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Fleet Management Software, Part 1

Written by Susan Geoghegan

Police agencies and municipalities continue to benefit from advances in Internet technology and telecommunications. As with all other aspects of policing, fleet management is going paperless, thanks to software programs that allow efficient and cost-effective maintenance of fleet resources. Acquisition, fueling, repairs and accurate record-keeping are just a few of the features that help to streamline the process. With a click of a mouse, a vehicle’s entire service and repair history can be accessed.

Most fleet management software systems can be customized to meet an agency’s specific needs, regardless of size.

First in a series that will focus on fleet management technology products for small and medium-sized agencies, this article covers four companies that offer flexible and adaptable solutions.

Chevin Fleet Solutions

Founded in 1990, Chevin is a leading provider of fleet management solutions for both government and non-government organizations. Available in 19 different languages, Chevin software systems are used in more than 30 countries worldwide. Launched in 2001, FleetWave is a flexible high-end solution geared toward use in multiple locations and multi-national operations. RoadBASE is a highly adaptable Windows-based system suitable for single location use. Both software systems are user-friendly and provide effective solutions for vehicle and asset management.

According to Ron Katz, vice president of North American Sales, agency size is not as important as individual agency needs in deciding upon the appropriate software. Some of Chevin’s biggest clients use RoadBASE, a lower end program oriented to single locations. A number of smaller organizations have opted for FleetWave, a higher end, multiple location program. He points out that both systems are equally effective in vehicle life-cycle and equipment management, and are asset-centric to ensure optimal efficiency.

Touted as the world’s first browser-based fleet management solution, FleetWave is a web-based software program that is centrally managed and highly scalable. As such, it requires no additional client installation or add-in components. Low initial license fees and centrally-applied system updates lower the cost of ownership. FleetWave software can be tailored to suit individual agency needs and consists of many modules.

The Vehicles Module tracks vehicle and equipment details and costs. The Drivers Module tracks driver information such as name, address, license and contact details in addition to vehicle allocation. Repairs and Workshop analyzes details of repair and maintenance activities and provides instant access to vehicle history. The Accidents section holds complete details of an incident, such as driver, vehicle, date and time, and road conditions.

The Stock Control module tracks purchase orders and stock issues, and it interfaces directly with the Job-card module. Fuel, of course, records and analyzes fuel consumption by fleet vehicles. Report Writer creates custom reports with the Query Builder application. Finally, the Fleet Status Tool module reminds users of upcoming inspections, certifications, renewals and services.

Every FleetWave screen can be completely customized with no extra programming or development costs. It easily interfaces with a number of third-party data sources, and can be used with wireless and LAN technology for mobile, field-based solutions.

RoadBASE is a flexible, adaptable Windows-based solution that is perfect for single agency locations. Its user-definable screen layouts and reports allow easy system adaptability for specific department requirements. Like FleetWave, RoadBASE consists of a series of modules that provide efficient management and maintenance of the entire fleet.

RoadBASE features include increased quality of information available to management, improved monitoring of all fixed and variable costs, validation of data upon entry, quick identification of warranty claims, full vehicle details and history, e-mail and/or text reminders of statutory requirements and flexible screens that allow easy customization.

Additional modules can be added to increase efficiency, including the Bar Code Scanner, which is a valuable, time-saving tool for the receival and inventory of parts. The Import/Export Data Transfer module works with Excel to import or export data to and from the system, while the User Defined Module allows modification and extension of existing modules.

The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) has been using FleetWave since 2003 with extremely positive results. According to Larry Rains, director of Motor Equipment for the MSHP, the previous in-house system of tracking assignments, mileage and operational costs was not user-friendly. Creating reports and extracting data was time-consuming and required the expertise of an IT professional.

Rains stated, “FleetWave has provided the ability to review data and create reports with relative ease. We also use FleetWave in our vehicle maintenance facilities to create work orders, maintain parts inventory and to track vehicle repair history.”

Chevin offers its clients extensive initial training and “refresher” courses that can be held either on-site or at their offices. Their support team handles questions and problems using terms that “non-techies” can understand, and is available via telephone, e-mail and MSN Messenger.

