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USPS Uses RFID to Manage Vehicles, Drivers

The system provides a range of functions, including driver authentication, real-time vehicle location and speed, weight and impact sensing.
By Beth Bacheldor
After a vehicle's VAC reads a postal employee's employee ID badge, the PIVMS authenticates that person as the authorized driver, confirming that his or her training certification is valid and current. PIVMS will also provide the driver with the required OSHA checklist at the start of each operating day, ensuring that the vehicle is in safe operating condition before being put into service.

Supervisors can use the PIVMS system to locate the nearest driver to pick up or move mail containers to the next operation, or to ensure that the mail makes it onto a specific truck for a critical dispatch. This facilitates USPS' ability to meet its delivery service goals. They can also send information to a specific driver or vehicle. PIVMS helps the USPS manage driver training and vehicle maintenance, while reporting features can analyze operations, identify potential problems and create operational plans.

Stephen says PIVMS provides the USPS with a wealth of new data, largely because much of the information it is designed to collect has not been available before. "In one of our early installations, we saw that in a facility with a fleet of approximately 50 powered industrial vehicles, there were two PIVs that were not even turned on for over two months during the fall and holiday mailing season," she says. "This type of information allows us to appropriately size the PIV fleet and reduce associated equipment/lease/maintenance costs, without compromise to mail delivery service."

Stephen stresses that one of the most important benefits of PIVMS is safety. The system ensures that only trained, authorized operators have access to PIVs, and monitors PIV speeds and impacts to maintain operator accountability. "This system also facilitates the USPS' compliance with meeting its statutory PIT [powered industrial truck] obligations under 29 CFR OSHA 1910.178, and makes it much simpler to create and maintain required records relative to PIV operations," she says. The USPS has been manually gathering and maintaining all OSHA-required data, so PIVMS will partially replace and augment local systems for tracking and maintaining this required information.

The USPS has been working with I.D. Systems since the late 1990s, but the current PIVMS contract and installations began in the Chicago Bulk Mail Center in early 2005. Since then, the agency has installed the system in 40 sites, starting with the largest processing and distribution centers. Typically, those located in major cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City and Denver. By 2007, there will be more than 100 sites using the system, and the USPS, Stephen says, is also looking at how to extend the technology to processing facilities with smaller powered industrial vehicle fleets.
The USPS is putting RFID technology to work in a number of different mail operations. According to Stephen, in fact, the agency has been deeply involved with RFID since 1998, participating on various ANSI, EPCglobal, CEN, and ISO standards-setting committees, as well as an intergovernmental group.

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