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Public safety fleets must prepare for a digital future

10 May 2019 9:41 AM | International Public Safety Association (Administrator)

By Kevin Aries, Leader, Product Management, Product Success

Public and private organizations that operate fleets are facing growing challenges, from regulatory compliance to rising fuel consumption and a burgeoning driver shortage. Vehicle-dependent agencies are trying to identify technologies to address these roadblocks and streamline operations as budget constraints add stress on their resources.

Due to the sheer number of vehicles at their disposal and the number of citizens they serve, public safety fleets, in particular, will see the coming years bring with them a number of challenges that only modern technology can help them overcome. Some of these include:

  • Retiring baby boomers and a shortage of new talent that will lead to a considerable “knowledge loss.

  • The incoming generation of workers have grown up with digital technology and will expect access to and application of technology in their workplaces.

  • The fleet management landscape will become increasingly difficult, and public organizations will need to manage
    • funding of timely vehicle replacement,
    • achieving a centralized fleet management program,
    • reconciling outsourcing opportunities with internal resource optimization, and
    • a better understanding of indirect costs.

A scalable and robust fleet management technology can help public safety fleets of any size rise to these challenges and also help them prepare for future issues.

GPS tracking helps keep your fleet journey smooth

Government Fleet’s 2018 benchmarking report shows that advanced technology ranks second among respondents’ top concerns, and about three-quarters have implemented telematics in at least some of their vehicles. Training needs, an aged fleet/replacement budgeting, recruitment, and data management round out the rest of the top five concerns.

A comprehensive GPS fleet management solution with a centralized dashboard can help public safety fleets address these top concerns as well as increase asset visibility for improved utilization and greater overall productivity, such as:

  • Cloud-based software for access to critical data, alerts and reports any time, anywhere

  • Seamless integration with other enterprise systems

  • Improved accuracy of preventative maintenance

  • Ability to run historical reports to uncover insights and trends

From smart dashboards to driver education tools, GPS tracking can dramatically improve fleet management and ROI. Public safety officials can use smart dashboards and driver education tools available through GPS tracking solutions to address the issues that are most critical to efficient and successful fleet operations.

Preventative maintenance. According to Government Fleet’s report, “vehicle age has increased across every class compared to statistics from last year (which averaged 2014–2016 data).” In addition, maintenance cost per mile has gone up for almost all vehicle types part of their survey. The ability to proactively schedule preventative maintenance will be key in making advances in reducing vehicle downtime (especially unexpected), including vehicle alerts and insight into vehicle diagnostics (odometer mileage, engine miles and diagnostic codes).

Vehicle Utilization. Forty-four percent of respondents to the Government Fleet survey indicated flat or reduced budgets, despite cost increases in fuel, pars and oil, and technology. For these fleets, the ability to do more with the vehicles and assets already owned will be critical. GPS tracking provides data visibility into vehicles status and availability to help managers identify underused vehicles and reallocate them accordingly.

Mitigate liability claims. OSHA’s Guidelines for Employers to Reduce Motor Vehicle Crashes, an on-the-job crash resulting in employee injury costs an average of $74,000 to the employer. In addition to providing historical data for use in the case of litigation, GPS tracking can provide data on driving behavior and vehicle use to help negotiate reduced premiums or discounts with insurance companies. Telematics provides access to data to verify vehicle location and speed and in turn mitigate the potential of costly claims.

Safe driving behavior. Training is the top concern for Government Fleet’s survey respondents, and encouraging safe driving behavior is a part of that challenge. Though GPS tracking cannot automate and ensure safety, the data it provides can equip you to more effectively coach your employees for increased chances of improvement. Administrators and management can use reports and alerts on vehicle speed and harsh driving events to coach drivers on safe driving behaviors.

Idling. Idling is a major source of fuel waste, leading to wasted money. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 6 billion gallons of diesel fuel and gasoline are wasted by idling vehicles. The few minutes an engine is left running, whether during a lunch break or for a “quick” task is being completed, add up to significant costs for fleets. Fuel is one of the most tangible and fast areas to see the financial benefits of improved habits, and with GPS tracking, managers can take steps toward reducing idle time and understand idling patterns in order to reduce those costs.

Routing. In addition to reducing idling, optimized routes using a GPS tracking solution is a key area where fuel waste can be addressed for a reduction in expenses. Another valuable use for the routing capability is the ability to know vehicle locations and efficiently deploy vehicles in an emergency or time-sensitive circumstance.

Case Study: Snohomish County Improves Officer Safety

Law enforcement comes with inherent risks. Officers face a lot of different dangers while on the job, but statistics show that the majority of officer fatalities (over 35%) are caused by car accidents, and almost half involved unbelted officers.

A major aim of the Snohomish County, WA, Below 100 Program is to address these and other leading causes of officer deaths. The program focuses on five tenets that promote key ways to encourage officer safety, two of which relate particularly to safe driving and can be managed using Verizon Connect telematics software:

  1. Wear your belt.
  2. Wear your vest.
  3. Watch your speed
  4. WIN—What’s important now?
  5. Remember: Complacency kills!

The Under 100 Program took on special meaning for Undersheriff Rob Beidler of the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office while undertaking specialized training at the FBI's National Academy in Quantico, VA. A presentation by Kim Schlau, a mother of two daughters killed by a state trooper's reckless driving, really made an impact, underscoring the importance of actively managing office safety behind the wheel.

“I realized that my positional authority as Snohomish County's under- sheriff obligated me to ensure that my people make it home every night. Safety is paramount,” he said.

In addition to cost savings in several obvious areas, including fuel and maintenance, the county was able to see a reduction in expenses resulting from collisions and litigation. Vehicle collisions during 2015 cost the county $151,171 in medical and legal expenses and lost work hours and wages plus $2.3 million in litigation expenses. "We'd like to use those extra funds to hire more deputies," said Undersheriff Beidler.

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About the Author

Kevin Aries leads Global Product Success for Verizon Connect, helping build software solutions that optimize the way people, vehicles and things move through the world. Working predominantly with field service businesses, Kevin spends his time understanding the problems and solutions of the service industry to improve customer experience.

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