COMPANY:
Meta-4
Montreal, Quebec

OPERATION:
Light-truck service fleet
Rene Lamoureux
Director-Video Poker Operations

Problem:

As the leading supplier of video poker machines in Montreal, Meta-4 must also provide field service for those complex electronic devices. The machines require servicing seven days a week at any time between 8 a.m. and midnight. The company also does business in the cash-out side of electronic devices, selling and delivering ATMs.

“We have six Ford E-350 vans, two GMC Astro vans, and two Ford Super-Duty F-350s,” Rene Lamoureux says. Controlling the vehicles was something of a problem since the technicians would often sign out any available truck or return it outside of normal working hours.

Parking tickets were a particular problem in the urban Montreal setting since it was difficult to assign tickets to a particular technician when they arrived in the mail weeks or months later, explains Lamoureux. Operating expenses, especially fuel costs, were also difficult to manage.

Most of the available fleet management systems, however, were designed for larger trucks with electronically controlled diesel engines and standard J1708 data bus inputs. “They were expensive and had more functions and features than we needed,” says Lamoureux.

Solution:

Meta-4 turned to ETL Electronique of Montreal for a relatively simple vehicle recording and fleet management system.

ETL's Astus system installs a “black box” recorder under the dash of any vehicle with inputs from the ignition, odometer, speedometer and two other customer-specified on/off switches. Each vehicle operator is assigned an electronic “touch” key that must be held against a small dash-mounted reader before the truck will start.

The fleet also gets a master electronic key which when held against any of the dash-mounted readers extracts all of the operational data stored in the black box. A second transfer device attached to a PC downloads the collected information from the master key.

A simple Windows-based management application allows the fleet manager to view the data by vehicle or driver, to monitor fuel purchases and consumption, to enter invoice or other billing information by trip, and to record repairs and maintenance histories.

Lamoureux expects the systems to pay for themselves before the first year is up.

“I'm able to hold drivers to a fleet speed limit now,” says Lamoureux, who estimates fuel consumption has decreased between 20 and 25% since installation of the recording system. Truck maintenance is better, too, since the system tracks PM schedules and issues alerts when they are due.

“We also have accurate time records for the technicians even if there's no one here when they start their day,” he adds. “And if we get a parking ticket in the mail, I just go to the computer to find out which driver had that truck that day. Actually, now that drivers know they'll end up paying for parking tickets, we're not getting too many.”