Parcel delivery firm tests out vehicle monitoring tool

A parcel delivery firm in Mississauga, Ont., has entered a pilot project to produce a baseline of vehicle information such as data on fuel usage and maintenance to compare performance across its fleet.

According to Wayne Baker, director of buildings and maintenance for CanPar Transport LP, which has a number of major hub facilities and maintains more than 50 terminals throughout Canada, the pilot project with Netistix Technologies Corp. includes deploying the vendor’s FleetPulse product in a number of curbside delivery vehicles at eight sites nationwide.

“The key strength of the product is its ability to plug right into the engine of a GM or a Ford vehicle. By doing that, it’s gaining full engine diagnostics,” said Baker, who is pleased the tool also addresses idling. “For every hour a truck idles, it burns between five and six litres of fuel. If you were able to cut it down to 15 minutes, you’re going to save a quarter of five litres of fuel.”

The first part of the deployment, which lasted between nine and 10 months, involved a small test group of about 11 of the curbside delivery vehicles. The second phase, which is still in progress and will last two months, involves outfitting another 60 of the vehicles. Baker, said that it is still too early, however, to determine what his company will decide to do following the end of the project.

For Netistix, the arrangement represents its first North American pilot project in the parcel delivery industry, noted John Woronczuk, vice-president of marketing and sales at Netistix in Kanata, Ont.

“(The pilot project) will allow CanPar to understand with more vehicles and more sites the true economic benefits that they can realize,” said Woronczuk. “It’s an ideal segment for us because of the…usage of the trucks. Keeping the total cost of ownership down on these vehicles is of utmost importance for these types of fleets.”

The solution involves an in-vehicle hardware component that is put into each of the vehicles’ on-board diagnostic ports, commonly called OBD2 ports. These ports are standard interfaces that service technicians typically access with scan tools to download codes or engine information if there are problems, Woronczuk said, adding that his company’s product plugs into the ports. 

The product, which contains memory and a Wi-Fi wireless transceiver, stores information and, whenever an outfitted vehicle drives by a hotspot or a Wi-Fi access point, information is transferred from the vehicle to a hotspot, which is generally located at a CanPar fleet yard.

“So typically at the end of the shift the driver returns to the fleet yard after delivering their parcels and all the vehicle information is then downloaded at that time,” said Woronczuk. “Once the information has been downloaded to the access point, it then gets forwarded over the Internet to a Web-based application.

“And that then allows fleet managers to log onto the Web application, which we host for them, and look at the operation of each of the individual fleet vehicles as well as the fleet as a whole. An example of the fleet as a whole picture would be, ‘What is the percentage of idling that certain vehicles demonstrated in certain geographical locations?’”

The pilot project has been less expensive for CanPar than it might otherwise have been, he continued, because it already had a Wi-Fi infrastructure in place, and the outsourcing component also results in a lower IT infrastructure cost.

Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst at Toronto-based Evans Research Corp., said the Netistix product could translate into greater efficiencies across the board for CanPar.

“Companies lose money when vehicles break down at the side of the road,” she said. “This product addresses that directly…They can address those issues and nip it in the bud.”

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