Fleetowner 6413 Time Warner Cable Van Fleet


May 6, 2016
TWC finds software tweaks can mean leaner, greener fleet

Within Time Warner Cable’s fleet operations, there’s a simple concept: Doing the right thing for the environment can also bring bottom-line benefits. But the nation’s second-largest Internet and cable telecommunications company wants its moves in corporate responsibility to be custom-tailor­ed for its particular needs.

“When we buy a vehicle, we get an [engine] programming set that’s essentially an ‘off the shelf’ solution designed to work equally well in Los Angeles, New York or Denver,” says George Survant, TWC senior fleet director.

“But we know there are distinctly different operating characteristics in those areas,” he adds. “We’re very much interested in being able to step away from that and move our engine and vehicle performance closer to an emissions spec, location/demand model.”

TWC has about 20,350 vehicles in its fleet across 29 states, and in descending order that includes vans, pickup trucks, bucket trucks, SUVs, and a few hundred passenger cars. Most of its drivers are non-CDL holders, and the fleet operates mostly in urban areas.

Survant says the company turned to Derive Systems, a software firm with its origins in the racing and muscle car arena,  to fine-tune its trucks’ performance. Tom Kanewske, Derive business development manager, explains that high-end tech often works that way, born from extreme performance like racing, space travel, and the military.

“We took engine calibrations and said, ‘If you can turn a vehicle up, can you turn a vehicle down?’” Kanewske explains to Fleet Owner. “And we do that in a very mission-oriented fashion to deliver focused savings to fleets based on where they’re operating.”

“First and foremost, it’s building a relationship,” he notes, “and we compare our customer’s driving patterns against OEM calibrations” of vehicles. 

In TWC’s case, two big concerns were idle time and reducing fuel consumption. Operating most often in urban zones, “I don’t need very many vehicles that can do 75 mph under any circumstances,” Survant says, “so a speed limiter makes absolute sense” to maximize mpg while increasing safety.

Addressing those concerns, Derive software can program a speed limit on vehicles, for example, and reduce idle rpm by up to 30%. Kanewske says that the software is uploaded “in about 10 minutes” via a vehicle’s OBD-II port and gives a fleet director or manager “phenomenal versatility and control.” Even with fuel prices around $2/gal., he contends, the Derive product can deliver a return on investment in one year.

Survant notes TWC is still in the early stages of introducing Derive technology, but trucks that have it show “about an 8% improvement in mpg overall and 11% improvement in idle performance.”

The fuel savings and a safer, more environmentally friendly fleet are a win-win. “We take corporate responsibility very seriously at Time Warner Cable. We want to ‘walk the talk’ rather than make statements about what we intend to do,” Survant tells Fleet Owner. “We much prefer to talk about what we’ve done and are doing.”   

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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