GPS is Ready for its Close-up

Though they existed only in the realm of science fiction until just a few years ago, devices using GPS technology have become common. We use GPS in our cars, our phones and our computers. We use it to keep our kids safe, prevent loss, increase productivity, even to keep time.

Hollywood has fueled a lot of misconceptions about GPS, and global positioning in general. There are no trackers as small as a pill, and they can’t be implanted under someone’s skin. The size issue doesn’t stem from the positioning system or the receivers themselves. It’s all about the power source. Though receivers can be as tiny as a fingernail, and most are smaller than a quarter, the battery tech has not been able to keep up. So a GPS receiver like those in the movies might be able to be manufactured, but it wouldn’t actually work. Yet.

What is GPS?

GPS stands for Global Positioning System. The system is made up of at least 24 satellites orbiting the Earth. The satellites communicate with specialized receivers on the ground, providing the exact position of the receivers. As of this writing, there are 31 operational satellites in the GPS constellation. Put in place by the US military starting in 1989, the GPS satellite constellation transmits a signal for its own use and a separate signal that anyone with the technological wherewithal is free to access. This has allowed manufacturers to integrate the technology into their products.

GPS satellites are constantly transmitting a signal toward the Earth, which includes their exact position and the precise time as measured by an atomic clock. Receivers pick up these transmissions, calculate how long it took the signal to reach them, and measure that against their own internal clock. By picking up a signal from at least 3 satellites, the device can then figure out exactly where it is using a process called trilateration: “If satellites are here, here, and here, I must be here.” The only information that is actually transmitted by a GPS satellite is its trajectory, along with those of all the other satellites in use, and the exact time of the transmission. The receiver then uses this information to calculate its position in 3-dimensional space as a set of coordinates. We’ll talk more later about why this is important.

Planar orbits are planned and maintained so that most areas around the globe are constantly in view of at least 4 satellites. The more satellites in view of a receiver, the more precise it is at detecting location. Under ideal conditions, a receiver’s position can be calculated to within a few feet, if not a few inches. The accuracy of a GPS receiver can vary based on multiple factors beyond coverage, like sensitivity, sources of interference, and the kind of satellites in view.
The Satellite Blocks, Current and Future

Currently, there are four types of functioning satellites in the GPS constellation, known as Blocks, with a fifth on
the way.

There were 10 GPS Block IIA satellites still in use as of August, 2011. Two of these have been in service for over 20 years. They were launched between November of 1990 and November of 1997, with an expected lifespan of 7½ years. Though they’re aging fast, Block IIA satellites have done impressive work, performing longer than anyone could have expected.

To replace the graying Block IIA satellites, the Block IIR satellite was developed by Lockheed Martin and began service in 1997 with the last launched in 2004. The 12 orbiting IIRs are the core of today’s Global Positioning System.

GPS Block IIR(M) satellites began launching in 2005. These improved versions of Block IIR added new jam-resistance for military signals, in addition to being the first to broadcast on L2C, a second civilian signal. L2C is designated for use in commercial applications, improving on accuracy for dual-frequency receivers. L2C also broadcasts at a higher power, allowing for better signal penetration in areas with heavy vegetation cover, and even inside buildings.

The final satellites in the second generation of GPS are known as Block IIF. They first began service in 2010 and the second was launched in 2011. Ten more are planned to launch and replace failing Block IIA units. The IIF series has a longer expected lifespan, 12 years, and is capable of broadcasting on the L5 frequency, the third frequency intended for civilian use. Though it has only gone through preliminary testing, it is expected to begin broadcasting in 2012. L5 is intended for “safety-of-life transportation” applications, such as commercial airlines. In conjunction with the first two civilian GPS frequencies, through a technique known as “trilaning,” L5 is expected to provide accuracy under a meter without any sort of augmentation.

Under development is GPS Block III. The US government has committed to purchase two satellites in this series, with the option to purchase an additional 10. The first is slated to launch in 2014, and will add a fourth civilian GPS signal, L1C. L1C will allow the GPS network to interact with satellite navigation systems maintained by other governments (Russia, Europe and possibly China), with the promise of improved service and accuracy worldwide.

Technology moves at a rapid pace, and the world of GPS tracking is no exception. Trackers are smaller and more powerful than ever, and these devices continue to evolve and improve. If you’re not familiar with the latest advancements in GPS technology, you may be in for a surprise. This area is in a constant state of development, and the future holds some interesting developments for GPS tracking. Let’s take a peek at what lies ahead for various aspects of GPS technology.

Read more “Future of GPS Tracking with WeTracc”

Most fleet managers know that vehicle maintenance takes two forms: Scheduled and Unscheduled.In the same way that regularly scheduled health checkups can detect and fix minor medical problems before they become big ones, scheduled preventive maintenance can help prevent, detect, and repair small problems before they become serious and expensive issues.

On the other hand, unscheduled checkups – for both you and your vehicles – usually only happen after some sort of breakdown. They’re almost always more expensive than routine checkups, involve significant “down time,” and may have been prevented with routine, preventive maintenance. Developing and implementing an effective fleet maintenance plan can be easy. There are tools and technology available that can make it easier than ever before. But it will help save your company plenty of time, frustration, and money. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” When developing your fleet’s maintenance plan, ask yourself these five questions:

  1. What should be covered in the preventive maintenance checkup?
  2. Who will be responsible for preventive maintenance service?
  3. When will the service take place?
  4. How can you simplify your recordkeeping?
  5. Where can you find more information?

