Optimize the fleet for better service
Optimize the fleet for better service
By Kevin McKay
Inviting a holistic approach to running smoother transit operations, real-time diagnostics, GPS, maintenance intelligence, and monitoring systems contribute to an optimized fleet management system. A cohesive suite of technology helps realize greater cost effectiveness and a more seamless and efficient use of fleet resources. In addition, it makes life easier for your ridership, as you strive to provide them with consistent, reliable and safe bus transportation.
Fleet optimization comes down to two essential objectives for the company: use information technology to effectively operate the fleet, and translate that information into noticeably enhanced experiences for the passengers.
The process begins by simply knowing where the vehicles are in the yard and where drivers need to go. While the dispatcher typically has access to and control of this information, something as simple as installing a kiosk where drivers can locate their own assignments and the physical location of the vehicles can create organizational efficiency that translates into saved time and resources.
Current fleet management solutions allow dispatchers to monitor when drivers arrive on-site, log-in and drive to their correct destination at the correct time. An integrated information technology system allows dispatchers time to proactively address any situation before riders begin calling in to complain.
Today’s technology has the capability to track the number of passengers onboard each vehicle at different times throughout the shift and detect any overcrowding or under-utilization. This ability to virtually see the bus gives dispatchers insight that goes well beyond traditional GPS-based vehicle tracking.
Fleet management systems help dispatchers prioritize their focus and tasks, whether they are monitoring 20, 100, or more vehicles. Imagine a scenario where a number of buses could be running late because of inclement weather or other unforeseen circumstances. It’s that one bus in particular with a critical transfer point that needs immediate attention. Fully integrated fleet management systems help dispatchers connect people and places more efficiently and reliably by calling those critical ride points to their attention.
Avail Technologies works to change the paradigm of fleet monitoring systems. An operator who knows and understands what has happened in the past has a good idea of what conditions and situations will affect services in the future. It is all a matter of using the monitoring system proactively as a tool to achieve fleet optimization, as opposed to reacting to circumstances.
The best ITS vendors directly involve the dispatchers to determine the two or three most worrisome scenarios that affect the efficiency of the fleet and customer service. Discussions focused on how everyone can use the answers and not just the data from the monitoring system help the team become more aware of critical issues before they arise, and identify where and how it may be possible to make better use of the technology for resolving problems.
Optimizing the passenger experience
Your network of riders are your single greatest asset, your advocates in the field. A ridership that experiences fewer interruptions in service and more accurate real-time information not only exhibits fewer complaints, but it also becomes an agency’s greatest form of advertising on the road. Reliable real-time information sets the stage for better planning, which improves service to help achieve optimal levels. Fleet management systems that obtain the most accurate information become the penultimate tool that helps an agency carefully analyze all that is occurring on a daily basis every day, and use that data to reduce interruptions and increase efficiency.
This data analysis can also point to previously unseen ways to leverage the agency’s various transportation modes, such as paratransit, fixed route, commuters, express or BRT, to deliver optimum service that is reliable, convenient and cost effective. The beauty of an optimized fleet management system is that it helps determine the “what, where and when” necessary to make sure the entire transit system is running as expected.
Optimum efficiency prepares an agency to better execute crisis intervention practices — traffic jams, rainy weather and snowstorms, and public events in the community are all unexpected and uncontrollable events which are more easily managed when an agency has optimized data at its fingertips.
Fleet monitoring tools give dispatchers the information to run the service with minimal interruptions, while at the same time sharing real-time service alerts with passengers sooner so they can make informed transportation decisions. From a passenger perspective, running late is rarely permissible, but if the agency lets the passengers know in a timely manner that service will not be as expected, riders remain in control of their individual transportation decisions. Some riders may choose to wait for a late bus, and others may opt for an alternate mode.
Although inconvenienced, if an agency includes the customer by keeping them informed, chances are they will continue to be satisfied with the overall service. Fleet monitoring aids with the more efficient allocation of vehicles and drivers (which in turn increases company profits realized from an understanding ridership) enhances the rider’s experience, and ensures the most effective use of available transportation modes.
Kevin McKay serves as the vice president of programs development at Avail Technologies, an ITS solutions provider for transit operators in the United States. Visit www.availtec.com for more information.