- Associated Press - Thursday, October 22, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - More than a dozen Tupelo city employees are driving around with black boxes inside their city vehicles.

The Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1GWCWFv) the Verizon Networkfleet system collects a vast amount of data and has the capability of monitoring the exact location of the vehicle at all times, as well as how fast it has gone and even whether the driver was wearing a seat belt.

Public Works director Chuck Williams says the black boxes, about the size of a large smartphone, are connected to the vehicle’s onboard computers to record engine performance data.

Public Works, Parks & Recreation and the Tupelo Police Department are participating in the free, 60-day trial. A total of 13 boxes were installed Wednesday morning in vehicles ranging from dump trucks to police cruisers.

“This idea started back when gas prices were out the roof,” Williams said. “We were looking for ways to reduce fuel costs.

“This system will monitor fuel mileage, plus how long the trucks were idling. The diesel trucks you have to leave idling at times, but if it is going to be a long time, it might be better to turn them off.”

Since the boxes are plugged into the on-board diagnostic port, they will also help with the maintenance of the vehicles.

The size of a large smartphone, the black box not only monitors and records the engine performance and fuel mileage, it will email the city shop if the check engine comes on. A built-in GPS allows it to record the vehicle’s location and the route it was driven.

“If a check engine light comes on in one of these vehicles, it will email me the diagnostic trouble code,” said Public Works shop supervisor Alan Taylor. “I can look up the code and see if it is something that needs to be taken care of immediately, or if it is something that can wait.

“If there is a part needed, I can go ahead and order it, reducing the time the vehicle is down for repairs.”

When the trial program ends in mid-December, the city will be able to compare the data with fuel usage both before and after the test.

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Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

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