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Vix-Questek CEO Tjaart Kruger: automated fare collection, fare protection and fleet telematics technology can play a significant role in driving profitability

OPERATORS are increasingly feeling the pinch of subsidy revenues failing to keep pace with cost increases, along with maintenance and running costs which have escalated exponentially. Vix-Questek CEO Tjaart Kruger says that automated fare collection, fare protection and fleet telematics technology can play a significant role in driving profitability. Bus operators have two avenues to look after in the quest to run an efficient operation in order to make money: revenue and cost.
On the revenue front, subsidy management (and avoiding any penalties) comes into play, along with increasing ridership numbers. Operators also need to protect the revenue they have earned, by combating fare evasion. On the cost side of the equation, fleet telematics is playing a growing role. “Costs – including fuel and maintenance – have increased exponentially. Operators need to do everything possible to introduce operational efficiencies to save on cost.” With automated fare collection for revenue protection and fleet telematics to track costs, Kruger says that operators are looking to deal with a one-stop solution provider, rather than piecing together equipment from various suppliers. Integration costs, at times, prove prohibitive. “We are pushing to have intelligent, interoperable solutions that we can drive, that are fully integrated and that allow for various plug and plays from different third parties,” says Kruger. “We can accommodate most third party players in a solution to bus operators. Vix-Questek can enhance how operators drive their business in terms of revenue collection, as well as running their costs more effectively and efficiently.
“From a subsidy management perspective, operators need to ensure that their buses are travelling the right routes and that vehicles are optimised in terms of ridership, to avoid half-empty buses. The right number of buses need to be on the right routes, and they need to run on time so that they don’t incur penalties.” With 28 years of experience in South Africa, Vix-Questek specialises in the design, development, manufacture, testing and integration of custom products for the passenger transport sector. “There isn’t another technology provider with that track record,” says Kruger adding that a key strength of the company its ability to adapt the “superb international technology” to which it has access to local operating conditions. Equipment for
South Africa, for instance, has to withstand extreme vibration and dusty conditions that simply are not a feature of overseas markets. The local operation includes a six-member R&D team and IT engineers able to write code to fix problems immediately. Another benefit Kruger cites is the company’s ability to deal with and integrate all the legacy systems still in use in the industry.

Questek Telematics GM Clinton de Bruin: telematics can play a crucial role in bus operations

The company holds more than 65% of the ticketing and automated fare collection market, while on the BRT front, Pretoria’s A Re Yeng employs Vix-Questek systems and Cape Town’s MyCiTi operation opted for Vix systems (predating the establishment of Vix-Questek).
The integration of fleet telematics with automatic fare collection systems is well accepted in international markets, but the concept is fairly new to the SA market.
Clinton de Bruin, GM of Questek Telematics, asserts that telematics can play a crucial role in bus operations, its reach extending from maintenance, to driver behaviour, to running costs.
“Many people regard telematics just as a dot on a map, and are unaware of the functionality the offering provides,”says De Bruin.
In terms of maintenance and service, telematics can provide insight into exactly what is happening on a vehicle and what is required. The driver and his behaviour can be monitored, along with passenger movements. In the case of accidents, telematics will provide an accurate picture of what has occurred. Telematics can underpin cost analysis, identifying problems such as excessive idling. Functionality can extend to onboard notifications for the driver, alerting to take action to rectify problematic driving behaviour. Another capability is a mobile app to inform passengers on vehicle movements, while telematics also creates scope for predictive diagnostics (such as pinpointing when a battery may be expected the reach the end of its lifecycle or when coolant levels have dipped).
Beyond standard parameters, Questek can pull information from vehicles’ computer systems to pick up patterns on clutch usage or even the extent to which the accelerator pedal is pressed. Reports may be generated as and when events occur, or to a predetermined schedule – or accessed via the web. In addition, the system is capable of generating a range of standard reports or customised reports assessing specific parameters.
In today’s age of “big data”, Kruger that telematics can play a crucial role in bus operations, its reach extending from maintenance, to driver behaviour, to running costs.
“Many people regard telematics just as a dot on a map, and are unaware of the functionality the offering provides,”says De Bruin.
In terms of maintenance and service, telematics can provide insight into exactly what is happening on a vehicle and what is required. The driver and his behaviour can be monitored, along with passenger movements. In the case of accidents, telematics will provide an accurate picture of what has occurred. Telematics can underpin cost analysis, identifying problems such as excessive idling. Functionality can extend to onboard notifications for the driver, alerting to take action to rectify problematic driving behaviour. Another capability is a mobile app to inform passengers on vehicle
movements, while telematics also creates scope for predictive diagnostics (such as pinpointing when a battery may be expected the reach the end of its lifecycle or when coolant levels have dipped).
Beyond standard parameters, Questek can pull information from vehicles’ computer systems to pick up patterns on clutch usage or even the extent to which the accelerator pedal is pressed. Reports may be generated as and when events occur, or to a predetermined schedule – or accessed via the web. In addition, the system is capable of generating a range of standard reports or customised reports assessing specific parameters.
In today’s age of “big data”, Kruger says there is a danger of too much information – what’s important is what you do with all the data you’ve extracted.
“An organisation can distinguish itself by its service levels, how it interprets data and presents it to clients. Vix-Questek does not supply clients with a stream of data they need to interpret: we present a problem we have identified and our recommendations for fixing it.”
Capital constraints may push operators to take a narrow view, focusing on fixing single problems as they arise. However, Kruger advises  a longer term approach: “Chasing cheap s isn’t sustainable in the long run, and you’regoing to be monitoring a few facets rather than having aholistic solution. If you tack pieces on, those add-ins and their integration will come at a price. Vix-Questek’s system provides the infrastructure for operators to build on, and even add third party solutions as they become relevant. “A proper installation may be a bit more expensive initially, but over the long term the savings that will generated and the revenue protection that will derive will faroutweigh the cost.”

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