California State highway maintenance
Kathy Coots, area superintendent
Kathy Coots is a Caltrans area superintendent with responsibility for five highway maintenance stations throughout the rugged Sierra Nevada Mountains region of Northern California. Each station has a fleet of equipment that includes everything from dump trucks and backhoes to loaders, graders, street sweepers, mowers and more. “After roads are built, state maintenance stations maintain them,” Coots explains. “We plow, mow, pick up dead animals, fill potholes, clean up toxic spills, clear rock slides and repair roads washed out by flooding.
“We used to handle vehicle inspections like most fleets do, on paper,” she says. “We had a book of four-part forms in each piece of equipment for doing the federally required pre- and post-operation inspections. You know, the ‘be sure to press hard and write legibly’ kind of forms. If there was a problem and we needed a history, we had to thumb through all that paperwork, which equipment operators did not much like to fill out in the first place,” Coots explains. “We needed a better way to get the inspection information and to assure that all the reports were legible and easy to access later.”
Coots replaced their paper-and-pencil vehicle inspection and reporting system with an electronic system from Zonar Systems (www.zonarsystems.com). “About four years ago, we did a pilot test of Zonar Systems' Electronic Vehicle Inspection Report system (EVIR) on two of our trucks,” she says. Today we have the system on about 60 pieces of equipment and we'll probably be up to 85 or 90 by year-end.”
The EVIR system uses a handheld device to read a series of half-dollar-sized RFID (radio frequency identification) tags that are positioned around the vehicle at critical inspection zones. Each tag contains location-specific information about the components and systems to be inspected at that station. When the operator holds a reader within four inches of a tag, it transmits that data along with the vehicle number and the time and date. An on-screen menu prompts the driver to record the condition of each item to be inspected by pushing a button. When the driver has completed the report and places the handheld back in its cradle in the cab, the report is sent to Zonar's servers.
“Now inspection reports are all legible and follow a standard format,” says Coots, “and we have much better compliance. Since reports are all wirelessly downloaded and sent to the supervisor immediately, the driver doesn't even have to bring them into the office.
We can run a variety of management reports, too. Going to this electronic vehicle inspection and reporting system has just made our whole process so much easier and more professional.”