Firms, agencies using GPS to track vehicles in Mumbai

Firms, agencies using GPS to track vehicles in Mumbai


India – More and more government as well as private agencies are getting techsavvy where their vehicles are concerned. They are adopting measures like the global postioning system to make sure their workers don’t play truant while on the job.

Oil major BPCL recently launched its vehicle-tracking system, which will keep tabs on all its 5,233 tanks across the country. The objective is to make sure that consumers, who are at the end of the chain-from oil depots to transporters to dealers and finally them-get what they pay for.

The firm spends Rs 800 crore per month to tranport different kinds of fuel such as petrol, diesel, high speed diesel, compressed natural gas and liquified natural gas from its 89 oil depots to 9,521 retail outlets. “The vehicle tracking system will help improve the turnaround that will have a direct bearing on those at the end of the supply chain. The data collected from the system will help in the optimal use of the tanks and better management ,” said S Radhakrishnan, director, marketing.

Not only company officials, but also the dealers and transporters involved will be able to keep track of the vehicles online. “The routes for every vehicle have been mapped out and will remain the same for the next three years. If a vehicle makes an unscheduled halt for more than five minutes , it will be immediately notified,” said a BPCL official.

In the city, the company has 100 retail outlets and each of them is located at a distance of 4 km from each other. The city fleet comprises 70 tanks, each of which makes two trips daily. For a single trip, the tanks are supposed to take around six hours to upload the fuel, make way through the crowded roads of Mumbai and then offload the stuff at the retail outlets. “Most of the times, however, they do not make it within the six-hour deadline. There are times when a tanker is caught in a bad traffic snarl or the vehicle breaks down. But most often than not the workers siphon off the fuel on the way. The vehicle tracking system will help stop such activities,” said a senior BPCL official.

The civic body’s effort to introduce a device to keep track of its garbage trucks almost came to nought, but after a few hiccups it did finally take off. It required some tinkering from the top ranks and now, the vehicles are tracked from a control room at the BMC headquarters basement.

“This monitoring has resulted in much better management ,” says V Radha, joint municipal commissioner, who has introduced the system for octroi vehicles, cash-vans and vigilance vehicles as well. “While BMC earns the most from octroi, we have to make sure that the vans carrying cash are safe. They take the same route every day which makes them vulnerable to thefts all the more,” said Radha . If the van makes an unauthorised stop (indicating either the vehicle has broken down or there has been a holdup ) for more than five minutes , then an alarm goes off.

BMC’s octroi department is notorious in not submitting the right amount and even the vigilance wing cannot be trusted completely to carry out checks, BMC officials said. “Vigilance officials, when tipped off about a seizure, would often say they were at the other end of town. Now that the vehicles are tracked, they can no longer give that excuse,” says Radha.

The BMC keeps tabs on around 1,100 vehicles carrying solid waste as well as the mechanical sweepers on the Eastern and Western Express highways. “Now, the vehicles cannot go off wherever they want to and we also know the number of trips made by each vehicle,” says R A Rajeev, additional municipal commissioner , in-charge of solid waste management. Following this monitoring, lifting illegal waste, such as debris, has also reduced considerably.

Rajeev added that they could not be sure if the trucks go to all the assigned vats to pick up garbage. “We have not decided to put an RFID tag (those used in malls) for every housing society bin. This will have to be read by the driver and we will know for sure that the garbage has been lifted,” he said.

Sixty ambulances belonging to civic hospitals as well as the 177 fire department vehicles have also been tagged. “When we learn of a fire outbreak , it is now easier to send the vehicle closest to the site. The officials at the site then inform the control room of the nature of the fire and then we send additional and specialised fire engines,” said a senior fire officer.

The BMC is now co-ordinating with the traffic police so that if a fire-engine is caught in a traffic jam, then the constable at the signal will be asked to clear the traffic in that section.

MERU cabs, the private taxi launched in April 2007, have become highly popular and their business model also includes keeping tabs on the rented cars. “Through GPS, we know the exact location of the taxis and we can then direct the drivers to the nearest customer. That way we can not only monitor their movement but also ensure safety of the commuter,” said an official.

Tracking, it seems makes business sense.