Svealandstrafiken, a public transport operator that serves Västmandland and Örebro county with public transport, is in the forefront of vehicle fleet digitalization. Busforce recently had a chat with Tommy Smedberg, who is the head of IT, and Johan Jansson, who is the vehicle fleet manager at Svealandstrafiken. They shared their thoughts on digitizing a bus fleet operation with us.
How is your daily work affected by digitalization?
Head of IT, Svealandstrafiken
We use digital tools in a major part of the operation, so it affects our everyday work. Our IT support systems make what before was manual labour easier and more streamlined, whether you talk about vehicle support systems or monitoring economical systems.
Vehicle fleet manager, Svealandstrafiken
Technical support systems like driver seat temperature measurement has completely changed our routines. Before, we had personnel going rounds to measure temperature. Now we get alarms and are able to fix only the ones that are too cold. It saves us a lot of hours, and is a work environment improvement, so it’s both a better function and a cost reduction. Battery voltage monitoring and export of driven distance into the vehicle monitoring system is a major improvement. Historically we have had unreliable systems with incorrect data, with the consequence that we over- or under served the vehicle fleet. Now that we can read and export the Canbus data directly, it is very reliable.
Do you see any savings thanks to digitalization?
We save time and increase quality as a result. Digitalization gives us more reliable statistics and a better decision base, which makes it easier to choose the right direction. This, in turn, helps us save money.
Which parts of the vehicle IT systems are most beneficial to you?
First of all the eco-driving system, which saves around 10% fuel. It also gives the drivers an incentive to drive smooth, since they can get a bonus. As a result, they become better drivers, which makes the journeys more comfortable for the passengers, lowers the wear and tear of the vehicles and improves our satisfied customer index. One of the major success factors is that the drivers get something in return. Without the driver bonus, the system wouldn’t have been as successful.
I also like the assault alarm with the possibility to locate the vehicle on a map, and I think that the tachograph download and fault reports will benefit the operation.
What does standardization and open platforms mean to you?
It’s the future. It’s cost effective to only have one internet connection, with one subscription and a hub that links all the systems together, with one antenna instead of four. It’s beneficial both from an economical and an environmental point of view. It’s also very important for the future, that everyone moves in the same direction, so that you really achieve the openness that I’m sure everyone wants with the ITxPT standard.
We are positive to the development towards standardized interfaces and open platforms. It simplifies the exchange of systems and generally makes life easier, both in terms of procuring systems and in following up. You also reduce rebuilding, with a standard. You want to be able to exchange one system without it affecting the rest of your digital ecosystem. A standard also works better with analyzing tools, when you have the basic data in the same format. With non standard systems, you have a unique database with its own format, for each system.
Vendor lock-in, has it been a problem for you?
Well, not really a problem, since we have been able to get the systems that we wanted, but it has had the effect that you need to invest in new hardware as soon as you want new functionality. It costs a lot of money and it is unnecessary.
Has it been easy or hard to get coworkers to adapt to new digital aids?
Both, actually. It depends a lot on how they are used to work from previously, but they are usually positive when they see the results. It is however always a challenge with education and understanding.
How do you address getting coworkers to adapt to new digital solutions?
It is quite individual how people react to change and what they feel comfortable with, when it comes to IT. We make an assessment and divide people into different sittings for example, when we inform about a new system. That way we can adjust the level to the present audience, like any Microsoft Office education for example. It is also important to inform about the changes well in time, and rather too much than too little. The whole operation needs to be included from the start. Already in the planning phase so they are onboard and don’t feel thrown into something they don’t feel comfortable with. Of course, if you have had a system for 15 years, it is harder to change. You know all the buttons and functions. Then you might not appreciate the new system at first. It’s usually a bit slow at the start, but people get used to the new system, and eventually everyone is onboard and it’s business as usual again.
Have there been hurdles to cross when implementing new solutions?
There’s always an integration phase with all new technology. Sometimes years. When you want to reach for the future, it takes work. Therefore it’s extra important with a collaboration partner that is open to try new solutions, and who just doesn’t maintain that their current solution is the only way.
What are your expectations for the future when it comes to digitalization?
That it will streamline our core business with business intelligence, statistics, analysis and quality monitoring. Since there are a lot of different ways to do it, we see room for improvement in this field. We want to simplify our processes and systems and still be able to get the same information as we do today or better.
We also see more of standardized interfaces in the future. Many companies use different standards, and I hope for improvement there. We would also like to use our current licenses better.
The next big step will probably be eco-driving for electric vehicles. EV:s are coming in a big way, so that is important for the future.
If you would give any advice to someone who is about to start digitizing, what would it be?
Start small and expand. In my experience it often backlashes if you go too big too fast.
Think strategically and long-term already from the start, so you don’t just focus on the needs here and now.
It is also important to involve the whole organization, especially core operation staff, in the planning, not just the IT department. This way you have people with the latest info, who know the latest rules and regulations and who are able to do thorough research through industry colleagues.
We always try to buy a good long-lasting system, and an important part of that is to have a supplier we can trust and that delivers good service throughout the whole lifespan of the system.
Short facts about the features mentioned in the text
Temperature sensor for ambient temperature inside cabin
The temperature sensor can be used to monitor both driver and passenger environment in order to increase comfort for the driver and fulfil legal requirements on driver environment as well as to increase comfort for the passengers. Heating and cooling is one of the biggest comfort issues in today’s public transport.
Battery voltage monitoring
The battery voltage monitoring is presented in the back-office interface and in a mobile app. It reduces the cost of monitoring the battery status, saves batteries and reduces the need for extra vehicles.
Battery presentation to driver – warning in AP interface.
This feature reduces the risk that the drivers forget to turn off the main switch, which could lead to drainage of the battery with the inability to start the vehicle as a result. The battery presentation requires a driver console.
Export of driven distance from Canbus data
Eco-driving, comfortable driving and driver bonus
An eco-driving system reduces the cost of inefficient driving, and reduces traffic incidents and accidents. With the comfort system, vertical and horizontal movements are registered and presented, both in the vehicle and in reports on the web. Read more about eco-driving and how to succeed in this Busforce blog post.
Assault alarm with map positioning
The driver working environment can be a dangerous and exposed environment. An assault button is most of the time implemented in order to protect the drivers from dangerous situation. The assault alarm with the possibility to locate the vehicle on a map, speeds up the response from the traffic management staff.
Remote tachograph download
Read more about it in this Busforce blog post.
This feature is an easy-to-use fault report app with direct feedback to the driver where the bus drivers report identified faults. The information is transferred in real-time to the traffic operations, and reported to the workshop. The instant on-line fault report app takes away the manual, paper-based, slow routines of collecting fault reports from buses.