Now, tap into these top 5 tips to keep your fleet and maintenance plan running smoothly.

What should be included in routine preventive maintenance service? 

Tip #1 – Develop a comprehensive maintenance checklist for your vehicles. Many checklists include these items, but you’ll want to edit yours based on your fleet’s needs.

  • Engine oil and filter changes
  • Transmission fluid
  • Fuel system
  • Cooling system
  • Engine and transmission mounts
  • Drive shafts or CV joints
  • Belts and hoses
  • Tune-ups
  • Electrical system components
  • Braking system
  • Steering and suspension system
  • Tires, wheels, and rims
  • Exhaust system
  • Undercarriage and frame
  • Exterior and interior lights
  • Body, glass, and mirrors
  • Windshield wiper system
  • Horn
  • Seatbelts and seat structures
  • Fluid leaks
  • Auxiliary systems

Who will be responsible for preventive maintenance?
Tip #2 – Make this a team effort between your drivers and your repair technicians. Your drivers are the first line of defense against unexpected breakdowns and repairs. It’s critical that they immediately report any vehicle problems to help keep your vehicles on the road. Drivers can and should be trained to monitor basic vehicle safety items (tires, brakes, steering, etc.); vehicle performance issues (including misfires and rough idling); and miscellaneous items (such as the heater or radio). Your repair technicians – whether in-house or outsourced – can perform more detailed inspections on each vehicle’s components and systems. If you outsource repairs, be sure to supply the vendor with your own preventive maintenance checklist. Shops may focus on breakdown maintenance, not preventive maintenance. When should preventive maintenance take place?
Tip #3 – Examine both your routine and unscheduled maintenance data to develop a maintenance schedule that works for your fleet. Miles traveled, engine hours, fuel usage, and calendar time are the typical guides used to create a schedule. By also tracking the number of breakdowns, jumpstarts, tows, and emergency repairs, you might see patterns that require adjustments to your schedule.

How can you track and simplify record keeping?
Tip #4 – Take advantage of technology. If you’re still entering and tracking data manually, seriously consider upgrading to a digital system. Manual systems can be tedious and time-consuming, no matter the fleet size. Computerized systems are a more efficient method for compiling reports, allowing you to make faster, better decisions. Telematics allows you to examine your drivers’ performance, so you can offer important feedback and make recommendations. The technology you need is out there and it can be surprisingly affordable; a little research and legwork from you can make your job much easier.

Where can you find more information?
Tip #5 – Go online for additional details about fleet maintenance schedules. Here are a few informative sites to get you started:

Finally, don’t forget the WHY – Why should you spend so much effort on a fleet maintenance plan? The time you spend now to develop your fleet’s preventive maintenance plan could save your company a considerable amount of lost time in the future. In addition, the money you spend on implementing a preventive maintenance plan will be small in comparison to what you could spend on unscheduled, preventable repairs. In this case, a dime of prevention is definitely worth a dollar of cure.

By user / Fleet Management / / 0 Comments

Posted 05 April 2016 by Stacey Papp

Maintaining your fleet is one of the most important things you can do for your business. Everyone knows the obvious ones – regular oil changes, checking fluids and tire wear, replacing spark plugs – but there are other ways to keep your fleet in tip-top shape that might not come to mind when you think of traditional vehicle maintenance.

Keep the pressure on. If tires are underinflated, there is more contact and friction between the tire and the road, which wears the rubber faster, makes the engine work harder, and uses more gas.

Tear it up (safely). Head out to the highway, and get the vehicle up to 70 miles (make sure you’re following the speed limit though!) per hour for 10 miles once a month. This will evaporate any water and gas buildup in the engine and exhaust system.

Don’t just coast along. Keep the vehicle in gear. Coasting in neutral may improve gas mileage by a small amount, but it puts more work on the brakes, leading to premature – and pricey – repair costs.

Show your interior some love. Cleaning the dashboard, doors and seats regularly will help them last longer, and also makes for a more pleasant driving environment.

Get moving. Recent studies have found that idling your vehicle to warm it up on cold days isn’t as effective as warming the engine by actually driving.* Idling in the cold not only wastes fuel, but also strips oil from engine cylinders and pistons, creating more wear and tear on the engine.

Brake – then park. Putting a vehicle into park and then activating the parking brake causes the vehicle to settle back, putting unnecessary pressure on the transmission. With the vehicle still in drive and your foot on the brake, pull the parking brake. Then put the vehicle in neutral and release the foot brake before shifting to park.

Don’t forget your filter. The oil filter traps dirt – particles down to 10 microns in diameter, in the case of today’s top-of-the-line filters – that would otherwise harm your engine. Replace it every time you change your oil so the fresh oil doesn’t get mixed in with the old.

Stay thirsty. Always make sure you have at least a half-tank of gas during cold weather. Otherwise, any space above the fuel in the tank fills with moist air and condenses to water in the cold. Water is denser than gasoline and settles to the bottom of the tank. If enough accumulates, it will move through the fuel line to the engine.

Keep these tips in mind and share them with your drivers, and your vehicles should last longer, run better and be less prone to sticky maintenance issues.

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