Jennifer Pierce
Jennifer Pierce, Member Services Specialist
 

I would like to start off by saying two things: 1) Technology is amazing; and 2) There are companies based right here in Nova Scotia doing some very cool things with said technology.

I recently had the chance to see both of those things first-hand when I visited Chamber member Kerr Global Communications. I knew they “do GPS tracking” – but aside from that little voice coming from your dash telling you to turn right in 50 metres, what does that really mean? I sat down with Kerr Global’s Vice President Mike Herenberg and Senior Account Manager Sean McKenna to find out.

As it turns out, it means a heck of a lot more than that little unit on your dash.

Kerr Global started when sister company Frontier Technologies wanted a way to track their vehicle fleet – and found the local market lacking for what they wanted. So, in 1997, the new company was formed, with head offices in Dartmouth, and now boasts offices across Canada. Partnering with GPS technology developer Geotab, based in Toronto, Kerr has become a leading provider of fleet tracking services in Atlantic Canada with an ever-expanding reach outside the region.

So what exactly is “fleet tracking?” When I first imagined GPS tracking of a fleet of vehicles, I imagined (as they report most people do) a big map on a wall with little blinking dots showing where each vehicle is in real time. And, at its most basic, that is what GPS tracking does. But the more Mike and Sean showed me about the system, the more intrigued I became. Kerr’s product is a one-stop management tool for companies to manage their vehicle fleet mechanics, safety, employee accountability, customer service, efficiency and more.

Kerr’s system can track whether your employees are frequenting Tim Horton’s, yes. It can also tell you when more than one of your vehicles is congregating in one spot when they’re not supposed to be (for example, you can tell the system not to report when all of the vehicles are in your company garage at the end of the work day). And it can also tell you which vehicles are idling for too long – be it at Tim’s or at a job site.

It can track all kinds of metrics about each employee – the speed they drive, whether they hit the brakes too hard, whether they are driving unauthorized kilometres, and so on. But the real advantages of the system don’t seem to be in the ability to spy on your employees – the system can be used to increase efficiency, decrease idling time, track safety, schedule maintenance and more.

Take for example a fleet of school buses carrying kids to school. Chances are those routes haven’t been changed in a very long time, and were originally developed by circling areas on a map. Through GPS tracking, a map can be created of each route along with each time the door of the school bus was opened. From that, more efficient routes can be developed, not only saving fuel and the environment but also saving kids time on the bus.

As someone who works in customer service for a living, my mind immediately jumps to the customer service applications of the system as well. More efficient routes means faster service. Tracking which fuel truck is not only closest but has enough fuel to do an emergency delivery in addition to its regular schedule means everyone gets the fuel they need. Companies that charge customers per kilometer aren’t overcharging for side trips to the coffee shop – so the customer both appreciates the honesty and saves money.

My mind also jumped quickly to the possibility of protection for not only the company but the employee. The system works like a black box in a plane, saving second-by-second data for everything being tracked in a vehicle. So, in an accident situation, if an employee is accused of running a red light, or talking on a cell phone (or both!), the truth can be determined by correlating the data – where the vehicle was, what time the lights were red (tracked by the city), and whether the phone in question was in use at the time (from cell phone bills). It can also track whether the driver hit the brakes before impact and whether there was a mechanical issue that may have caused or impacted the accident. So, while it is true that the system would prove an employee guilty if that was indeed the case, it also protects and backs up those good, safe drivers who happen to get in an accident that is the fault of another driver or mechanical failure.

Having seen the screen shots of the many things the system can track, the integration of external systems, and the custom reports that can be generated, the nerd side of me was pretty excited about this technology and of course I wanted to see it in action. So Sean called up the program on his desktop and showed me real time shots of a fleet.

There are little dots that say “truck one, idling” and “truck two, stopped” as well as arrows that show you the direction a vehicle is moving. Every 30 seconds the system refreshes and shows you new positions. You can layer the dots with a satellite map for a more realistic view. Through the user interface you can also run all kinds of custom reports, set preferences for when you want an email sent to you and/or the immediate supervisor (any time a driver goes over 115 km/h, or any time two or more trucks are congregated except between 12:00 and 1:00 when it’s ok because it’s lunchtime) . You can see which batteries might not start on a cold morning because their levels are low. You can see a report of idling times which highlights the anomalies.

It was enough to make me want to go out and buy a fleet of vehicles just so I could play with the system some more!

Learn more about Kerr Global at www.kerrglobal.com.

Jenn’s Journal is a new series of blog posts profiling ‘behind the scenes’ at Chamber member businesses. If you would like to give a Chamber staffer a behind-the-scenes tour of your business and have a blog post about it appear here, we’d love to visit! Please contact Jennifer Hopper, Member Services Manager at (902) 481-1227 or jenn@halifaxchamber.com.