The green IT stars of 2010

InfoWorld's 2010 Green 15 Awards: Green-tech projects coupled with innovation and collaboration yield bountiful rewards

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Provider Enterprises steers fleet toward fuel savings
System boosts safety, response time for bus service to special-needs students

Provider Enterprises offers a critical service for New Hampshire schools: lining up transportation for over 1,500 special-needs children to 200 different schools every day. Managing the fleet of vehicles can be complex as the company strives to ensure the safety and comfort of its passengers while adhering to strict time tables -- and, of course, a budget.

In an effort to improve service and cut expenses, Provider enlisted fleet management technology from Navman. The system gave the company a new level of visibility into the real-time whereabouts of its 178 vehicles, tools for tracking factors such as fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance records, and the means for quickly exchanging communications -- including instructions and directions via SMS -- with drivers.

The system has yielded a number of benefits. From a purely economical standpoint, it helped the company cut fuel expenses by nearly 10 percent in the first year alone, which amounts to around $50,000. In part, those savings come from the system's ability to help dispatchers identify when drivers are violating the company's no-idling policy -- and alert drivers to the problem immediately.

Moreover, dispatchers can easily notify a driver when a child doesn't need to be picked up, thus shortening trips. Dispatchers can also easily find the closest appropriately equipped vehicle to meet a passenger's needs. "Response times have been cut by 50 percent,” said Garrett Scholes, operations manager at Provider. “Before Navman Wireless, we did all of our dispatching over the radio. Some buses have wheelchair lifts and some don’t. Routing the correctly equipped buses to the appropriate stops was time consuming and tedious.”

Further, the system enables Provider to track safety violations, such as whether a driver is speeding (which can also waste fuel and contribute to wear and tear) or failing to stop at railroad crossings or whether passengers aren't buckled in. The system also lets the company know if drivers are using vehicles for personal use, which, again, can result in higher fuel and maintenance costs.

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