City going high tech to improve efficiency

So long, spreadsheets. Hello satellite surveillance.

  • Sep. 15, 2011 8:00 a.m.

So long, spreadsheets. Hello satellite surveillance.

Keeping tabs on municipal efficiency is going out of this world, as the City of Penticton explores the possibility of using GPS equipment to track equipment and staff in the name of cost savings.

Operations director Mitch Moroziuk told council last week that city staff had undertaken a trial of global positioning system (GPS) tracking technology on a select few vehicles within the city’s fleet.

Moroziuk said they wanted to better understand the technology and evaluate its potential benefits, having heard good things from municipalities further afield.

Cities like Kelowna, Trail, Nanaimo, Salmon Arm and Vernon have either just purchased the equipment or have been using it for some time.

“Reports indicate positive results have been demonstrated in areas such as fuel savings, liability claims, increase in customer service, productivity improvements,” Moroziuk said.

Safety was the first reason listed in favour of implementing GPS technology. He said tracking devices would allow supervisors to monitor the need for help when staff are working alone.

Route analysis would also help the city cut costs, he suggested. Staff could use the GPS to determine the most efficient route with the adequate equipment deployment, reducing the amount of fuel consumed and streamlining operations.

Environmental reasons were also cited. Moroziuk said the units could gather information about idling to help the fleet comply with anti-idling policies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The units could also gather hard performance data on a variety of city operations like street sweeping, beach cleaning, hydrant maintenance, lawn cutting, valve maintenance and meter reading.

Moroziuk said the equipment would help with managing staff who are off site. Response times could be tracked, schedules could be monitored and complaints from the community could be verified or debunked regarding unperformed service.

Not only could they ensure equipment is used safely, Moroziuk said the city’s liability could also be mitigated in relation to operations like snow and ice removal.

At most, Moroziuk wrote in his report to council, 114 units would be installed. The cost is $265 per unit, meaning the capital investment would cost a maximum of $30,210. A request for proposals for GPS tracking technology will be issued, and from those proposals, the type and specific pieces of equipment would be established. Bulk purchasing may also reduce the amount the city would have to pay.

Online tracking costs of $32 per month could cost the city $43,776 per year, which would have to be added to the operations budget.

There were also more savings to be had, the operations director noted, in timely upkeep of the fleet.

“It also has the ability to prompt vehicle maintenance,” Moroziuk told council, explaining that the devices could indicate when regular service is required.

Council approved staff’s first alternative, which recommended the city issue an RFP for GPS tracking technology, as well as amend the 2011 budget allocating funds for the purchase from the equipment replacement reserve.