The Vnomics FleetKnowSys system was installed on 25 of the district's 92 buses, and the results were immediate. "The system on our buses right now created better fuel efficiency by training the drivers how to actually drive the buses more efficiently," said Matthew Helmbold, Head Mechanic for the Gates-Chili School District.
The sysem works by pairing the transmission with the motor to determine optimal shifting speeds, which minimizes fuel consumption. Drivers hear a tone if they shift improperly. "If I put a driver on a bus that's never been on it before, it's usually a day, two, maybe three at the most before they come around and get used to it and then adapt to it," said Helmbold.
Vnomics initially developed the technology to help the military maintain its vehicles overseas. The company added the fuel saving algorithms to coach drivers and broaden its application. "This system is required to stay in place and constantly monitor and remind them that they're driving properly, or in that case that they're not driving properly and sort of steer them in the right direction," said Vnomics Customer Care Manager Robert Peckham.
In addition to fuel economy, the Vnomics system also keeps track of the health of the bus, which makes it a safer vehicle as well. "It will actually help us so we don't have breakdowns on the road," said Helmbold. "It will send us alerts that the bus, the health of the actual bus, before it actually leaves or while it's en route, so if we can anticipate a problem we can have it come back or we can not let it go out at all and we can fix it before it goes out on the road."
Buses are tracked in real time and the data stored for review. Independent testing has confirmed the system helped suburban buses, like those in the Gates-Chili School District, improve their fuel economy by 9.9 percent over a one year period. Urban buses improved their fuel economy by 8.9 percent and rural buses improved 5.2 percent.
That's driving the environment in the right direction. Peckham anticipates the technology will improve over time with the benefit of feedback, allowing for even greater efficiency going forward.