When the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) decided to initiate a trial of a wireless electronic fleet management solution, they were looking for a way to tackle issues familiar to most fleet managers today. The force was having difficulty obtaining accurate and timely lifecycle data, and it was feeling pressure related to control of operational and capital costs. Also, it was concerned about driver safety.
Unique challenges also existed. With more than 11,000 vehicles, the RCMP fleet is spread out over the second-largest nation on earth and across a wide range of communities. Some detachments have fewer than five vehicles located in very remote areas, while in larger centers, the fleet may include as many as 500 vehicles.
Despite this large and broad range of detachments, the force must manage many assets of the fleet in a consistent manner. For example, as one of the largest federal fleets, it faces pressure to be at the forefront of pollution reduction and energy efficiency.
New Fleet Monitoring System
To determine whether fleet management technology could help address its needs, the RCMP began working with Ottawa’s Netistix™ Technologies Corp. in late 2003. Netistix presented the force with a business case that showed both direct and strategic benefits that its FleetPulse™ wireless fleet monitoring system could bring to its fleet.
FleetPulse is a wireless fleet monitoring system that collects data directly from a vehicle’s diagnostic (OBDII) port and transmits that information via wireless-fidelity (WiFi) 802.11b networks to a building-mounted receiver when the vehicle returns to its fleet yard or other Wi-Fi-equipped station.
In December 2003, the RCMP installed the Netistix FleetPulse wireless fleet monitoring solution in 50 of its vehicles as a pilot fleet monitoring project. Covering vehicles across three locations in Canada’s National Capital Region, the projects initial goal was to automatically capture accurate odometer readings through a “drive-by” event while maintaining a high level of data security.
The desire for automated odometer capture stemmed from the fact that manual recording of odometer readings is burdensome for all fleets, and especially for one as large as that of the RCMP. It is therefore difficult to obtain accurate and timely odometer readings. Preliminary business case results indicated that manual odometer capture alone was costing the force in excess of $100,000 annually; a figure that includes the cost of manually obtaining the odometer and then entering the reading into a fleet information system.
Security concerns regarding data security, privacy, software interoperability and system scalability were obviously a key concern for the RCMP. FleetPulse addressed those concerns. The system allows for encrypted data transfers and password-protected access to the system. The RCMP also brought in its existing fleet management service provider at an early stage to facilitate seamless preventative maintenance and lifecycle data transfer from the Netistix product to its fleet software.
Early Positive Results
Soon after the pilot project began, it became apparent that wireless monitoring could do more than simply provide automatic odometer readings. While that initial goal was indeed met, various benefits unforeseen by the RCMP fleet managers became evident.
For example, FleetPulse reported battery voltage during starter operation, along with average minimum and maximum battery values during driving. With this information, the fleet maintenance supervisors were able to identify and replace drained batteries before they let a driver down at the start of a shift, or, worse yet, while on the road. Police cruisers have among the heaviest vehicular electrical accessory demands, and even with high-output alternators in use, it is common to discharge a battery during low-speed operation.
In addition, the system was able to capture and report details about engine diagnostic trouble codes. Based on temperature trouble codes gathered by FleetPulse, the RCMP was able to present its Crown Victoria Police Interceptors to local Ford dealers in time for problems to be repaired while still under warranty. Without this capability, the repairs would have been completed in-house with costs absorbed by the fleet.
The system enabled further cost savings by locating and displaying “pending” engine and transmission trouble codes. Early warnings from vehicles computers helped prevent roadside breakdowns and eliminate the expense of any consequential damage that would have occurred.
At the beginning of the pilot project, automating the collection of vehicle utilization data was not one of the RCMP’s concerns. However, it soon became evident that this was one area where FleetPulse could provide value-added reports. The FleetPulse fleet trip logistics report time stamps, date stamps and quantifies all vehicle movement and provides easily understood “snapshots” of true vehicle use in weekly and monthly formats. These reports proved very useful to the RCMP fleet management in its effort to optimize and right-size its fleet.
Another challenge RCMP fleet management faced was the emphasis on “greening” its operations. The Canadian government’s initiative to reduce greenhouse gases and pollution places pressure on all of its fleets to meet emission-reduction and energy-efficient targets. Many communities across the country are initiating anti-idling bylaws and other rules in recognition of the negative effects of excessive engine idling on both air quality and driver health.
FleetPulse constantly monitors all emissions diagnostics, and the RCMP found this similar to running an annual emissions test on a daily basis. Netistix worked with the RCMP to customize its FleetPulse implementation to provide specific idling reports that tracked fuel consumption, emissions, and the amount of greenhouse gas created.
These customizations also allow the RCMP to measure engine idling hours, establish idling baselines, and then monitor the effectiveness of its own idling-awareness campaigns. The daily idling reports coming across the fleet manager’s desk make it easier to institute and manage an environmentally responsible fleet program.
The fleet monitoring system’s reporting flexibility also brought practical benefits to the RCMP, as the FleetPulse system was easily configured such that it does not store speed information for law enforcement fleets. While speeding data may be very important to commercial fleets, it is not of interest to most police fleets and can thus be turned off. This simplified vehicle data tracking and reporting and allowed the RCMP to focus on the metrics it considered most important.
Accurate and Timely
The RCMP pilot project proved that reliable and affordable technology is available to today’s fleet managers to help them obtain accurate and timely vehicle and fleet data. More than that, it proved the value of that data, when analyzed and presented effectively, to reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a fleet and to implement measurable programs to meet regulatory, organizational and fleet-related goals.
Julie Furlotte, CAFM, has been a fleet manager for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police for more than 20 years. She is currently the national manager of the Land Fleet for the RCMP in Ottawa, Canada. She can be reached at Julie.firstname.lastname@example.org.