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AVL OVERVIEW

Tracking and monitoring over the road vehicles is attainable through technologies that have been in the commercial marketplace for many years.  Familiar applications where AVL solutions are utilized include public transportation, pupil transportation, industrial transportation such as concrete and paving companies, long haul freight transport companies, waste hauling, taxis, and many other types of commercial and industrial enterprises.

Beyond the logistical related benefits that vehicle monitoring provides, most enterprises have also benefitted from improved vehicle safety through the use of on-board AVL equipment.  Drivers of vehicles outfitted with tracking equipment quickly become re-oriented to the understanding that they’re actions in the work place are no less relevant simply because their workplace is an unsupervised seat behind the wheel of an over the road vehicle.  In fact, due to risk factors related to highway transportation, their actions are substantially more critical and require an increased level attention to detail.

Mounting anecdotal evidence reveals that drivers operating vehicles having AVL tracking equipment on-board show a measurable increase in efficiency and a decrease in accidents, complaints, overages and mischief.       

PUPIL TRANSPORTATION

480,000 yellow school buses carry 25 million children to and from school every week day. This comprises the largest mass transportation fleet in the country, 2.5 times larger than all other forms of mass transportation- transit, intercity buses, commercial airlines and rail- combined.

Illustrating the benefits of vehicle tracking in the pupil transportation environment needs no elaboration, we all get picture. Tracking a bus full of children while knowing its speed, location heading and event status, such as crossing arm deployed, emergency brake enabled, stop lights flashing, etc. is no longer thought of as unique. It is more commonly viewed today as a minimum safety requirements and it’s achievable through efficient AVL systems that are simple to learn and operate.

The more we understand the technologies that make AVL work, the better we are informed about what type of system will best meet the needs of the fleet that it will serve.

Pyramid’s approach to presenting AVL to school districts nationwide is through a thorough educational process. We offer a live web tutorial to school transportation facilitators for viewing our mapping software program. The webinar demonstrates the actual functionality of the mapping software and gives the viewer the ability to see the full blown software program operating in a live application. We can also demonstrate the AVL system with an installed trial AVL package on a bus through one of our 1100 authorized dealers nationwide.     

SETUP 1 - EQUIPMENT

A full featured Vehicle Location system will include a state of the art on-board GPS receiver capable of managing various tracking and reporting functions. The on-board GPS receiver receives triangulated location information from 26 satellites in orbit around our planet. Depending on the level of information desired by the dispatcher and fleet manager, the GPS receiver, or MDT will collect and transmit unique vehicle and passenger data to the dispatcher’s laptop or desk top workstation.

Along with reporting vehicle speed, heading and location, the MDT is able to give the dispatcher additional status information related to on-board vehicle conditions. It can log bus door open and close, emergency door status, stop lights flashing, crossing arm raised, etc. There is also a contact that will provide for the driver to send a signal in an emergency situation.  

The MDT allows for visual paging and text messaging to alert the entire fleet about anything such as road closures, detours or special events that the bus drivers need to be aware of. The MDT can be set up to allow for a driver ID card to be swiped so that regular and over time logs can be cross referenced with actual on board driver activity. Student ID card functions that log when or if a student boarded the bus are also a function of the MDT. Location, date, time when the student boarded and actual time the bus door opened and closed are logged as well.

For expediting pre-flight check information each morning with minimum delay, the bus driver can use the MDT to communicate to the maintenance supervisor as well as the dispatcher that a bus has a major failure so that optional plans for covering that bus’s route can be expedited.

STEP 2 - RADIO OR CELLULAR      

Most people are aware of GPS technology through their experience with GPS navigational products such as the onboard LCD screen that displays where the vehicle is traveling. GPS for monitoring and tracking incorporates an additional function that navigational GPS doesn’t require: The ability to transmit the onboard data over the air to a central dispatch station.

There are two common methods for transmitting vehicle data over the air. One is via cellular technology. This is the same cellular system that carries our mobile phone calls. A GPS receiver designed for cellular operation requires no mobile 2-way radio on board the bus. For more information on this type of AVL technology, see Pyramid’s Centry II GPS receiver.

The other method used for transmitting data from the onboard receiver to the dispatcher is via the 2-way mobile radio network that most school buses are already using.  The MDT or GPS receiver is connected to the bus’s mobile radio and delivers its data updates to the dispatcher by automatically steering the radio to a data channel or other voice channel. The data transmission takes about a second or less. Pyramid’s 3012 MDT and Merlin GPS receiver utilize this type of technology.  

STEP 3 - SOFTWARE

The central nervous system of AVL technology is the Street Smarts software. The mapping software, installed and viewable on the dispatcher’s computer station, is where all forms of data from each bus is received and translated into an active visual display.

Viewable on a street level mapping program are the actual buses represented by a colored icon. Also viewable is status information that can inform the dispatcher as to the bus’s speed, heading, location and on board status as monitored by the mobile data terminal through its I/O contact inputs.

Buses having varying purposes can be categorized and colored accordingly and viewed separately based on their differing icon color. Alarm fences can be set up on the map to alert the dispatcher if a bus enters or exits a particular boundary. Distances can be calculated on the map using a mouse driven tool. For driver training purposes, maps can be printed directly from the mapping software.

In the reports section, all bus and driver activity is logged and stored for future reference. Transportation supervisors can access the data for settling driver disputes as well as parental disputes having to do with missed pickups, speeding, etc.

Within the reports section, all driver time card activity is computed showing regular and overtime hours worked. This report can be contrasted with other driver clock-in logs and used to prevent unauthorized overages.

The mapping software can allow the operator to view event and status reports on the entire fleet and the information can be offloaded to an excel file and stored permanently.

       


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