The Alert Notification Conundrum

Alert Notifications… 3 enough? 6 too many?

One of the things users of GPS tracking systems struggle with is alert notifications. That is what you asked for when you deployed your system because alerts were going to solve a lot of problems. The plan was to be on top of everything going on. Soon after you deployed, your cell phone was filled with text messages and your email inbox was overloaded.  You knew everything that was going on, but could not get anything done, so out of frustration you just turned those alerts off.

Some of you may not be old enough to remember the old Fletcher’s Castoria commercial from the 1960‘s.  It made the phrase “three enough, six too many?” famous. The product was a mild laxative for children, said to be better than prunes because there was no guesswork regarding the dosage. Giving a child too many prunes was something mothers wanted to avoid for obvious reasons. But the right amount was a very good thing.
Similarly, alert notifications from your GPS tracking platform are a great solution to some of the big challenges fleet managers face.  At the same time, too many alerts create disaster. With our cell phones constantly alerting us to every little thing we have become numb to the notification sounds and can easily learn to ignore them, or even worse, allow them to distract us unnecessarily.  It can even lead to distracted driving!

Managing by Exception

In contrast, if we create rules to uncover the things we want to know, but we don’t get alerts and we don’t schedule reports, we are not getting the full benefit of the system. Your GPS tracking system was designed to save you time and money, not keep you at a desk reviewing everything everyone did. Managing by exception is key. Filter what should not occur to the top of the pile and use the system to find the details that paint the full picture of those events/

The answer is achieving balance using alert notifications and scheduled reports in tandem. Consider what the things are that you really need to know as soon as they occur. If a sewage pump stops pumping, you probably want to be on top of that in a hurry. When a collision occurs and your driver is perhaps unable to call you, that is critical information as well. But, if Billy drives 5 mph over the posted speed limit, we can probably deal with that later. 

Keeping it Super Simple

The common denominator is simply deciding which events require immediate action when they occur. If you will stop what you are doing to attend to the situation as soon as you know about it, an alert notification is appropriate. Conversely, if it is just more information that isn’t necessary right now, there is no need to send a notification message. You can digest that kind of information when it is more convenient by using scheduled reports.  Scheduled reports will get the same information to you.  Moreover, it is condensed with all events for all drivers for a day, a week, or a month, allowing you to separate isolated events from trends and bad habits.

What About Critical Alert Notifications?

When critical alerts are necessary, even 24/7, consider subscribing to Fleetistics Priority Notification Service.  PNS uses a round-robin notification process to alert key individuals of critical issues.  This occurs outside the noise of the standard GPS service information. Notifications are sent via SMS and then a digital voice call.  First, they are sent to the primary person responsible for critical issues.  Then, if that person is unavailable due to travel, vacation, cellular coverage, or whatever, the next contact on your list is notified.  By including multiple people in the notification process, others are automatically notified when the primary is unavailable. Sign up for a 30-day trial if PNS sounds right for you.

Try Priority Notification Service, or any MyFleetistics service free for 30 days.  No contracts!  It’s easy, just log into MyFleetistics and go to:

MyFleetistics > Account > Administer Services

Priority Notification Service Free Trial

 

Click the button to turn on the service you want. Most services come with a 30-day free trial. Once the service is enabled the free trial automatically begins.  The setup fee (if applicable) and monthly service will automatically begin billing after the trial ends, unless you switch the service off using the same button you used to turn it on. Once services are activated your panel will look like this:

 

Administer Services after Activation

Integrations that Drive ROI

There are two primary ways to integrate GPS Tracking data to drive ongoing return on investment. The first, and most often used is analytical integration. Second, and often overlooked is visual integration.  Let’s take a look at both.

Analytical Integrations

Application programming interfaces (APIs), allow you to compile data from multiple sources. An API is provided by many GPS vendors. Some vendors add additional fees for their API service and others do not. Likewise, some providers place limits on what data you may access and how frequently you can make requests. In contrast, others make all collected data available and allow more frequent API calls.

Using the API you can integrate data from your GPS tracking system with data from other applications you use.  Combining data and directing it into custom reports brings the information you need to the surface.  Additionally, you can format and display the data the way you want to see it. We have one client that developed a custom interface to view his tracking data using the API. He does not use the user interface provided with his system at all.

Integrated exceptions graph

Another great example of analytical integration is the Device Status Table in MyFleetistics.  It is integrated with our internal support ticketing. This allows our clients to quickly identify vehicles that have not reported.  Additional data indicates if the device is powered.  It only takes one click to open a support ticket, and it is all viewed on a single screen.

Device Status Integration

The Value Proposition

The API allows you to use the data collected by your tracking system in other applications.  Location, speed, and duration details add additional value when combined with data from other sources. Some common examples are listed below.

  • Planned vs actual routes
  • Identifying customers that have not been visited recently
  • Isolate stops that were too short or too long based on an associated work order
  • Understanding on-time vs early or late stops to improve customer service.

Engine status data and faults directed to your vehicle maintenance software ensures all faults are reported.  Unsafe driving events reported directly to the applications used by your Safety and HR Departments saves time over entering events manually.  More importantly, it ensures safety records are complete and up to date.

You can also use the API to automate tasks. For instance, when a new customer or vendor order is entered, a custom developed application can automate the dispatch by sending a text message through the integrated application. Other examples are syncing customer locations with the closest vehicle when dispatching and assigning training to a driver that has too many unsafe driving events.

Visual Integrations

Visual integrations allow us to consume more information faster. A quick look at a “heat map” of customer stops speaks volumes.  It will quickly reveal a territory that needs another driver assigned as well as an area that has too much staff already committed. Put that side by side with a “heat map” of profit dollars generated and you get a deeper understanding of where it is most valuable for drivers to be.

