South Africa’s oldest and largest bus company, the Public Utility Transport Corporation (Putco), has over the past 18 months recorded impressive performance metrics in passenger safety, fuel management and improved driver behaviour following the implementation of a fleet management technology solution from Netstar, a subsidiary of JSE-listed technology giant Altron.
Commenting on the implementation, Altron Group chief executive Mteto Nyati says: “Our partnership with Putco is part of our commitment to doing good business while doing good. Our telematics and fleet management solutions are driving societal impact in safety and security for South Africa. We are helping Putco achieve great business results but most importantly the safety of their 350 000 passengers who, on a daily basis, depend on safe, affordable and reliable public transport services.”
From fuel consumption to revenue collection, graphs are trending in a positive direction. Most importantly, passengers, drivers and other road users are safer thanks to round-the-clock camera monitoring, real-time vehicle tracking and meticulously managed maintenance. This turnaround in South Africa’s largest bus operator is facilitated by Netstar’s Fleet Solution for Buses & Coaches that Putco implemented in 2017.
“The impact of the Netstar solution on our business is one of continuous improvement,” says Jack Sekwaila, head of MCC at Putco. “Our service has become more reliable and predictable simply because shifts start on time as drivers no longer spend hours in our massive depots searching for a specific bus – we know where every bus is, every minute of the day.
“Theft of diesel and batteries has reduced significantly, and stolen buses no longer disappear across our northern borders; instead Netstar retrieves them within an hour. Integrated, automated systems have cut down on data processing lead times and instances of human error.
“This, combined with improved efficiencies, is having a direct and significant impact on our bottom line. The ability of the solution to evolve and adapt to changing circumstances and requirements is remarkable, and allows us to keep improving performance.”
A fleet that transports 350 000 people every day and clocks 90 million kilometres a year, requires diligent and precise management in the areas of driver monitoring and support, fuel consumption, maintenance, passenger interaction and, of paramount importance, safety. Yet, until recently, Putco was hamstrung by a relatively low level of automation and integration of systems.
Wanting to transform its business through technology, the operator went in search of a solution that would drive costs down, enhance driver education and wellness, improve safety and reliability for drivers, passengers and other road users, and protect vehicles from theft and hijacking.
“The Putco rollout is a prime example of what Altron has in mind when it says that it is in the business of delivering innovation that matters,” says Pierre Bruwer, Managing Director of Netstar. “Our solution is highly technical and sophisticated, but its impact is entirely focused on improving the lives of the people who deliver and rely on Putco’s services.”
In early 2017 Netstar won the Putco contract to deliver on these requirements. To meet Putco’s need for automated systems, detailed reporting and the minimising of human error, Netstar implemented its Fleet Solution for Buses & Coaches. This included tracking and recovery units with Jamming Resist™ technology, driver ID tags and emergency panic buttons, as well as interior and exterior cameras. Furthermore, consoles within the buses provide drivers with route information, and enable communication with Putco’s contact centre. This comprehensive, 24/7 fleet monitoring and management enables service vehicles to get to breakdowns or accident scenes much faster than before.
Three Netstar specialised bureaus support Putco in pro-active fleet management. One tests the tracking units in the buses and service vehicles, the second processes the fuel management system, and the third provides digital inspection of interior and exterior camera footage from the buses. The information that is collated for each bus allows the company to implement constructive performance management processes.
“The Putco contract was one of the most complex rollouts ever undertaken by Netstar,” concludes Bruwer, adding that the solution keeps evolving as dynamics within Putco change in response to the impact it is having