To address this shortfall, in 2006 the EPA formed the Transitioning Inspections and Maintenance Workgroup to oversee the periodic emission check methods. The work group concluded that the most effective alternative from a convenience and emissions reductions standpoint is “remote OBD.”

Networkfleet, a San Diego-based technology firm, has developed a wireless fleet management system that combines GPS tracking with diagnostic monitoring to reduce operating costs for commercial fleets. How it combines fuel savings with emissions control is unique. To help producers understand the relationship, it has developed an executive summary, “Go Green and Save Green-Wireless Fleet Management Systems Cuts Emissions While Reducing Operating Costs.” The insights can help producers look at fuel saving technology from a different standpoint.

The Networkfleet system collects and wirelessly transmits emissions information directly from a vehicle's onboard diagnostic (OBD-II) system. With its patented technology, the system helps fleets decrease fuel usage and emissions. This involves three distinct focus areas: diagnostics, emissions system status, and location-related information.

Fleet managers log in to a secure Web site where they view real-time data. Managers can continuously monitor vehicle speed and idle time. To help filter the data and to provide intervention points, managers also receive e-mail notifications when vehicle and emissions statuses go outside the norm.

Networkfleet says its software helps fleets reduce harmful emissions while lowering fuel consumption and maintenance expenses in six ways: reduced idle time, improved vehicle maintenance, reduced speeding, reduced unauthorized vehicle usage, optimized routing, and continuous emissions monitoring.

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that idling consumes more than 3 billion gallons of fuel annually in the U.S., mostly from light- and medium-duty vehicles. Heavy-duty vehicles consume 0.82 gallons of fuel for every hour of idling, while light-duty vehicles consume up to 0.5 gallons per hour. Significantly reducing idling may save up to 15% in fuel usage. Excessive vehicle idling also affects engine wear.

Tracking support fleets

While fleet managers review the pre- and post-trip inspection reports daily from their fleets, keeping track of support fleets is more difficult. Wireless fleet management systems with diagnostic monitoring use the remote OBD to notify managers automatically by e-mail when a vehicle registers a check engine light in the form of a specific diagnostic trouble code (DTC).

Wireless diagnostic monitoring also provides managers access to accurate mileage and hours used information generated by the engine computer, not through GPS. This allows for scheduling regular maintenance using odometer and hour meter e-mail alerts when vehicles reach predetermined maintenance intervals.

Producers who use wireless engine monitoring systems on their support fleets can check exact vehicle speed and receive alerts when drivers exceed a particular speed, such as 65 mph. Studies suggest a 10% increase in mileage just by slowing from 70 mph to 60 mph. A reduction of 10 mpg across an average fleet results in a 10% reduction in fuel costs. This is the equivalent of saving 40 cents per gallon for all of your fuel. Reducing speeds lowers fuel consumption, which also translates into lower emissions by reducing the amount of fuel burned.