Microprocessors have provided a means of producing low-cost programmable monitoring units that can be simply tailored to a wide range of applications. The TRRL is examining the use of these units with particular interest in applications related to the operation of commercial vehicles, and has developed a programmable monitoring unit to the prototype stage. Fuel efficiency data, and time and distance data in a form much more amenable to analysis than from a tachograph, can be collected on a weekly basis to provide fleet operators with detailed information on the operation of their vehicles. From this data it may be possible to optimise the use of vehicles, improve driver performance and provide an aid to servicing. Opportunities exist to provide a wide range of diagnostic information which can either be displayed to the driver or recorded for later analysis. These may range from safety features, for example tyre pressure loss, to axle load measurements. Whilst the cost of the electronics is relatively small, the development of low cost transducers requires considerable effort. The TRRL is currently examining a range of techniques including the measurement of fuel consumption, axle load and tyre pressure loss. Monitoring units can be used for a wide range of tasks. These may include analysing vehicle efficiency, driver training, examining the effect of road changes, traffic network studies and general vehicle testing. Although designed for in-vehicle use these monitoring units may also be used as general purpose recording devices. (A)

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