April 27, 2005, 10:04 AM — When ponies delivered mail, fleet management meant keeping everyone in line at the hitching post. Today, the ponies are gone, and the U.S. Postal Service uses wireless technology to manage industrial vehicles that sort the mail. New security applications can now monitor and lock down vehicles.
In January, the USPS contracted with I.D. Systems and Unisys to develop an enterprisewide wireless asset tracking system dubbed Pivms, or Powered Industrial Vehicle Management System. The tracking technology will help the USPS manage industrial vehicles such as forklifts and secure 460 postal facilities nationwide.
Here's how it works. Vehicles are wired with movement and impact sensors that are connected to a wireless transceiver inside the vehicle's cab. A keypad log-in on the hardware links to the vehicle's ignition system, and to a management server at each facility. To start a vehicle, an employee enters his or her identification number on the keypad. That information is then checked against an onboard database of authorized drivers. An unauthorized driver cannot start the vehicle. So in addition to tracking a vehicle's location, the technology can control vehicle access.
The wireless asset tracking system allows fleet managers to control equipment and vehicles used by the USPS. For example, vehicle collisions were notoriously difficult to detect and track in busy mail processing centers. With Pivms, onboard sensors will detect the impact of a collision, log it and identify the employee who was driving the vehicle at the time. The tracking technology is similar to systems utilized by other companies that manage large fleets of equipment, such as DaimlerChrysler, Ford, Target and the U.S. Navy.