EDMONTON, Alberta -- The City of Edmonton and IBM Canada Ltd. cut the cost of fleet management with technology.

In 1908, Edmonton's population of 18,500 paid just 5 cents for a ride on its public streetcar system -- the first one in prairie cities. Seventy years later, Edmonton became the first city in North America with a population of under 1 million to build a light rail transit (LRT) system.

Now, Edmonton has achieved another innovation in transportation with the development of a unique way to cost-effectively manage its fleet of vehicles and equipment. With the strategic marketing support of IBM Canada Ltd., the Mobile Equipment Services Information System (MESIS) is reaching far beyond Edmonton.

"MESIS takes a unique approach to economically managing 2,700 city vehicles, ranging from lawn mowers to dump trucks," said Alex Lee, manager of the City of Edmonton's Mobile Equipment Services Branch. "The system is based on the concept that individual vehicles have unique life cycles. For example, if you compare 10 pickup trucks of similar make, model and year, each truck will have a different economic life, depending on its usage. This could range from short runs, to 24-hour emergency response, to heavy hauling, or snow plowing, and with a variety of different drivers."

Alex Lee

Manager

Mobile Equipment

Services Branch

According to Lee, most fleet management systems track fleets based on their cost (fuel, mileage, etc.). But by using prediction modelling and tracking individual vehicles, MESIS can predict when a vehicle starts costing the city more to maintain than to replace. To predict the life cycle of the individual vehicle, the module takes into consideration the unit's history, including such factors as vehicle downtime, repairs, fuel consumption and mileage. Lee found that by using a surgical preventative maintenance approach and not overmaintaining a vehicle, costs can be cut drastically.

"The two principal components that determine a vehicle's life cycle are decline in value and rise in operating costs," said Lee. "The point at which the life-cycle cost is at its lowest marks the economic life cycle of the vehicle, at which point we know that the vehicle has to be replaced."

MESIS automatically schedules vehicles for regular preventative maintenance checks, which also cuts costs by minimizing expensive, corrective repairs. Vehicles are assessed by such criteria as maintenance history, outstanding warranties and guarantees available for use and estimates for parts and labor. MESIS software contains comprehensive details about each vehicle's history, which reduces headaches by cutting research and unnecessary examination of the vehicle.

MESIS has had quantifiable results, and has reduced the cost of fleet management by 45 percent since its implementation. "With MESIS, we have effectively doubled the average fleet age to more than 10 years per vehicle," said Lee. "For example, before we started using MESIS, police cars were replaced at three years. With the system in place, the life of a police car has doubled to between five and six years. Some vehicles are being used for up to 15 years."

The life of a vehicle is further extended through a fleet safety program, coordinated by the city of Edmonton, which teaches drivers to improve their driving skills. This lowers maintenance requirements and, in turn, maintenance costs. To increase fleet safety, MESIS also tracks city employees' driving performance.

To apply its success with MESIS to other municipalities in North America, the City of Edmonton partnered with IBM Canada Ltd. As part of this initiative, MESIS was made more user-friendly and more marketable by migrating to a client/server system, using an IBM RS/6000 server and PC workstations.

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