Tracking Snow Plow Vehicles With GPS
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – Winter brings with it one of motorists’ biggest fears – a major snowstorm; and one of a municipality’s most labor-intensive chores: snow removal.
GPS tracking won’t make the experience pleasant, but it might make it more bearable.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) adds its name to the list of government offices that employ snow plow GPS tracking systems on their vehicles. UDOT lead technician Jake Brown said the vehicle tracking technology helps state employees keep pace with Mother Nature.
The state’s entire fleet of snow removal equipment was fitted with new snow plow vehicle tracking systems this year. Passive vehicle tracking devices were installed in about half of the vehicles, and real-time vehicle tracking systems were placed in the other half. That way, supervisors can step back after a year or two and determine which form of GPS tracking is most economical and best suits the department’s needs.
Both passive vehicle tracking and real-time vehicle tracking use the same technology, which is to receive radio transmissions from U.S. Department of Defense satellites in space. By a method called triangulation, the GPS devices determine location, usually within a few feet of accuracy. Position updates are taken at regular intervals. This allows the driver and/or viewer to follow the path of the vehicle on a map on computer. An example of an Internet mapping program is Google Earth satellite imaging.
The difference in passive and real-time vehicle tracking is in the reporting method.
Users that need to know where a vehicle is immediately will use real-time or active GPS tracking. In this method of vehicle tracking, location coordinates are transmitted – usually over a wireless network – and the user can monitor the vehicle, as it is in motion, using a Web browser. This is the preferred method of tracking for a fleet management application.
If immediate or “live” GPS tracking is not necessary, passive vehicle tracking might be ideal. These GPS tracking devices are also called data loggers or recorders. The GPS tracking unit stores locational data and the unit is later removed and downloaded for analysis.
Both real-time and no monthly fee GPS tracking systems record time and date, location, heading and stops. The custom-designed system for the Utah street department also interfaces with the trucks’ computer and electrical systems so managers can tell when the engine is on and off, how the snow plow is positioned, and when and where road salt is being dispensed.
The aim of GPS fleet tracking in municipal fleets is to develop an efficient delivery system, cut wasted or unnecessary trips, monitor fuel consumption, accurately log worker hours and control speeding and other reckless driving.
In a snow plow fleet, multiple vehicles are on the street simultaneously and the delivery of service is fluid and ever-changing. Dispatchers prefer GPS tracking because they can “see” trucks in the field and are less reliant on radio contact with drivers. GPS trackers help managers better access the weather situation and ensure that coverage is prioritized and thorough.
Once the weather crisis has passed, the recorded travel history of the GPS tracker eliminates some of the frustration of paperwork. GPS tracking can record work hours, track overtime and mileage, and serve as verification that a certain street was plowed at a certain time. GPS tracking data can be used to calculate fuel use, schedule vehicle maintenance and estimate the amount of salt needed, per miles of road and the frequency and intensity of snowfalls.