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Go Green

An RFID-enabled mobile asset-management system can help increase fuel efficiency and decrease carbon emissions.
By John Greenland Jr.
A properly trained driver can be a company's best asset in the fight to increase vehicle fuel efficiency and decrease emissions. Mobile asset-management systems provide drivers and operators with the most up-to-date information and metrics in fuel-saving and emission-reduction techniques (for example, keeping tires inflated, driving the posted speed limit, limiting excess vehicle weight and so forth). Many mobile asset-management systems now have the capability to produce a customized driver score, which takes into account many of the metrics listed above.

Driver scores are associated with specific drivers through the use of the RFID card each driver swipes through a reader mounted in a vehicle's cab. These RFID cards are used to store driver attributes, which are related back to the driver score components to create a complete picture of driver performance. This scoring method allows management to boil down an operator's fuel efficiency or emission-reduction performance into one number, which can be efficiently compared with either that same operator at a different date, or across the board with other operators.

Decrease idling times. Drivers often allow their engines to idle, to serve as a power source for heating and air conditioning, ventilation, food preparation and storage, lighting and entertainment. Idling quickly consumes fuel allocated for the driver's delivery route, according to estimated miles traveled. Mobile asset-management systems can provide detailed reports of idling patterns, revealing situations where fuel savings and emissions reductions can be maximized, while minimally affecting operations. Based on these reports, managers could consider the following engine idling alternatives: shore power (truck stops that offer drivers 120-volt AC power stations), generators (external energy sources that provide power to run a driver's amenities) and inverters (converting a truck's 12-volt DC power into 120-volt AC power, allowing the driver to run any AC-based appliance).

Monitor speed, generating alerts when vehicles aren't operating at peak efficiency. It's no surprise that taking it slow can help substantially reduce fuel consumption. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's www.fueleconomy.gov Web site, highway speeds faster than 60 miles per hour greatly decrease a vehicle's fuel efficiency, accounting for a loss in efficiency of up to 23 percent for every 5 miles in excess of 60 miles per hour. Mobile asset-management technology gives fleet managers the ability to monitor the speed of all fleet vehicles at all times, and to generate alerts when vehicles are not operating at peak efficiency for the current conditions. Both real-time and report-based analysis can be used to manage driver habits and optimize fuel consumption and emissions reduction based on vehicle speed.

Maximize load efficiency. Carrying excess weight places unnecessary strain on a vehicle's engine and greatly affects its fuel efficiency. With sensors (both wired and wireless) and RFID tags in place, fleet operators know exactly how much cargo a vehicle is carrying at any given time. Removing as little as 100 pounds from fleet vehicles can significantly improve fleet gas mileage. Mobile asset-management systems can assist in maximizing load efficiency and creating situations where less equipment is stored in each vehicle.

Provide expense-management capabilities via gas-card integration. Many fuel providers offer savings to frequent users via gas cards or corporate accounts. Repeated monthly savings can become significant, and fuel-card information can be automatically integrated into mobile asset-management systems, providing implicit expense-management capabilities without any user intervention.

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