Jared Stancil, Vice President for Anchor Trailways stated that this new GPS system is the result of a federally funded U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) grant received by the Trailways Transportation System, of which Anchor Trailways is a member company. This on-board system will allow Anchor Trailways, along with law enforcement to identify and track any Anchor Trailways motorcoach as it travels throughout the United States. Stancil stated, “Our passengers will have the added security of this GPS system along with the backup support we now have as being a member of the Trailways Transportation System. We are able to check on location, speed and activity of our motorcoaches at any time from any location with an Internet connection.” Trailways Transportation System is America’s only national network of motorcoaches with a GPS tracking system available to its member companies on the Internet. The system over time can expand to include on-board cameras and cellular communications.
Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have been in use for many years in the trucking industry. Through a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Administration, the Trailways Transportation System (Trailways) has developed a GPS System for its member-operators. With the grant’s funding, Trailways set about developing a system that was more than one of the many ‘off-the-shelf’ systems, which were originally designed for trucking companies. This development led Trailways to become North America’s first national motorcoach system that had a fully integrated tracking system that could be accessed from anywhere through the Internet.
Gale Ellsworth, President and CEO of Trailways Transportation System pointed out some of the features and benefits of their system. “Trailways Voyager GPS allows not only our member companies access through the Internet, but also Federal, State and Local law enforcement have the ability, through the use of a password system, to be able to locate and lend assistance to one of our motorcoaches. This cuts the response time, as the vehicle can be located quickly and emergency personnel dispatched as needed.”
Should a driver come out of a hotel room one morning and find that the motorcoach has been stolen, or perhaps a person gets on a motorcoach of a visiting tour group or a scheduled route service with the intent to rob or cause harm, all situations have been covered by the Trailways Voyager GPS System. The system has a panic switch that is integrated into it, which allows the driver to discreetly and silently notify company personnel that there is a problem on board, and emergency assistance is needed. In the case of the stolen motorcoach, company and emergency personnel can access the system from any computer with Internet access. The system uses a roof-top mounted antenna that is about the size of a hockey puck. This very low profile unit has both the satellite antenna and a cell phone antenna inside it. The motorcoach is tracked through the satellite antenna, and the location information is sent to Trailways computer servers by way of a large national cell phone service. This allows for continuous tracking even in some remote areas of the country not served by many carriers. If the system should happen to lose cell phone contact briefly, the on-board system, which is smaller than a small box of facial tissue, holds the information for up to 30 days on board, until a cell phone tower is found and that information is downloaded to the Trailways computers. In the meantime, the last known position is given, including direction and speed.
Ellsworth also pointed out that the system allows company personnel to know if a motorcoach is parked, and if the engine has been left idling. “The high cost of fuel is an obvious concern to our owners. The Voyager GPS System helps our owners to keep tabs on idle times, thus assisting to keep costs in control.” The Trailways Voyager GPS System has had multiple side benefits not originally expected when the system was under development. One of these has been the ability to more accurately know where a motorcoach has been driven, or if driven off route. “Many companies have reported back that they have been able to more accurately price out their charters, based on past history of a client. Also, if there is a question as to what time a motorcoach actually arrived at a pick up point, our owners can look back to their GPS records to have real time exact accuracy as to when and where the coach was at any given time,” stated Ellsworth. Drivers have accepted the system, because it backs up the information that they have provided the company in the past, in regards to times, and locations. “One of our members reported that it would get phone calls from customers reporting that the bus didn’t stop for pick up for a casino run that they did. With the Voyager GPS System, the company could access the drivers route, stops and times, and would be able to quickly verify that the driver did indeed stop,” Ellsworth reported.
The Trailways Voyager GPS system continues to evolve with the input of its member user base. Recently added were satellite images to overlay on the maps being used. “Our members now know if their motorcoach is in front of a school or shopping mall, when the pickup point might mean they should be in back. The new satellite images overlaid on the mapping system indicates not only where the motorcoach is located, but where specifically in that lot it is, and what buildings are around the location,” Ellsworth pointed out. The system was designed with future improvements in mind as well. In trial at this time, some companies have added at their own expense, the use of camera systems so that real time views can be watched, as well as on board internet access.
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