And that’s just the reason Katlyn International, a company based in Canada, began developing the iRamp system about two years ago. The system transmits data through cellular communications. With Air Canada Cargo as its first customer of the iRamp system, the company has hoped the technology will catch on throughout the industry.
While some airlines have started to test this technology, another airline has implemented a system at one hub location and recently announced plans to expand to a second.
American Eagle installed the AvRamp wireless vehicle management system, by I.D. Systems Inc., at its DFW hub in October on about 100 tractors.
Larry Terrazas, vice president of customer service policy and planning, said he has been able to right-size the GSE fleet at its DFW hub. “There was never a good way of tracking how many pieces are active at any given point in the day and what the peak requirements are,” he says. “We have been able to find that we have surplus equipment in DFW that we’re going to be able to use in future station openings throughout the system in this coming year. So instead of having to go out and buy new equipment, we are just going redeploy what we have as surplus in the hub locations.”
On the maintenance side, Terrazas says that such features as the pre-use safety checklist has driven quicker maintenance on units that need it. “Prior to having the system, we were doing that same type of checklist but it was on a paper basis, so they may identify something — a tire that needs to be checked — but it may be a few days before that paper makes its way from the ground support shop. Then they assign that work to the technician to go out and check that tire. Right in the beginning [with the AvRamp system], it was instantaneous where minor repairs were communicated as people were noting items on all of these vehicles.”
Additional features, such as an engine idling option, have proven significant for operations. “We have an auto-shutdown feature enabled, so if a driver gets off the vehicle after 15 minutes of idle time, it will power off to save that fuel,” he says.
According to Terrazas, the system has been well received overall by employees on the ramp, saying that such features as the security and use-of-the-day checklist have helped create an atmosphere of safety. It has also ensured that employees can lock a vehicle if it isn’t in use. “It was a huge bone of contention. Every day that you would go out and get into a tractor, but when you go into a breakroom to get a new assignment or you take your lunch break, you didn’t know if that tractor would still be there when you came out. You didn’t know if one of your coworkers would jump on the tractor before you returned, so the AvRamp system helped them to lock the vehicle,” he says.
As for the next phase of the technology at the DFW location, Terrazas says the carrier is installing AvRamp on about 20 on-road vehicles, including passenger vans and pickup trucks. It has been coordinating the AvRamp system with its existing preventative maintenance planning product to further utilize the recording of vehicle usage. “Today we do a PM on a tractor every 60 days. We may find in that 60-day period, that tractor was only in motion 70 percent of the time,” he says. “So we really feel we will be able to do a better job of doing our preventative maintenance checks and probably eliminate some of what is being done today on vehicles that really didn’t need it.”
And American Eagle recently announced it would rollout the technology at its Chicago O’Hare hub on about 120 vehicles. The project should begin sometime in March and the airline believes it will reap many of the same benefits that it has experienced at DFW, Terrazas says.
Asked as to whether the system could be rolled out at additional locations, he says there is a possibility at its other hub locations such as LAX and JFK. “It really has its biggest bang for the buck at hub locations where we have large numbers of equipment and dedicated ground support technicians to maintain those,” he says. But for now, the carrier is focused on utilizing the data capabilities to the fullest. “The biggest piece for us right now is to get this wealth of data we’re collecting and making good analytical decisions off of that,” he says.
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