30 January 2014
London-based CityFleet is part of the Comfort DelGro Group, claimed to be the second largest ground transport provider in the world. It offers taxi and car services under the ComCab, DataCab, Call-a-Cab and Comfort Executive brands across the UK, and also operates a private charter coach company.
In London alone, CityFleet has 2,500 vehicles and round the clock mobile communication is central to its business. The company provides account customers with ‘Cabcharge’ cards which offer a convenient way to pay for taxi services without the need for cash. Around 13,000 transactions are carried out every day in the capital, each requiring data to go back and forth. It’s therefore critical that each message is transmitted and received quickly.
However, drivers often find themselves in parts of the city where high buildings, neon signs, tunnels and generally busy areas pose a challenge to reliable network coverage. CityFleet had been using a PMR (private mobile radio) network for its dispatch solution, but decided to move to a GPRS-based system which would allow it to send much richer data over the air, at a much faster rate with less degradation to service, and all without expensive infrastructure.
In 2008, the company began using O2’s services with a phased approach so that by summer 2009 all its London taxis were equipped with a mobile data terminal (MDT).
After taking a booking, CityFleet operators immediately send the driver details of the passenger’s journey, such as timings and addresses. All customer details are sent encrypted via GPRS and deciphered by the O2 XDAII PDAs in the cabs.
The customer receives a text message when the taxi is at the pickup point and, upon arrival, payment can be processed in the vehicle via the MDT. CityFleet adds that a good safety aspect is that clients can see their name on the screen before they get in the car, so they can be assured of not using unsafe mini cabs.
Malcolm Paice, head of operations for CityFleet Networks, says that since installing the new system, his company has experienced a significant increase in productivity. “The dispatch cycle could be up to four minutes using PMR. That’s a long time in our business. Now it’s down to 20 seconds. This makes a huge difference as it eliminates ‘dead mileage’ with drivers driving round waiting for their next job. Now we can dispatch jobs as soon as they come in.”
He adds that the replacement of the PMR system with GPRS has resulted in savings of around £100,000 per year for CityFleet.