It may be a cliché but it still holds true, time is money…and nowhere is that more apparent than in businesses where optimized fleet operations are essential to economic survival. Lost drivers, redundant routes or routes that simply run too long or out of the way, even employee misdirection (or deception) can all reek havoc on the bottom line. Manning Navcomp, Inc., a software development company in Lago Vista, Texas, addresses this ongoing problem with a GPS (Global-Positioning System) Vehicle Tracking and Fleet Management system -- RAStrac® a software package that is used to gather, store and manipulate data pertinent to the location of all vehicles in a fleet.
Manning Navcomp, Inc. has discovered that by placing GPS technology on board each vehicle in a fleet they can optimize both vehicle location and vehicle and operator performance. The system enhances standard communication systems by adding the capacity to send and receive both voice communications and data. Customized computer terminals -- designed and manufactured by Two Technologies, Inc., of Horsham, PA -- act as "Message Centers" for the in-vehicle portion of the system.
The Base Station can send a text message to one or all of the vehicles in the fleet and then broadcast a "canned" voice message prompting the drivers to look at the terminal display at the next opportune time. Drivers can also use the terminal to select or type messages to be sent to the base station. Each time a message is sent from a vehicle, a time stamp and the vehicle’s position via the GPS system are also forwarded to the base station.
The GPS receiver in the device uses the position from the GPS satellites to calculate the vehicles' position on the earth. It then reports this information back to the base station via a communication link. This link can be commercial radio, cellular telephone, CDPD (Cellular Digital Packet Data), or a low-earth orbit communications satellite. RAStrac® can be easily configured to use combinations of different devices...even on the same computer. This allows maximum flexibility in the tracking system.
Once the vehicle location information is sent from the vehicle to the RAStrac® base station it is processed by the RAStrac® Input/Output Processor (IOP). The IOP converts this information into a TCP/IP packet that is sent to the main RAStrac® program (viewer). Because TCP/IP is a standard network protocol available to all Windows computers, multiple RAStrac® viewers and IOPs can be networked together.
"You can’t evaluate and optimize fleet operations unless you can see and measure your fleet’s composite performance. It’s just that simple." said Larry Durbin, a Manning Navcomp Representative.
Ironically, considering that the RAStrac® MX system employs everything from satellites orbiting 500 miles above the Earth to state-of-the-art computer systems, it is the simple, inexpensive computer terminal that plays a pivotal role in making all the elements of the system come together and work. Manning Navcomp, Inc. currently employs a variety of different terminal systems Including the SMT (FLEETWARE P201) and the HV-Series (FLEETWARE P210) both of which are manufactured by Two Technologies, Inc..
Chosen, in part, because of their low-cost, both terminals also offer a number of appealing features include ease-of-installment, ease-of-use, temperature/moisture resistance and the ability to be attached to either a modem or combination modem/cellular phone. Both are specifically designed for industrial applications. The HV is also extremely flexible—nearly every aspect of its operation from display mode to function key definitions can be changed via menu selections or direct host control.
Two Technologies, Inc. has been providing products for industries in need of reliable and rugged hand held solutions since 1987. The SMT/HV terminals used in Manning Navcomp systems not only provide the necessary support for the application, but they also withstand the demands and harsh elements of the environment they are required to work.
"When you say SMT I think of durability first, that and cost-effectiveness," said Durbin. "We’ve found that, for the most part, our systems pay for themselves within the year. If you can save 45 minutes in an eight hour day that might not seem like much but when you times that by five days, and then by 50 weeks...it’s considerable. Efficiency translates into profits."
GPS tracking and AVL (Automatic Vehicle Location) systems have been around for a number of years. Until now, the drawback has been their learning curve and exorbitant costs. The RAStrac® system is designed to bring this indispensable technology to fleets of any size, anywhere, working under any conditions.
"You know, it was just a few years ago that business owners were saying to themselves, ‘Things are running just fine. Do I really need a computer to run my business?’" added Durbin. "Today, you wouldn’t dream of operating without one. I think this thing (AVL) is just starting to take off."
For more information on the RAStrac® system, visit: www.navcomp.com