The Virginia Office of Emergency Medical Services (VOEMS) is using cloud-based telematics technology to better manage its vehicle fleet.
Virginia is not the first state to use technology for fleet management, and while some experts have raised concerns that COVID-19 would negatively impact progress in this space, others argue the pandemic has helped position organizations for the drastic shift, supporting operations through the transition to remote work.
According to VOEMS Fleet and Logistics Administrator Frank Cheatham, the agency initially adopted CalAmp cloud-based telematics software prior to the start of the pandemic to reduce the amount of manual reporting that field staff had to contend with.
Bill Westerman, vice president of product management at CalAmp, explained that a location managing unit (LMU) is installed in a vehicle, making it capable of connecting with GPS satellites and transmitting information in real time to the cloud. It collects data from the vehicle, which is then computed and consolidated and sent over the cellular network to the cloud for reporting.
Prior to installing the technology, the agency relied on drivers to send information — like gas receipts — manually. They also had to track vehicle data such as mileage whenever they stopped, which was a time-consuming process.
Now, Cheatham can pull reports every month through the system — from a laptop, phone or other Internet-enabled device. He can see details about a vehicle like location, battery voltage and siren usage. The location-tracking component would only come into effect if there was an issue or complaint, he explained.
Westerman underscored that the system is not designed to be used to punish staff for breaking the rules, but rather to act as an indicator of when a driver needs additional training. He argued that the system protects drivers and government organizations in cases where a member of the public makes a complaint.
In addition to increasing accountability to the public, the system could also protect drivers by creating evidence of where the driver and vehicle were located at the time of a reported incident, Cheatham added.
By connecting to the engine port, devices can also detect things like fault codes, prompting earlier vehicle service.
The technology also enabled fleet management to be administered from anywhere — an important feature to have at a time when even government is forced to work remotely.
The COVID-19 pandemic and travel restrictions led to a significant reduction in fleet use, Cheatham noted, though vehicles had to be available when needed.
Westerman reasoned that having the evidence available to see which vehicles are being used most, or which are not being used at all, allows administrators to make data-driven decisions about maintenance and future purchasing.
“I think another [component of this technology] is to have a demonstration that you’re being a good steward of taxpayer money,” Westerman said. “And if you have a fleet without any kind of telematics system, you’re not getting the most effective use of that asset.”
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