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Fleet Management Solution Goes Smarter

Source: Tevin Wang | Date: 03/26/2012

Related tags: fleet management, GPS, DVRs

Faced with increasing terrorist and public-safety threats over the past two decades, mobile surveillance technologies have emerged and evolved. Forwardthinking vehicle fleet managers are always looking for comprehensive solutions that reduce liability and enhance safety and fleet performance.

While basic principles remain the same among different verticals, there are unique elements and requirements that must be considered for specific fleet types. “It really depends on the vertical the service business covers. For example, landscaping companies often have extremely expensive assets on their trucks, whether they have five or 500 vehicles in their fleet,” said Mark Roberts, CMO of Nextraq “One single in-vehicle device covering all different needs is replaced by vertical-specific solutions with smarter analysis and more value-added services. “

Concerns by vertical
Taxis and Limousines
“For taxis and limos, the No. 1 risk is reckless driving,” Roberts said. Features such as speed reports, risky driver behavior identification and alerts are used to monitor unsafe driving patterns that might result in accidents or litigation. 

Police Cruisers
In the U.S., police vehicles are equipped with cameras to record both inside and outside activity. Video quality is the ultimate consideration when choosing an in-car video system, said Adam Rushlow, Marketing Manager of WatchGuard Video. HD is a priority as video footage is required as court evidence. According to IMS Research, the HD camera market for police cars in the U.S. is set to grow more than 20 percent over the next four years. Sound-recording facilities can also be integrated and used in a court of law to prove or disprove witness statements.

Most police officers are not technologically oriented. “Make sure police officers can be trained easily and effectively while installation remains as simple as possible,” Rushlow said. “The accountability and reliability of solution providers are also vital, especially when some technical issues arise.”

Logistics and Freight
“Delivery vehicles and freight trucks could carry potentially expensive assets that could be targeted for theft or robbery,” said Liu Yang, Technical Support Engineer, Dahua Technology. While GPS provides location information, asset-tracking devices can be deployed to pinpoint the location of equipment or a specific trailer.

Some assets require real-time monitoring with location updates every two minutes. Other mobile assets like containers and rail cars require location updates less frequently and require batterypowered tracking devices. The goal is to allow fleet managers to monitor and maintain real-time control, ultimately minimizing the costs associated with lost, stolen or abandoned trailers, said Todd Lewis, President of GPS North America.

A traditional way to secure trailers and freight cargo is through door-only or door-plus seals. However, door-only and door-plus seals do not provide protection against unauthorized entry, said Laura Turner, Marketing Assistant at Global Tracking Communication. Smart containers are asset trackers with a container lock feature, reporting opening and closing events. With this additional layer of security, fleet managers may use an online application to view assets and vehicles on maps.

Reports and alerts can be triggered, for example, when cargo enters or leaves a specific geographic location. This geofencing information improves security and reduces possible theft, helping business owners better manage inventory and human/object assets.

Mass Transit
In public transportation, key security concerns for passengers and drivers include disputes from accidents, violence, vandalism, driver behavior management and liability mitigation, said Chalon Dilber, Marketing Director for Safety Vision. “To a much lesser extent, the concerns stretch to include hijacking and homeland security-related concerns.”

Simple video recording with a fixed camera might be adequate for after-the-fact processing since litigation has always been a concern for mass-transit operators. Readily available video footage provides the most legitimate evidence to support or dismiss claims from either passengers or drivers. In recent years, remotely accessible and live video has become a prerequisite in selecting mobile DVRs, which provide decision makers with a real-time view as critical events unfold. To ensure video quality, features like Wi-Fi, 3-G and bandwidth consistency should be taken into account.

Unsafe driving maneuvers should also be monitored. Identifying reckless behavior with sensors is generally included with recording hardware or GPS devices. “For example, accelerometers can measure high G-force events such as aggressive cornering, brakes and crashes,” Dilber said. “In addition, integration with external hardwired sensors as well as vehicle diagnostics allows buses to provide real-time alerts to a central station.”

According to Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators research, driver fatigue contributes to 19 percent of accidents and 4 percent of fatal collisions. Fatigue detection focuses on the status of eyes. “The latest development is to combine video analytics and passenger counting with audio and GPS data to proactively monitor driving habits and passenger loading to prevent possible accidents,” said Xin Zhou, Product Manager, Hikvision Digital Technology.

Mining and Dangerous Goods
Safety is a top priority. Many mining sites or dangerous goods transport routes are located in rural areas, which may not have cellular communications, said Cliff Henley, CEO of Fleet Management Solutions. Mining vehicles are rugged and huge, and accidents involving them are always serious. “Two-way satellite communication with GPS tracking is vital for immediate location awareness and emergency response.”

Driver blind spots include the front, sides and back of the vehicle. This fact sometimes leads to deadly accidents as drivers do not even know or sense they ran over a car or a person, Yang said. Radars, microphones and cameras are deployed and shown on a display inside the cabin to enhance situational awareness.

Road safety is critical in risk mitigation and a key concern for these fleet managers, said Jason Lai, Director of Fleet Management Service, Riti Technology. Improved safety on the road in remote areas with harsh environments can be achieved by creating geofences around no-go areas or designated routes to notify if the driver has gone off the grid. “There is no doubt that driver safety remains the most important objective with dangerous goods transport fleets, but monitoring speeding, which is a major contributor to crash incidents, is equally important,” Lai said. Features like driving-behavior monitoring enable managers to know when and where specific events such as hard braking, sharp turns and rapid acceleration occur. “In addition to management awareness, weekly or monthly summaries let drivers know how many events they trigger each day, thus promoting safe driving habits on a daily basis.”

“As tires play an important role in handling, maneuvering and braking of these heavy vehicles, tire pressure monitoring is also crucial,” Lai said. “With the aid of tire pressure monitors, tires can be properly maintained, and crashes caused by tire blowouts and other tire-related issues can be minimized.”

Higher fuel prices increase the risk of fuel theft, making tanker trucks easy targets for criminals, Yang said. The opening and closing of valves, hatches and other control points on the truck should be monitored and time-stamped. Approved routes for the tanker and valve/hatch access points should be established to ensure the safety of these assets. Any deviation from pre-established parameters will trigger an alarm in the operations center.

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