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VANCOUVER -- Global Fleet Management Inc. is taking affordable, professional GPS tracking to new levels with its Positrace system. Not unlike other systems, it employs an onboard GPS "black box" to relay vehicle data over cellphone networks. However, Positrace stands out from its off-the-shelf counterparts in the wide range of functions it offers to users, GFM officials said.
The firm markets two Positrace versions. A basic package provides standard real-time locating functionality with a set roster of report generators. A professional version provides the full Positrace suite of features to deliver a wider range of vehicular analysis.
The Positrace system captures data "phoned in" from vehicles to create reports aimed at improving fleet management. The secret is in the system's online software suite hosted on GFM's secure servers. Data, company officials explained, stays on the servers and remains available to customers for up to six years, or until they leave the program.
"The software suite is 100% online, so it works from a browser," explained GFM president Bill Kornilo. "That means you can access it from any computer or even a handheld device." The user interface, Kornilo added, is intuitive and requires no special training. There is also an option for creating multiple accounts with varying degrees of access to data for drivers or office personnel.
MAPPING AND MORE
To trace a vehicle's location, which is updated every five seconds, managers log onto the Positrace Web tool to receive near real-time tracking, along with such data as speed, idle time and estimated fuel consumption. It interfaces with Google Maps, provides turn-by-turn tracking and saves route information to GFM's server. Though not displayed in real-time, users can use satellite images generated by Google Earth to get a bird's eye view of a vehicle's location.
For vending businesses, the system's "landmark" function allows operators to mark machine locations on the map to make the tracking routes between locations easier. That function can also be used to generate trip reports showing the exact amount of time a route driver spends at a location. The system can break down mileage by state, which enables easier computing of fuel tax refunds and creation of downloadable timesheets.
Another Positrace feature permits operators to instruct the system to send alerts to email accounts or cellphones. For instance, an operator can create "geo fences" that send out alerts when vehicles stray outside predetermined ranges. Alerts are also available for vehicle use during unauthorized hours, excessive idling or speed, and seatbelt use. These warnings can function as a vehicular time clock, providing management with a record of when a vehicle goes into service in the morning and out of service at the end of a shift.
Data compilation allows the system's software to prepare schedules for basic fleet management functions. "Because we track mileage, we can set up maintenance alerts and procedures for individual vehicles or vehicle groups," Kornilo said. "So, fleet managers can receive notification when things like oil changes or other routine maintenance are coming up to plan for downtime."
For some in the industry, GPS tracking has been linked with Big Brother attributes, signaling a distrust of route drivers. However, Kornilo noted that it provides needed transparency in the field. "These systems," he said, "simply provide the same kind of managerial oversight common, and long-accepted by staff, that is no different than electronic keycards used to gain office access or filters that limit Internet browsing on desktops."
GPS systems like Positrace also improve driver safety, increase efficiency, control unauthorized vehicle use and reduce expenses. In Canada, for instance, GPS-equipped commercial vehicles receive discounts on insurance rates; similar programs are being considered in the U.S.
The technology also provides value to drivers, not just management. For instance, Positrace has a "panic button" that sends out an alert in case of trouble, like a disabled vehicle, which can be turned off remotely. According to Kornilo, the system has aided the tracking and recovery of at least one route vehicle after it was stolen.
Many of these functions have been in use for years, though typically in large fleets and by organizations able to handle the expense of custom software. Positrace, Kornilo pointed out, puts many of those cost-saving features within reach of small to midsize companies.
Global Fleet Management, founded in 2002, is headquartered in Vancouver, Canada, and has a sales office in Blaine, WA. Its fleet management system is described online at positrace.com, where visitors can sign up for a live demo. The company can be reached by calling (877) 787-2231.