "I run an operation where the facts are the facts, and the bottom line is [that driver] should not show up on the list next month," he says.
Powell credits the fleet management system with reducing fuel purchases by about $110,000 per month.
Asked about learning to use the system, Powell says: "I would say the only training you need is common sense."
Most of us don't think much about the pipes that feed our faucets or the traffic light on the corner unless something goes wrong. For public sector managers like José Colon of Washington, D.C., and James Bates of Louisville, Ky., the job is to prevent problems. And they have works in progress to update long-standing processes using IT systems to harness GIS capabilities.
For Bates, manager of infrastructure records at the Louisville Water Company, new capabilities mean extending the utility's GIS system that tracks the locations and conditions of 4,150 miles of water mains. New functions will manage additional assets like plant facilities, pumping stations and water tanks. Louisville Water is working on a data collection and management project that will feed a new Oracle work order and asset management system tied to its Esri GIS applications, part of a general IT modernization at the utility, Bates says. More data, well managed, is expected to yield important returns.
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