Free software updates can be downloaded and installed from its Web site, as well as a “What’s New” document explaining any changes and modifications. Each client is assigned a project manager that oversees the entire process, from initial installation to handover.

The cost range is broad for both software systems, depending on the number of modules purchased. RoadBASE starts at $6,000 and tops out at $50,000, while FleetWave pricing begins at $30,000 and can reach into six-digit figures. Chevin fleet management solutions can be purchased at volume discount pricing through GSA Schedule 70.

AssetWorks

AssetWorks is a leading provider of fleet and public transportation asset management software, offering solutions to a number of industries, including local, state and federal government. Formerly the Asset Solutions division of Maximus, AssetWorks serves more than 400 fleets in 225 cities. With complementation services components that ensure a smooth transition, its fleet and fuel management systems are designed to meet the challenges faced by fleets of all sizes.

Designed by fleet managers for fleet managers, FleetFocus is a complete management system that tracks all functions related to vehicle and equipment maintenance. This complete vehicle equipment life-cycle management system monitors budgeting, acquisition, capital improvement, campaigns and disposal.

FleetFocus features powerful work order functionality, warranty and claims tracking, preventive maintenance scheduling, shop scheduling, technician certification and training management, license and permit management, accident repair tracking and touch screen portals, and bar-coding ability.

With cutting-edge Web and mobile wireless handheld technology, FleetFocus easily integrates to enterprise resource planning (ERP), automatic vehicle location (AVL) and global positioning (GPS) systems. It also provides real-time, seamless integration to the FuelFocus fuel management system.

FleetFocus provides a complete line of fleet management tools and modules that reduce vehicle ownership costs, extend the useful life of vehicles and improve labor productivity. In addition to increased equipment availability and warranty recovery, this system ensures regulatory compliance for vehicle and parts maintenance.

AssetWorks also offers a product that addresses the most significant expense facing organizations today—fuel costs and consumption. Difficult to manage due to fluctuating prices, fuel is a mission-critical asset that greatly affects the bottom line. FuelFocus supports continuous, real-time fuel management that allows improved accountability of consumable assets, such as gasoline, propane and lubricants.

By integrating FuelFocus with the FleetFocus system, all relevant information can be stored in a single database. The use of a single data source provides easy access to current vehicle and operator information, as well as tank capacities and fuel transactions. Fuel consumption data is available from any workstation on the system, while vehicle maintenance can be accessed at the FuelFocus Island Control Units (ICUs).

The FuelFocus ICU uses cabled, fiber optic or wireless communication and also supports telephone line, DSL and Cellular Digital Packet Data (CDPD). Benefits of the FuelFocus system include reduced overall fuel expenses, less waste and abuse through automated fueling, elimination of duplicate data entry, timely fuel consumption data and increased productivity and shortened fueling time.

The Fleet Services Division of the City of Oxnard, CA is responsible for overall vehicle and equipment maintenance, specifically acquisition, disposal and fueling. In 2005, the city decided to upgrade from their bare-bones, homegrown Access database to a more efficient paperless system.

After carefully researching several fleet management companies, an evaluation team determined that the FleetFocus system would best suit their needs. The comprehensive software capabilities, along with the online InfoCenter that allows all personnel easy database access, were among the deciding factors.

Initially, technicians could interact with the new system through kiosk-style workstations positioned throughout the shop. Although it allowed real-time interaction, man-hours were wasted waiting for an available kiosk. In 2008, each technician was issued a laptop that provided immediate access to diagnostic data received directly from the vehicle’s onboard computer. According to Fleet Services Manager Dan Berlenbach, this has resulted in a savings of more than 2,200 man-hours annually, which is equivalent to gaining a new technician.
For those technicians who were not computer-savvy, the city’s IT department provided some basic computer classes to help them adapt more readily. Follow-up training was also available after going “live” with the system. Berlenbach said that, “With time, everyone’s proficiency has improved and they are now very comfortable with the system.”

In the past decade, the City of San Diego has continually looked for ways to efficiently manage its fleets. Initially, they were using both a manual card system and a DOS-based program for vehicle and equipment tracking. Eventually they upgraded to Fleet Anywhere by Prototype, which at the time was owned by Maximus. In 2008, when Maximus was bought by AssetWorks, the City converted to the FleetFocus system.

