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Will the City on the Bay Incorporate Telematics?



In recent years, San Francisco has become the hub of innovation and entrepreneurship. Top technology companies such as Google, Facebook, Uber and many others, set up shop (and the standard of technological advancement) in San Francisco. For the public transportation industry, the city uses telematics to manage some of its vehicles, and is now considering expanding a program to cover all of them.

Currently, the city and county combined have close to 8,000 vehicles, including trucks and heavy equipment. However, only 2,331 of those vehicles have telematics devices onboard.

Different subsets of the city’s fleet use different types of telematics services. For example, both the city’s buses and trolleys use a system that records fast acceleration and hard braking. The recordings can then be used for training purposes to inform drivers of productive and/or dangerous driving behavior. These training measures serve as positive incentives to either reward excellent drivers, or present disciplinary procedures to low performing drivers. But the buses also use an additional service that provides reports of each bus’s arrival at stops.

Besides GPS tracking, the company the city contracts with also offer towing, fuel delivery, tire changes, and even lost or stolen vehicle recovery. Not all telematics companies provide such services, though some companies offer additional tracking features that San Francisco’s contractor does not offer.

Telematics providers collectively offer a huge number of programs. Fleet managers can find whichever group of services works best for them by choosing the right company.

The proposal on the table would expend the number of vehicles to 3,108, spread out across 13 different departments—although the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency will have more than any other, with 930 vehicles. For the first time, fire, police, and other emergency vehicles would be included.

To grow the program further, to all 8,000 vehicles, would be a substantial expense. That may serve as the long-term goal. An expanded program could pay for itself quickly. Telematics programs typically bring substantial savings through greater fuel efficiency, better maintenance schedules, and better compliance with traffic regulations. San Francisco typically spends millions of dollars a year to resolve vehicle-related litigation alone. With telematics, drivers are more cautious, conscientious, and less likely to inspire any litigation.

Keeping vehicle away from fraud and theft is another great benefit of Telematics, further lowering fleet-wide costs. If a vehicle is stolen, GPS tracking makes it much easier to recover the vehicle quickly.

Not all telematics benefits are financial; safety improves across an entire fleet making roads safer for fleet drivers and the general public on the road. And both fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions drop substantially.

As San Francisco continues to innovate with its many different entrepreneurial companies, city leaders are looking to bring the latest technology to public transportation with Telematics solutions.

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