Following the Fleet

March 1, 2000
A John Deere product scheduled for market release in May 2000 incorporates both GPS and cellular technology to help owners and operators of large fleets-such as contractors and rental agencies-track every piece of their equipment over the Internet. Designed specifically for construction equipment, DeereTrax tells owners where each item is and how long it’s been operating.Owners can have each piece of equipment report in at scheduled intervals-i.e., once a day or some specified operational interval-and record its location and engine hours on a secure server, which the owner can access through the Internet with any Web browser. Owners can also poll equipment in real time to find out up-to-the-minute locations.Knowing exactly how many hours the machine has been in operation helps to schedule preventive maintenance. Through a feature called Integration Manager, owners can download the data to preventive-maintenance-scheduling software packages. “When you look at preventive maintenance as a means of lowering the overall total cost of ownership, our system can be one of the tools to help people manage that aspect of their business much better,” remarks Tom Budan, DeereTrax’s manager of construction.The DeereTrax hardware comes as a kit-a communication box, a cellular antenna, a GPS antenna, and wiring harnesses to hook it all together-and uses any 12- or 24-volt alternator as a power source. DeereTrax works on any brand and type of equipment from backhoes to skid-steer loaders to excavators and can be installed in as little as an hour. Along with the hardware, customers purchase a two-, three-, or four-year service contract that allows them to “contact” each piece of equipment 35 times a month through regularly scheduled reporting, real-time polling, or a combination of both. Customers will be able to allow equipment dealers access to the information from the fleet; based on the hours of operation, a dealer who has a contract to perform preventive maintenance on the equipment would know exactly when to schedule it.Although the cellular technology currently limits the system to North America, other parts of the world having different cellular standards will also be examined. Other future capabilities? “Being able to do diagnostics from remote locations over the computer is an area we need to look at,” notes Budan. He adds that DeereTrax might also eventually be able to send an alarm if the machine’s overheating or experiences some sort of malfunction.