John Alley, fleet manager for the city’s police department, stressed the importance of employee involvement during the implementation of a new system. This not only ensures proper training, it also encourages participation in the fine-tuning process. Alley states that both the police department and fire and public works employees welcomed the upgrade and were enthusiastic about converting to a Windows-based system.

AssetWorks provides an implementation plan for every customer prior to deployment that focuses on system integration requirements, as well as database configuration and conversion. Certified trainers conduct a five-day workshop, while expert programmers and analysts work on product customization and system interfacing. Optional follow-up training is available and generally occurs one to three months after deployment.

Because solutions are customized to suit the needs of each specific agency, pricing is based on a number of factors, including the number of vehicles and the selected modules. AssetWorks has a policy of not publishing any pricing, however, the typical return on investment for fleets is under 18 months. Carey Picklesimer, senior marketing manager for AssetWorks, recommends contacting a company representative to review the various options available.

CCG Systems

Since 1982, CCG Systems has been providing fleet management software systems and services to the public sector. Its FASTER software is a real-time, computer-based management system appropriate for all fleet sizes. This off-the-shelf flexible design system can be customized to suit the needs of each organization and is constructed around the work order process.

Important information is easily accessed through FASTER with search and query options and more than 100 standard management reports. Data reports support all levels of fleet maintenance and can be displayed, printed or exported to Microsoft Excel. Shop floor personnel have access to critical day-to-day information that is then reviewed and analyzed by mid-level managers.

Fleet managers are provided with reports that contain relevant industry level performance measures. Real-time data covers assets, parts, work orders, fuel management and operations cost tracking.

Asset and parts management features user-friendly search and query options, meter tracking, month, year-to-date and life-to-date vehicle history, unlimited user-defined fields, warranty tracking and cost recovery, fuel and oil consumption and cost tracking, inventory control through a bar code application, one-step order-receive-issue and the ability to attach images or scanned documents such as vehicle damage and warranties.

Work order management features direct and indirect shop floor labor tracking, easy technician access to work order history, inquiries on parts and equipment availability, a user-friendly shop floor manager that allows access to deferred repairs and recalls, PM schedules and the ability to attach images or scanned documents such as vehicle accidents.

Fuel management and operations cost tracking features perpetual tank inventory tracking, tracking of multiple fuel types for all equipment, flexible billing capabilities for fuel taxes and markup, flexible fuel pricing using last cost or moving average method, and fuel usage by employee, equipment and company.

CCG Systems offers technical and operation support in addition to training and educational opportunities. Technical support includes toll-free 24-hour support year round, a guaranteed maximum 3-hour response time and an annual on-site customized consultative visit. Manuals and interactive tutorials are available, as well as update downloads. Diagnostic troubleshooting is handled remotely via iLinc. Operations support services consist of informational newsletters and online access to documentation, technical support and fleet publications.

Additional training is provided through electronic resources such as manuals and tutorials, while on-site personalized training is offered at an additional cost. Those seeking educational opportunities can attend CCG’s Annual National Conference and training workshops. A disaster recovery CD is provided by CCG which can be used to reload a workstation or server in case of data loss.

When Citrus County, FL became a FASTER customer more than twenty-five years ago, management opted against purchasing the available enhancements, making the system obsolete by the late 1990s. After a failed attempt to integrate the original FASTER system into its existing government-wide Hansen purchase order system, the County switched back to FASTER in 2001.

Michael R. Webster, director of the Fleet Manager Division of Citrus County’s Department of Public Works, says FASTER’s user-friendly Fleet Management system provides the necessary tools to improve the efficiency of their operation. The company’s up-to-date program enhancements and excellent customer support are just two of the reasons they returned to the FASTER system. “I can track mechanic productivity, vehicle utilization, and just about every other relevant management data,” says Webster.

In fact, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office implemented the FASTER system earlier this year for its fleet of patrol cars. Pat Bergerson heads up the fleet and has been very impressed with CCG System’s customer service. According to Bergerson, “Having the ability for the mechanics to enter their own work orders directly into the system at their work area has helped immensely.”

