Cedar Falls, Iowa, a town of about 40,000 residents, is home to Fleet Maintenance Department. Fleet Maintenance Department fuels and services more than 300 vehicles and hundreds of other pieces of city equipment, from road-graders, end-loaders and dump trucks to police cars and fire trucks, and water pumps, chain saws and lawnmowers. It is a 24/7/365 job that keeps the city running smoothly and gives its residents peace of mind.
“We control the fuel for the whole city and the service for every city vehicle; we do everything that needs to be done,” said Ken Folkers, Fleet Maintenance Supervisor. “Anything that a city would have, we have it in our fleet. And if it’s a city vehicle that needs maintenance or fuel, it stops here.”
Fuel management is one of the main tasks of Folkers and his crew. And within this task, one key priority is knowing just how much and in which authorized vehicles and equipments fuel is being dispensed.
This task was handled for years by a PetroVend FleetLink Fuel Control System from OPW Fuel Management Systems. The system uses radio-wave technology to automatically receive the vehicle identification number, mileage and other important information from the Vehicle Identification Unit (VIU), which transmits this information to the Vehicle Identification Terminal (VIT). The VIT sends this information to the fuel site controller authorizing fueling and automatically records the vehicle and transaction date. As the vehicle is fueled, FleetLink automatically records the vehicle I.D. and odometer reading to help ensure accurate maintenance scheduling, vehicle accountability, site security and fuel control.
“We were using a PetroVend system with a VIU that had an antenna around the fuel pipe that was hard-wired to the VIU box that was hard-wired to the car,” said Folkers. “The system worked fine, but occasionally we’d have failures with broken wires and once the wire breaks, you have to change the whole meter.”
OPW FMS provided its own solution to these minor problems when it approached Folkers earlier this year and asked if he and Cedar Falls would like to convert its fleet to the new PetroLink Fuel Control System that OPW was developing.
“They came to us and asked if we would want to try out the new PetroLink system,” said Folkers. “We’ve been using it, quite successfully, for about six months now. We’ve got it on any vehicle that is licensed and it will soon be put on the heavy equipment like road-graders and end-loaders.”
PetroLink monitors vehicle I.D., mileage and other fueling information like the old FleetLink system, but does so solely through RFID technology, meaning that there are no wires that can break, necessitating a complete replacement of equipment. PetroLink has two fueling-station components—a nozzle reader that communicates with the vehicle RFID identifier and a Wireless Control Unit (WCU) that oversees all system processes and connects to the fueling station’s computer. There are also two vehicle components—an RFID tag on the vehicle’s fuel pipe that contains vehicle information and a meter unit that records pulses and translates them to an odometer figure.