With today’s increased fuel costs and tight budgets at all governmental levels, bus companies are under pressure to perform with fewer resources. Luckily, technology is making it easier. One of the most effective ways for a vehicle-based organization to stay up and running — and competitive — is by implementing GPS-based fleet tracking, available in a variety of software platforms from numerous vendors.
At its simplest, GPS utilizes a network of 24 U.S. Department of Defense satellites orbiting the globe. Because the system works in all weather conditions around the clock and worldwide, it has become a valuable mapping tool, to the point where it has even replaced the venerable road atlas in millions of cars traveling the nation’s highways and byways. It only makes sense that a commercial transportation company would take advantage of the same benefits.
In fact, some already do. According to the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), as of January 2009, “about half” of the buses in the country utilize GPS technology to trigger automated stop announcements.
But GPS goes beyond simple driving directions. GPS-based fleet management software provides even more benefits — financial and operational — for any organization that relies on a fleet of vehicles to perform its work. For a bus company, GPS tracking essentially puts the dispatcher next to the driver’s seat of every bus in its fleet. By meticulously tracking each bus, the user can gain complete control over the entire fleet, significantly reducing costs, improving safety and boosting productivity.
Reducing Fuel Costs
Fuel is an obviously unavoidable expense for a bus company, and while such an expense can’t be completely eliminated, it can certainly be reduced. A recent study by the Aberdeen Group concluded that GPS vehicle tracking systems have helped companies reduce their fuel costs by an average of 13.2 percent.
Almost everything monitored by GPS vehicle tracking can work to help bring down fuel expenditures for an organization. For example, speeding is a huge factor in high fuel usage. A GPS tracking solution can provide speed information and send alerts when a vehicle exceeds the speed limit.
Excessive idling can also contribute to high fuel costs. A GPS fleet tracking system can help reduce idling times by alerting the user whenever a vehicle idles longer than a preset duration.
Conserving fuel has other benefits besides saving your company valuable money. With the ongoing concerns about depleting oil resources and the environmental impact of vehicles that rely on them, a bus company that’s actively cutting down on its fuel consumption can even be considered to be “going green.” That’s a key PR angle that should appeal to the public at large, and may even garner increased funds from local governments.
Improving Customer Service
It’s a fairly simple equation: When riders are confident in the performance of the buses they use, they’re happier about using them. By using the tools in GPS fleet tracking, a bus company can certainly serve its clients better.
Getting reports of a vehicle’s route can help the user track arrivals and departures. By providing accurate and verifiable proof of services, it’s a valuable tool for reviewing routes and frequency of stops, which can help a company streamline operations and run more efficiently.
Depending on the community you serve, some aspects of a fleet tracking system can also be shared with the public that relies on your buses. For example, in February 2011 Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pa., launched a bus-tracking website that gives students information on bus schedules and locations, and even enables them to wait in a safe and environment-controlled building until they see their bus approach their location. This helps students stay out of the rain, snow and other harsh environments.