Boston Improves Accountability, Fleet Visibility with Telematics

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The City of Boston is using its telematics software to gain real-time visibility into its electric vehicles and ensure its snowplow contractors are accountable and billing correctly. A case study recently released by telematics provider Samsara provides the details.

Increasing Visibility of the EV Fleet

Boston Public Works has a fleet of more than 400 light- and heavy-duty vehicles, ranging from snowplows to electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles in its vehicle sharing program. The city has set a goal for full fleet electrification by 2030.

Boston is using Samsara's new EV features, actively leveraging data such as average miles driven and energy use, to identify which vehicles are good candidates to transition to electric. “This data helps us transition what we call the ‘low-hanging-fruit vehicles’ that we know will be easy to switch to EVs,” said Matthew Bradley, superintendent of automotive maintenance for the city. Additionally, parking consistency data helps identify areas to potentially develop more charging infrastructure.

One of the most common EV problems solved is range anxiety and vehicles running out of battery before it can reach its destination — mainly due to drivers not charging them after use. In the first few months after EVs were added, a few drivers did run out of battery, and the vehicles had to be towed back to the city. Now, Bradley and the fleet team can see state of charge in real time and receive alerts when vehicles fall below a certain battery percentage. Additionally, a map overlay allows them to find the nearest city-owned EV charging station to guide low-battery vehicles.

Bradley can now coach drivers on when to take EVs out on the road and reassure reluctant drivers that there is enough charge to make the trip. This allows the city to save money on travel costs and reduce environmental emissions — in one case, an employee was able to use an EV to travel to a nearby state for an event rather than taking a flight.

Ensuring Plowing Accountability

Another use case for the telematics system is plowing accountability during winter storms. The city operates 110 snow plows and contracts up to 750 additional plows and drivers after heavy snowfall. In the past, Public Works distributed phones to contractors, but the phones often ran out of battery or lost connectivity, making it difficult to track locations and ensure service quality. Now, the city installs vehicle gateways on its own vehicles and distributes them to contractors instead of the phones. City staff members set up geofences around each of 10 districts to ensure that plow service is being deployed in the right location at the right time, allowing for more accurate, streamlined billing.

“The plug-and-play functionality makes it very easy. Now we can make sure the plows are where they’re supposed to be and that their devices are powered on,” Bradley said. “This helps us ensure that they are plowing and not idling in one location.”

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