You might think this technology we’re about to tell you about sounds a bit futuristic, but it’s in existence right now and is a pretty awesome example of advancements being made in the wars on fuel economy and making roads safer. A system called Ford Crew Chief™ is the only fleet management tool capable of accessing Ford proprietary data contained within a vehicle’s computers. We’re talking about where a vehicle is, diagnostics and driver behavior.
Now, why is that important to a fleet company? Ford developed this because of commercial customer demand for a way to allow fleet managers to monitor the location of the trucks in its fleets. Crew Chief powered by Telogis accesses key elements such as the status of oil life, CO2 emissions, safety belt, tire pressure, airbag, if a vehicle is starting and stopping harshly, if it is being used outside of business operating hours, whether it’s outside of designated areas or there’s excess idling and speeding. The power in this awareness is leading to more efficient and safer fleet operation.
And with the new Crew Chief, additional driver behavior information is offered to fleet managers, including “speed against posted speed limits.” The Department of Energy details that fuel economy is reduced by 1 percent for every mile per hour above 55 mph. With more detailed speed data, Crew Chief users can further improve vehicle efficiency.
Case in point: Milwaukee-based Joy Global Inc., a company that manufactures, services and sells surface and below-ground mining equipment, has improved fleet fuel economy by 10 percent for part of its 800-vehicle fleet through efforts to cut costs that include using Crew Chief. Michael Butsch, Director of Fleet Operations for the company, said he expects the amount of fuel used by his fleet to drop by 80,000 gallons in 2011 due in part to cost cutting measures that include the use of Crew Chief.
Considering the U.S. average of $3.79 per gallon of gas on May 31, it’s easy to see how the savings add up quickly. In real-world use, fleet companies are reporting fuel savings between 10-20 percent, thanks to better management of diagnostics, location and driver behavior.
A reason vehicle location is a big deal is because fleet managers can watch from a remote location as fleet vehicles travel from stop to stop. One fleet manager using Crew Chief found a fleet vehicle being used to run a side delivery business during regular business hours.
Crew Chief equipment is mounted under the dash and out of sight, and can be factory- or dealer-installed. Once installed, it automatically engages every time the vehicle is used; no driver interaction is required. Data is collected, transmitted wirelessly and displayed on a simple-to-use, Web-based interface accessible only to the fleet manager.
However, fleet managers don’t have to stare at the website all the live long day for this to be an useful tool. Reports can be generated and emailed at a specific time, say, once a day, week or even before a monthly operating review. Crew Chief also can be set up to send email alerts for actions such as airbag deployment, a driver not wearing a safety belt or excessive speeding. If a pattern of behavior is discovered that could be detrimental to the vehicle and its operation, fleet managers are then able to give drivers specific training to address the issue.
Crew Chief is available for the F-150, Super Duty, E-Series vans and the Transit Connect. It also is being tested on Escape and Fusion. It comes with a three-year/36,000-mile limited warranty when fitted at the factory and can be serviced at any Ford dealership. The Crew Chief hardware can be retrofitted to older Ford vehicles and to non-Ford vehicles as well. To see Crew Chief in action, visit http://crewchief.telogis.com/how-it-works/.