Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council
Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council operates a fleet of nearly 500 vehicles.
As with all fleet-running organisations, the Council is required to keep records of which drivers are using the Council's vehicles and the reasons for them doing so. This is for tax purposes but also so that the Council is able to trace drivers in respect to motoring offences. Furthermore the Council needed a system to measure vehicle utilisation and improve upon vehicle efficiency.
For several years, the Council has been using a paper-based log book system where drivers must record their personal details and reasons for use every time they drive a fleet vehicle. It was time-consuming for drivers to complete the documentation, some drivers failed to complete the forms and it also required a long paper-trail to trace drivers who committed driving offences.
The Council has been considering investing in an electronic tracking system for a number of years but the cost was likely to reach £400,000 and this was thought to be too costly.
The Council decided to develop its own tracking system called Sentinel. Joint working between the Fleet Management and ICT departments has enabled the system to be developed in-house.
Electronic tracking devices were purchased from a private company but rather than investing in a complete tracking software package, the Council's ICT department developed its own software.
Drivers now use a unique electronic fob to operate the tracker system in each vehicle and information about the vehicle's use and movements is recorded centrally.
Drivers are given training on how to use the tracking system and the relevant managers are given information about how to analyse the information.
Developing the system in-house has resulted in a significant cost benefit. The total capital cost of purchasing and implementing the system was approximately £200,000 and the operating costs for most vehicles is around £2 per month. The cheapest alternative system would have cost around £400,000 to purchase and implement and the operating costs would have been three times greater than the in-house system.
The Council has run an eight-month pilot where the tracking system was trialled on 40 vehicles. A working group was set up during the pilot with monthly meetings to track and report on progress.
During the pilot, some drivers raised concerns about how these devices might be used to covertly monitor their activity. In response, the Council has agreed with the trade unions a protocol on how the system will be used.
The pilot was successful in securing Member support and the Council is now in the process of rolling out the system to all Council-owned vehicles. Vehicles are currently being fitted with the tracking devices and the system was due to go fully live at the end of June 2008.
Further benefits that the Council hopes to realise from the system include using the vehicle positioning information to enable services to be more responsive, optimising journeys, recording performance indicators and protecting the Council against false or confused insurance claims.
In future, the Council hopes to further develop the package so that the equipment can be used for two-way communication between the vehicle and the depot.