GIS overlays allow you to see infrastructure in relation to the location of your assets. For a Fire Department, the location of fire hydrants in relation to trucks on the map is very helpful information. Likewise, for an oil well service company, well locations on the tracking map allow dispatch to easily see available assets relative to service locations.

Visual Integration Improved Using a Shapefile Import Tool

For Geotab users, the GIS Shapefile Import Tool allows you to import zones from GIS shapefiles. This creates a zone with the exact perimeter you see in a GIS map overlay.  As a functioning zone in Geotab, you can create exception rules for events related to the zone. Examples are entering, exiting, driving too fast inside the zone, stopping too long or not long enough in the zone, and much more.

Visual integration using shapefile import tool

Both analytical and visual integrations are beneficial in a variety of ways.  The key is understanding what pieces of information you have that when combined reveal something more.  Think about all of the times you have asked a question and your manager or supervisor responds “I don’t know.”  You may want to start keeping a list of those questions because if you are asking, there must be some value in knowing. Starting with a clear question, the sources of information that can be integrated to reveal the answers are easily identified.

Collision Reconstruction Limits Heartbreak Over Collision Damage

You can’t always prevent collision damage,

but you can prevent the heartbreak. Thanks in part to Geotab’s Collision Reconstruction add on, there is a happy ending to what could have been a very sad story.

I think we all have a vision of our dream car from our youth. For me it was always a little red rag-top. A couple of years ago I found her. She was a Chili Red Mini Cooper with a blue denim convertible top. Her name, chosen by her previous owner, was Rosie.

She had a lot of life left in her when I was recently hit from behind. The impact pushed me into the vehicle in front of me so I had collision damage both front and rear. As I dialed 911, I watched the other two very young drivers call their parents. Though the damage appeared superficial, my dream car was possibly going to be totaled, and ahead of me the negotiation with the insurance company loomed large.​

Accessing the Collision Reconstruction Data

The first thing I did when I got home was fire up the the computer to pull the accident data. With the collision reconstruction add on, it took just a couple of minutes.  The truth is often not exactly what we remember,and in this case, that was the case.

How could I have been so certain I was at a complete stop when I was hit from behind?  The collision reconstruction data showed I was driving 6 mph and slowing to stop. I wondered in that moment if the other drivers had similar flaws in their memory of the event. Also, the data indicated an initial accident level impact at the rear of my vehicle propelling me forward at 6:07:06 PM. Two more minor spikes on the graph indicate backward motion at about half the force of the initial impact. I suspect one of those may have been the force of my roll bar deploying.

Processing the Claim

Processing of the claim for the collision damage was somewhat slow. The insurance company had to reach all three drivers involved for their statements before they could make a determination of fault. I had advised the insurance company that I had the data and could prove exactly what happened, but they had to go through their process. Apparently the crucial information they needed from the driver in front of me, was how many impacts he heard, relative to what he felt, to verify that the rear vehicle actually hit me before I hit him. I wondered if his memory was clear on that point, but was confident the data would back me up if it was not.

Had there been any question, the G force and speed graphs above would tell the entire story. Had it ended up in litigation, the engineers at Geotab would have provided me with expert testimony in the form of a formal report explaining and validating the data from their collision reconstruction. Lucky for me, the insurance company just wrote a check to cover the collision damage.

Unfortunately,

The next day I received the dreaded call… after further review it was determined the frame was bent, and due to severe collision damage Rosie and I would not be seeing any more highway miles together. The insurance company settled, and I was off to find a new car. Knowing that I had solid facts acquired through collision reconstruction, allowed me to negotiate from a position of power, rather than accepting whatever the insurance company decided. I had a nice fat down payment in my pocket, and my former loan was paid off.

I promised a happy ending, so here it is. Not quite 2 weeks from the collision event, I was driving my new car. I could not find another Chili Red one, but British Racing Green can grow on a person. My new road pal is 2 years and 50K miles younger, has a turbo charger, and a far superior sound system. I am naming him Jack Hammer, after the salesman at the Mini dealer (I swear that is his real name).

Thanks Jack!

Thanks Geotab!

Geotab Privacy Mode

Geotab has created a privacy mode that will allow drivers and fleet managers to temporarily hide their vehicle tracking in the Geotab application. When privacy mode is used, location, speed, and engine data will not be visible. The driving data will still be collected while in privacy mode, however, it will be stored as private.

The purpose of privacy mode is for companies to temporarily not track drivers that take their vehicles home after working hours. This feature can be set to automatically turn on when work hours are finished (for example 5 pm to 8 am) or when a vehicle enters a specific zone. This is a great feature for companies that will let their employees use company-owned vehicles for personal use. Privacy mode can also be used when operating in sensitive areas to hide vehicle movement.

The privacy mode feature is downloaded through the Marketplace inside of the Geotab application. Once it is downloaded, it can be configured so that privacy mode will turn on automatically or it can be left alone so that drivers can turn it on and off themselves. For a driver to enable privacy mode, they will need to install the Geotab Drive app on their phone or smart device. A member of the admin team will also need to create the driver in the database and set them up with a password so that they can log into the Drive app. If your company is using E-Logs/HOS, you do not want to download the Privacy Mode Add-In as it will affect your duty status logs and you may no longer be in compliance per the FMCSA.

 

 

Contact Us
close slider

Contact Us

Why wait? Call now! 855.300.0527
  • Schedule a quick consultation now using an online calendar if you do not have time for a call. Be sure to include your name, phone, company and interest in the comment section.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Call now for a quick demo. 855.300.0527