Interview with Dana Fenner, Market Director for Fleet Logistics and Tele Atlas North America

By Joe Francica

_Joe Francica interviewed Dana Fenner, Market Director for Fleet Logistics at Tele Atlas North America.

Joe Francica (JF): Fleet management using location technology can yield one of the best ROIs for companies in the logistics/transportation business. What is the typical ROI you are hearing from these companies and do you believe that the majority of major carriers, especially in long-haul trucking, are using the technology to their best advantage?

_Dana Fenner (DF):
Tele Atlas is seeing differing levels of ROI, depending primarily on how companies are using location technology. Currently, in fleet management, the majority of LBS deployment is in vehicle tracking - simply using a GPS device to see where individual vehicles are located at any given time.

As organizations integrate additional content and begin using the technology for more advanced purposes, increased benefits will follow. Companies using our content to optimize routes will experience an even more impressive ROI than those using it for tracking. Take Sears for example. It uses Tele Atlas map data to route its service fleet and has been able to cut drive times by 15-30 percent. More importantly, Sears has seen savings of nearly $45 million annually since it began using Tele Atlas’ maps.

We believe the major carriers will be using LBS technology to their best advantage once they deploy it beyond tracking and leverage it more as a tool to help truckers plan faster, safer routes. Last fall, we launched Tele Atlas/Logistics, which provides support for these sophisticated applications. It’s a street routing database, which includes the attributes vital to truckers, such as road restrictions and bridge detail.

JF: Obviously, large fleet operators can benefit, but what about small- to medium-sized businesses? How best can they use Tele Atlas data in conjunction with other software solutions and at what price point can they start to utilize these solutions?

Some large fleet operators have taken advantage of it, but you’d be surprised by how many fleets with over 5,000 vehicles don’t rely on location technology.

_We see an increase in interest from organizations with medium-sized fleets - those with 250 vehicles or more. There are two drivers for this: the cost of GPS hardware has gone down and the adoption of ASP solutions. Teletrac and @Road are two examples of companies that provide ASP solutions that Tele Atlas has worked with for a number of years. They offer medium fleet operators an easy entry to LBS. Instead of having to build their own applications, fleets are learning they can use an ASP and just log on, track their vehicles, get speed and restriction information and have the reporting automated. It’s a win-win situation. The ASP provides all the benefits with none of the hassle.

Prices generally begin at $30 per month, per vehicle and scale up to about $75.

JF: Impedances and other road restrictions are hugely important for navigation. How is Tele Atlas capturing these data and how often are database updates released?

Tele Atlas continues to leverage the strength of its compile and drive methodology. Our mobile mapping technology allows us to locate signs and intersections that create maneuver challenges for large trucks. But, in a lot of situations, signs aren’t always available. That’s where the strength of Tele Atlas’ comprehensive data collection strategy pays off. Our relationships with municipalities allow us to mine local ordinances for truck restriction data. In addition to compile and drive, we also rely on data from fleet drivers themselves. Tele Atlas is continually enhancing our product and we make quarterly updates available to our partners.

JF: For real-time data, especially where emergency action needs to be taken, either in a natural disaster, HAZMAT incident, or terrorist attack, where is Tele Atlas being of assistance to fleets managers, departments of transportation or federal or state emergency centers?

The most important use of our map data is in this type of application, where lives and livelihoods are at stake.

A recent example of our contribution to emergency responses was in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Tele Atlas teamed up with our partner TomTom to help officials in affected areas locate submerged streets, street signs and landmarks and most importantly, reach victims. We donated navigation devices to the Louisiana Department of Transportation, Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness, Federal Emergency Operations in Mississippi and the State of Alabama Emergency Management Agency. The units loaded with Tele Atlas maps were used in Black Hawk helicopters, with the Coast Guard, Navy and Army reserve units, and by FEMA officials and infrastructure management teams to search and rescue victims and begin the clean-up process.

JF: Where do you see the development of digital road mapping going for fleet management? Will this be in the area of real-time data acquisition being passed to drivers, or in more strategic areas of logistics, supply chain and wireless applications?

In the past several years, “last mile” routing has become more and more important for major carriers. Approximately 20-30 percent of roads their fleets are traveling on are last mile. This makes it extremely important for location systems to include information on size and weight restrictions so that safe, accurate routes can be identified. The Tele Atlas/Logistics database covers more than seven million miles of roads and identifies multiple categories of restrictions, including hazardous material regulations and truck-preferred/truck-restricted routes.

In terms of developments that will impact the supply chain, we are seeing new applications emerge. Just as GPS was an enabler for truck and mobile worker tracking, RFID will enable tracking of goods throughout the supply chain. The combination of GPS and RFID is an area we expect to see growth as organizations require location visibility within the supply chain.

JF: What is the current trend in mobile devices for fleets? Are users demanding more portability of devices, larger screens to see maps, voice commands? Other?

Similar to the demand in the consumer market, the adoption of personal navigation (PNAV) devices is taking hold. We’re also seeing truck OEMs building navigation systems. Voice and heads-up displays will be critical to these applications so that a trucker’s attention remains 100 percent focused on the road ahead.

JF: What partnerships are you developing either with other data providers or with fleet companies themselves in the area of product development?

Our current partnerships with QUALCOMM and ProMiles have raised Tele Atlas’ visibility into large commercial carriers. We’re able to tap into their years of experience servicing this market and our product development makes good use of that expertise. QUALCOMM and ProMiles are just two examples, but both are typical of our overall philosophy on collaborating with partners. We welcome their commitment to participating in our data compilation and verification process and continually feed their input and information back into our database to increase its accuracy.

JF: Will Tele Atlas segment its data products specifically for fleets with targeted data sets?

Absolutely. That’s what our Tele Atlas/Logistics database is all about. We listened to our partners when they asked for a database with enhanced attributes and delivered a product that includes a broad spectrum of truck route optimization and road restriction information. A segmented data set is what our partners want. Just look to QUALCOMM for proof- it has already announced the deployment of Tele Atlas/Logistics to enhance its line of platforms, applications and services offered to the transportation and logistics, and construction equipment industries.

JF: Anything else you would like to contribute on market development? Please feel free to comment.

DF: One area to watch is predictive traffic information, incorporated into routing software for fleets. Any variable added to the application that improves the ability to create efficient routes will help cut costs on drive times. Routing efficiency is especially important in the trucking industry where there are tight margins and escalating costs such as fuel prices.

In addition, we’ll begin to see more use of commercial points of interest (POIs). Tele Atlas’ database currently contains more than 20 million POIs and we expect to see the demand for commercial POIs to grow. These include POIs that aid truckers such as location of truck stops and weigh stations along major roadways.

Published Tuesday, April 4th, 2006

Written by Joe Francica

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