Information on purchasing FASTER through the General Services Administration (GSA) is also available. Potential customers can access relevant information to help them determine if GSA is right for them, and CCG provides assistance in the purchasing process.

Each fleet management software company was asked for budget pricing for a minimal to middle of the road software package based on 50 fleet vehicles in one location. Like AssetWorks, CCG Systems declined to discuss pricing, stating that each customer site and situation are unique, and they provide custom pricing proposals to each potential customer based on their specific setup and needs. They indicated that even using this hypothetical scenario, too many potential factors exist for them to provide estimated pricing.

Trimble

For more than thirty years Trimble has been a leading provider of advanced positioning systems. With more than 850 patents in its portfolio, Trimble offers solutions that maximize productivity while enhancing profitability. Its products are used in a number of industries including agriculture, engineering and public safety.

Trimble’s GeoManager is a fleet tracking solution that offers both Field Productivity & Management (FPM) and Mobile Resources Management (MRM) software. MRM is currently used by agencies with as few as five vehicles and as many as several thousand. With MRM, overall fleet vehicle performance is enhanced by reducing downtime and minimizing service interruptions.

Fleet managers have access to pertinent maintenance reports and the system can be set up for automatic reminders for vehicle upkeep such as oil changes and tire rotation. It can track up to twenty maintenance items, which can be changed or updated at any time. These can include replacement of air and fuel filters, spark plugs, transmission fluid and registration and smog checks.

MRM vehicle maintenance saves time, cuts fuel and vehicle maintenance costs and allows retention of vehicle resale values. Better maintenance planning leads to fewer service interruptions allowing the fleet division to run more efficiently.

While vehicle maintenance is a standard feature of Trimble’s GeoManager solution, the MRM vehicle diagnostic system is optional. It notifies managers of vehicle problems as they occur and is done through remote monitoring and real-time reporting of engine performance and malfunction. Notifications are also available via mobile devices or e-mail.

Vehicle diagnostics provides information on driving, time in idle and trip duration, trip distance, miles per gallon, diagnostic fault codes and descriptions, and average speed and start/stop location.

Like MRM vehicle maintenance, this solution increases productivity by reducing fuel costs and service interruptions. Early notification of vehicle problems eliminates expensive repairs, reduces carbon emissions and extends the life of the vehicle.

Available hardware for the vehicle diagnostics solution includes the OBD II Connector. Ideal for light-duty vehicles, this adapter passes data from the access port to a Trimble iLM device and onto the Trimble MRM data center. For heavy-duty vehicle use, the J1708 adapter hardware is recommended.

The cost of GeoManager ranges from $400 to $1,000 plus a monthly fee of $30-$40 per vehicle. Pricing is based on the functionality required and discounts are available for larger fleets. Bob Skinner, director of sales and marketing for the MRM division describes GeoManager as “software as a service,” meaning each customer, regardless of size, gets the same Web-based interface. If a larger company requires more functionality than the basic system offers, Trimble simply activates those features.

New Hampshire-based Safeway Training and Transportation Services provides school bus transportation to more than 600 children, many with special needs. Since 1999, they have been using Trimble MRM solutions to track locations, routes, vehicle maintenance and passenger information. The MRM system provides enhanced efficiency that ultimately allows Safeway to provide optimal safety for the children.

Trimble’s Knowledge Network allows access to additional training and educational support. In the Learning Center, fleet managers can sign up for online training, browse the tutorials, and track their progress in gaining certification status. The Solution Center offers a searchable knowledge database where users can either pose questions or submit a specific query request.

Skinner also cites the company’s outstanding technical support as a huge benefit for Trimble customers. With products in more than one hundred countries worldwide, Trimble has an unsurpassed support staff available at all times.

Susan Geoghegan is a freelance writer living in Naples, FL. She can be reached at sgeofl@embarqmail.com.

Photos by John Bellah and courtesy of the Los Angeles County Sheriff.

Published in Police Fleet Manager, Nov/Dec 2009

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AssetWorksCCG SystemsChevin Fleet SolutionsTrimble
 

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