Provider uses 2.5G to improve vehicle tracking

Vancouver-based WebTech Wireless Inc. is beginning to grab some traction in the wireless fleet management market, racking up two profitable quarters so far this year and winning new accounts, most recently with STS LLC, a Phoenix, Ariz.-based outfit with about 800 trucks.

WebTech operates a wireless fleet management services system, allowing companies with large pools of vehicles to use Global Positioning System tracking, messaging and Internet connectivity. WebTech’s main operating method is to piggyback on the GSM/ General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) networks, better known as 2.5G, of partners Rogers AT&T Wireless in Canada and AT&T Wireless in the U.S. The company also makes devices that will work with satellite networks where GSM/GPRS networks are not available.

Dan Sokic, president of Land Air Express (Canada) Ltd. replaced his fleet’s GPS service with WebTech last fall. Land Air Express’s previous system was only able to do periodic downloads of GPS information to a central site in Dallas. To get information on his trucks, Sokic had to access the central site information through a computer, which could take between 10 and 15 minutes, he said.

The main reason he decided to go with WebTech is that he can get instant information updates on the location of his trucks.

“WebTech is on all the time,” he said.

Another factor that worked in WebTech’s favour was the price, Sokic noted. The system, including the hardware and installation, came in at about $1,000 per unit less than competitive units.

The 2.5G networks give WebTech powerful reporting capabilities, said Cameron Fraser, the company’s CTO and founder. For example, companies can track average route times and depot stop times for their fleets.

“For a larger fleet that’s important information,” he said. “In some cases fleets negotiate with customers how much time their trucks will spend at a depot. If the customer promises to unload the trucks quickly and the fleets can get good reports showing that the unloading isn’t going quickly, the fleets can go back and re-negotiate their rates.”

Customers are also using WebTech’s technology to make signature collection simpler. One security company, for example, had to monitor a series of warehouses and the security guards would have to sign in each time they checked a particular location. At the end of the day, the guards would come back with shoeboxes full of paper needed to be entered into a computer system, Fraser said.

WebTech replaced the hardcopy signature collection with a PDA and digital form.

“That information now is position-stamped and time-stamped and uploaded immedaitely, so there’s no duplicate cost of data entry when the guards get back from a shift,” Fraser said.