Fleet Telematics Driving Efficiencies in Oregon
by Marie McGehee
Driven by the fallout from a winter storm and a desire to hold the line on costs, the Eugene Water and Electric Board turned to Verizon’s Networkfleet for a comprehensive fleet management solution to better manage its assets on the street.
With a constantly rolling fleet, the Oregon utility is among a number of utilities that are adopting telematics and mobile technologies for near real-time visibility into fleet operations, work orders and the vehicle use.
"I was probably the biggest skeptic about whether we could save money, but I think I’ve been proven wrong," said Gary Lentsch, the Eugene utility’s fleet services supervisor.
In spring 2012, the Eugene Water and Electric Board – Oregon’s largest customer-owned utility serving more than 87,000 customers – experienced a massive snowstorm that caused widespread power outages throughout its more than 235-mile service area. After the storm, the utility noted that it was unable to locate vehicles easily to provide needed materials to aid in emergency response.
The Eugene utility worked with Verizon Telematics, to install Verizon’s Networkfleet, an innovative GPS asset tracking technology, on the utility’s entire fleet of more than 220 vehicles.
When comparing the second quarter 2012 to second quarter 2013, Lentsch found that fuel usage at the Eugene utility had dropped by 17.3 percent by lowering idle time and reducing unnecessary trips. After integrating GPS data and mapping, the utility found it could dispatch service trucks faster during power and water service interruptions.
"Our managers and supervisors are now using this tool to operate more efficiently and establish a higher level of accountability for vehicle idling and unnecessary trips," Lentsch said.
The Eugene utility found that a key to reducing costs was the ability to monitor vehicle use. For example, since the deployment, 19 vehicles have been returned to inventory because of low use. Three were assigned to other utility divisions and the remaining 16 were sent to the surplus auction. Based on average life cycle and average asset cost, Lentsch says that the utility will save $75,000 annually in capital costs.
In addition to decreases in fuel usage, the board saw the number of miles driven decline by 18 percent and vehicle incidents involving damage were reduced by 47 percent, based on historical data.
The year-to-date fuel reduction alone saved the utility an estimated $54,000 through 2nd quarter of 2013.
Joshua Haims, general manager for Networkfleet at Verizon Telematics, said: "The Eugene Water and Electric Board is a great example of how fleet telematics is making an impact on the utility industry. With fleet vehicles in constant use, utility companies can manage their operations and – in the case of a weather event that can disrupt customer service – improve response times for their customers."