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Cities Turn to Fleet Management Tech for Efficiencies

Fleet management officials in Louisiana and California are using technology to better track their vehicles, as well as to gain detailed insights into vehicle operations for both gas- and electric-powered autos.

fleet vehicles being tracked
Fleet management technology is helping to serve the transition toward electric vehicles, and better track mosquitos control in some cities.

In state capital cities like Sacramento, Calif. and Baton Rouge, La., officials have turned to fleet management technology, which generally provides real-time tracking of vehicles and operational data, for a sharp-eyed look into each pest and rodent abatement truck, snow plow or general-use sedan.

Sacramento is in the process of deploying fleet management technology from Samsara.

“We’re looking at dashboards. We’re pulling data everyday. We hope to be complete by the end of this year,” said Fleet Manager Mark Stevens.

Samsara will offer an opportunity “to look at information we never had, or were not able to [see] in the past,” he added. One of those key metrics is idling time. The city has a five-minute maximum idling policy, and the Samsara data is able to provide insight into which vehicles are overrunning this time limit.

“So we can start to throw those reports back to the departments,” said Stevens, adding the city spends about $6 million a year on fuel, and reducing idling time, across a fleet of some 2,400 vehicles, can yield large savings.

In Baton Rouge, officials in the parish’s mosquito and rodent control department have been using technology from CalAmp to track its vehicles used for mosquito spraying as well as rodent control. Officials get a real-time window into routes and other data, allowing them to know which streets and neighborhoods have been treated.

“We’ll have a citizen call in and say, well, I haven’t seen a spray truck on my street in months. We’ll go to the tracking, and say, well ma’am, the spray truck was on your street on Friday evening,” recalled Kenny Ricard, manager with East Baton Rouge Parish Mosquito Abatement and Rodent Control.

In another cases, the technology serves as a digital backup for legitimate employee breaks or other operations.

“It helps the employees out,” said Ricard.

Prior to getting the technology, an evening employee suffered a massive heart attack while out on his route, and died. A fleet management system would have sent an alert to officials following unorthodox vehicle operations, said Ricard.

“It’s like ‘big brother.’ Wherever you turn, it’s right there with you,” he added.

Fleet management technologies have also aided cities in their transition to electric vehicles, giving city management a detailed look into EV operational needs and charging infrastructure requirements.

In Sacramento, some 100 Chevrolet Bolts, along with four electric motorcycles have been purchased in the last few years, said Stevens, with plans to acquire the city’s first electric powered garbage truck. The expansion has been largely driven by the longer ranges of EVs, as well as more models and more competitive pricing.

The Chevrolet Bolts, with their range of about 200 miles, more than meet the demands of city departments like code and parking, enforcement, inspections and others across this city of about 100 square miles. The Bolts cost the city about 7.5 cents a mile. This compares with 24 cents a mile for gas-powered cars.

Charging is shared among a number of vehicles, paid for with rebate funding.

The city installed 56 chargers, with the understanding that charging ports can be shared by a number of vehicles, charging at different times, and each car does not need its own charger.

“That’s absolutely not necessary when your vehicles average 30 to 40 miles a day. So working with the departments to come up with a plan so that they could alternate charging,” said Stevens. “Really, it’s all about the communication and the education with users, and coming up with a plan.” 

Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.