By Del Williams
In the lodging
business, hotel owners and managers need to know that their buses, shuttles and
maintenance vehicles are exactly where they need to be, arriving and departing
on time, so as not to inconvenience or worse – strand – guests or delay
required hotel maintenance. This is even more important when there is a set schedule
that must be precisely kept.
However, even when
drivers are thoroughly vetted, qualified and trained, disagreements about the
reliability of on-time pickup or drop off can lead to ill will.
For Doug Dickherber,
owner of O’Fallon, Missouri-based Green Way Shuttles, efficiently tracking his
bus fleet was key to providing quality service to passengers.
Green Way Shuttles,
which specializes mostly in professional transportation, currently serves over 125
properties at 52 universities across the U.S.
“I needed an
indisputable way to ensure that the bus was in the right spot at the right time
for pick-up or drop-off,” says Dickherber. “Our chief complaint from the passengers
we pick up was the driver wasn’t at the stop on time. The driver would say, ‘I
that if a bus leaves early, it can become a serious issue if it causes a
student to miss class or a guest to miss a flight. “We may have to pick up at 7
am and get them to school or the airport at 7:15 am. So, if a driver leaves at
6:58 am there may be people waiting at 7:00 am to get on that could get left
Tracking with certainty
managers, achieving certainty about the current location and speed of every
vehicle – along with increased driver accountability – is only possible with real-time
tracking using GPS.
Drivers that know
they are being monitored by such systems are not only less likely to make
unnecessary detours or stops for personal reasons, but also will no longer have
to dispute whether they made an on-time pick-up or drop-off.
Today, GPS tracking
can be extended to the user side as well. Passengers, through GPS tracking integrated
with a smartphone app, have greater peace of mind by knowing the whereabouts of
their bus on demand, at all times.
So, with a host of
benefits for everyone involved, fleet managers that haven’t embraced GPS
tracking are missing out on a win-win scenario. It is an argument increasingly hard
to deny, particularly as GPS tracking continues to improve while the cost of
A higher standard
trackers have been around for some time, advances in the technology allow for
more real-time tracking and simplified reporting. Fleet managers, after all,
don’t want to spend all day on their computers sifting through data. Instead,
they want real-time information that lets them correct problems immediately, as
well as simplified reports that can provide important historical data. Fortunately,
such systems exist today at rates of less than $30 per vehicle.
Green Way Shuttles
investigated GPS tracking to improve service and management. The company typically
runs daily bus service that is offered as an amenity, with only shuttle clients
having access to the bus.
first evaluated the options several years ago, the cost was about $2,700 per
vehicle the first year, including installation, plus hundreds of dollars a
month to run the program. Additional online research allowed Dickherber to find
a GPS tracker that met his criteria at a much more cost-effective price.
Green Way Shuttles
has since installed Shadow Tracker Vision III GPS tracking devices from Advanced Tracking Technologies (ATTI), a
Houston, Texas-based designer and manufacturer of GPS tracking products, on its
fleet. The company owns and operates a fleet of more than 110 buses and
acquires five to eight new vehicles per year.
“Now our buses
have real-time GPS tracking, and I pay less than $20 a month per vehicle,” says
Dickherber. He notes that the buses also have separate video and audio
monitored security systems from other vendors at additional cost.
typical GPS tracking devices that may only update every few minutes, the device
provides real-time location updates every 10 seconds, as well as location,
speed and idle time alerts if something is amiss. The data is transmitted via
satellite and cellular networks 24/7 to a smartphone or PC.
Geo-sensing for protection
transportation company with buses following established routes, Green Way
Shuttles found the GPS tracking device’s geo-sensing capability particularly
“I can put a geo
boundary around a set route, and if the bus gets outside of it, the GPS tracker
will email me,” he says. “Then I can figure out, did the driver go and grab a
snack, get gas, or go home?”
Dickherber, ATTI provided a free downloadable smartphone app, which integrates
with GPS tracking. The app quickly alerts him to virtually anything that
requires his attention.
“The manager app
emails me if a bus leaves the designated area, starts after the assigned time,
or stops earlier than expected,” he says. “If it’s 8:00 am and a bus is
supposed to be running but hasn’t started, it emails me so I can ask why the
driver hasn’t showed up. If my 1:00 pm bus takes off and isn’t supposed to, it
emails me where it started and where it is now so I can figure out why it’s running.”
The app makes it
easy to resolve disputes, says Dickherber. “If someone says ‘The bus left
early,’ I can quickly find out exactly when the bus left that location.”
Because the GPS
system is automated, analysis of historical data such as on-time pick-ups or
drop-offs can also be emailed without anyone having to open software. The reports
can also be customized as needed.
Dickherber, the GPS system also helps to improve safety since it has access to
speed limits throughout the country in its database. “I have the system set for
five to seven miles an hour over the speed limit. So, if a bus exceeds this threshold,
the system emails me an alert that includes how fast the bus was going, along
with when and where.”
While fleet managers
may have put off looking into GPS tracking devices, the technology has clearly advanced
so it is not only easier to use but also more cost-effective than ever to
About the author
Del Williams is a technical
writer based in Torrance, California.