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RFID Aids Fueling for Canadian Bus Operator

Coast Mountain Bus Co. is installing a TagMaster RFID solution as part of its fuel-management system from Coencorp, to identify buses and permit fueling with appropriate fluids.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 10, 2012Coast Mountain Bus Co. (CMBC), located in British Columbia, Canada, recently completed a pilot of an RFID-based automated fuel-management system at one of its fueling stations that authenticates each of the company's busses, allows drivers to fill up their vehicles with the appropriate fuel and stores data regarding fuelings and engine performance, including idle times and miles traveled. Based on that pilot's success, the company is now installing the RFID tags and readers at six fueling locations, in order to manage the fueling of its entire bus fleet. The system includes RFID tags and readers supplied by TagMaster North America, integrated with the FuelZone Transit fuel-management system provided by Montreal automated solutions firm Coencorp.

By April of this year, the bus company reports, each vehicle will carry a semi-passive 2.4 MHz TagMaster RFID tag that transmits its unique ID number to a reader at the station, prompting the release of locks for specific dispensers of fuel and other products (such as transmission or windshield-washer fluid) appropriate for that particular vehicle. At the same time, a Coencorp device known as an engine diagnostic port, or Vehicle Data Unit (VDU), uses its built-in omnidirectional RF transceiver to transmit data regarding the engine's use history and mileage, and a record is stored in the FuelZone software, along with the vehicle's fueling history. Although the VDU broadcasts a unique ID number, the footprint of its omnidirectional signal is too wide for the system to identify the specific fuel lane in which a bus is parked.

According to Derek Leach, CMBC's maintenance planning manager, the bus company plans to be using RFID at all six of its fueling stations in the British Columbia area by April, for its approximately 300 buses.

Coencorp has been providing fuel-management solutions to transit companies, as well as other firms maintaining fleets of vehicles, for approximately two decades, says Ali Tavassoli, Coencorp's president—and one of its clients for many of those years has been CMBC. The Coencorp system provides access to fuel for drivers after they input a password or swipe a card, and also stores a record of that transaction. With the TagMaster RFID technology, however, that process can be automated, indicating to the system any time that a bus enters within read range of the readers installed at the fueling station. In addition, once a vehicle stops at the fueling lane, within about 300 feet of the FuelZone receiver, data pertaining to its engine functionality could be loaded wirelessly into Coencorp's software solution.

Several years ago, Coast Mountain Bus Co. had installed a system involving active RFID tags to identify buses arriving at a fueling station, which CMBC then incorporated into the FuelZone system. However, the company found that readers too often picked signals from tags on buses in neighboring fueling lanes, thereby making RFID reads unreliable.

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