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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Nashua board weighs options for DPW vehicle tracking

NASHUA – The Georgia company that provides bus tracking software for the Nashua Transit System is hoping to sell the city some new hardware that will monitor vehicles in the DPW fleet.

Dustin Koch, vice president of MotionLink, an offshoot of RouteMatch Software, ran down the benefits of installing GPS trackers in Public Works vehicles during a presentation for the board on Tuesday. ...

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NASHUA – The Georgia company that provides bus tracking software for the Nashua Transit System is hoping to sell the city some new hardware that will monitor vehicles in the DPW fleet.

Dustin Koch, vice president of MotionLink, an offshoot of RouteMatch Software, ran down the benefits of installing GPS trackers in Public Works vehicles during a presentation for the board on Tuesday.

Koch said MotionLink’s tracking systems increase efficiency, cut down costs and improve decision-making by providing periodic updates about the location and status of city-owned vehicles.

The data can be used in a range of ways, from determining whether a snow plow driver is staying on the assigned route to sending an alert to a supervisor when a vehicle is idling for too long.

On average, Koch said, the company’s clients have been able to reduce fuel costs by 10 percent, largely by reducing the amount of time vehicles are left running.

While the city has used similar vehicle-tracking technology in the past, cars and trucks in the DPW currently don’t have GPS tracking devices. Mayor Donnalee Lozeau said she’s interested in equipping the entire city fleet with new tracking devices in hopes of giving the city more data about where drivers go and how vehicles are used.

The entire system – including installing the devices in roughly 130 vehicles and paying a monthly subscription – would cost the city in the range
of $30,000-$50,000, depending on how frequently the devices send in location updates. They can be adjusted to send GPS coordinates in intervals of 10, 30 or 60 seconds.

Koch said the company specializes in “geofencing,” setting up imaginary boundaries and configuring software to send alerts when vehicles travel outside the appropriate area. The concept can help cut down on the amount of data analysis necessary by triggering alerts when boundaries are crossed, he said.

MotionLink harnesses Google’s mapping system to track data points such as the vehicle’s speed, location and trip history, as well as whether the engine is running.

Supervisors can monitor the data online using a personal computer, tablet or mobile phone.

The city would have the flexibility to tailor the alert system and establish its own “geofences.” The software also can send alerts when a driver is speeding, or when a vehicle is in need of routine maintenance, based on calendar dates or the number of miles it has traveled.

The company is storing customers’ data indefinitely for the time being. Koch said they envision establishing a retention policy in the near future that would likely cap the period at three to five years. The city would retain ownership of the data and could export it at any time.

Lozeau said the information would be particularly useful in responding to residents’ complaints. For example, if a homeowner complains that the street hasn’t been plowed during a snowstorm, the city could refer to the tracking data to substantiate the information.

The city could also use the data to determine whether a driver plowed his or her own driveway with a city vehicle, or whether a particular employee was speeding or veering away from the assigned area.

Public Works Commissioner Tracy Pappas said her main concern is DPW employees needlessly traveling back and forth between DPW headquarters and job sites, often to take breaks.

“I think that our vehicles are spending too much time around their primary areas and back and forth from there a lot,” she said. “Too much.”

City staff have yet to propose any agreement with MotionLink.

A contract with the company would come back to the Board of Public Works for review.

Jim Haddadin can be reached
594-6589 or jhaddadin@nashua
telegraph.com. Also, follow Haddadin on Twitter (@Telegraph_JimH).