Halifax International Airport Authority soars to success with Geotab telematics

Published on August 2, 2022 | Updated on August 25, 2022

Halifax Airport aims to work with a locally-based Geotab partner

Halifax Stanfield International Airport is the largest airport in Atlantic Canada. Averaging 4.2 million passengers a year, the HIAA sees over 205 flights arrive and depart daily. As part of a five-year expansion and efficiency plan, the airport began looking for a telematics provider to help retrieve fleet activity data. Wanting to work with a local partner, the HIAA turned to Halifax-based Geotab provider, Northern BI, to help them put their ideas in place.

Like most new projects, it’s best to start small. The airport kicked off its Geotab implementation by installing telematics in its light-duty ground service vehicles. These range from maintenance trucks and service vans to parking shuttles and more. Airside and ground side operations have very different standards, so knowing the location of the airport’s vehicles is crucial. Geotab’s active tracking and area activity features are frequently used to locate these vehicles within the fleet. “It’s a matter of quality assurance purposes,” says William Sutherland, manager of airside services at HIAA. “There are certain vehicle activities where we need them to be in a specific spot at a specific time. Before Geotab, without being in the vehicle with the driver, we would have had to take their word for it.”

Geotab helps create a safer work environment

Weather is a huge factor in airport safety. Before an aircraft arrives, HIAA checks the surface friction of the runway by accelerating a vehicle to 50km/h and then applying the brakes until the wheels lock. The Geotab data is sent back to the airport to assess if planes can land safely. The vehicle data collected allows the airport to perform audits in an efficient manner. “If we were to do this on a dry July day, you can imagine we’d have very different results than during a freezing rainstorm in March,” says Sutherland. Nova Scotia is known for its constantly changing weather. The airport can also determine if working conditions are unsafe by checking vehicle idling time. “If we see that someone’s been idling in one place for a long time when it’s hot out, that might mean it’s too warm to have someone working outdoors for long periods of time.”

Geotab also helps keep the airport’s vehicle maintenance program in check. “We’ve been able to use the telematics to identify maintenance warnings that go unreported,” says Sutherland. “Some people, such as third-party contractors, aren’t in the routine of reporting issues, like a check engine light, until something goes very wrong. Before using telematics, a vehicle could’ve had a dozen things wrong with it and we wouldn’t notice until it was brought in for scheduled service.”

HIAA maintenance vehicle and trailer. (Taken by HIAA)

Creating zones (geofences) to monitor activity

Geotab’s fleet management solution gives users the ability to create “zones” on the map. Zones allow users to create areas of interest, specific landmarks, or frequently visited locations, such as a warehouse. For instance, some vehicles may not be permitted in certain areas of the airport like runways or taxiways. Applying a ruleset can alert the fleet manager if a vehicle enters an unauthorized zone. When combined with reporting, zones provide valuable information about your fleet’s behaviour.

The Halifax Airport is in the beginning phases of using Geotab’s zoning feature to analyze the behaviours of their vehicles. Within the airport, there are several different runways and service roads that have specific rulesets such as speed limits. With the help of Northern BI, the airport was able to configure zone rules and auto-generate a report to ensure people are operating safely.

Using telematics to increase airport efficiencies

Geotab has helped the airport identify opportunities to maximize its fleet operations and improve overall communications. “We’ve been able to cut down on radio transmissions by checking where people are on the map with the Geotab devices,” explains Sutherland. “Previously, we needed to call someone every time we needed to know their whereabouts. But with Geotab, we can use the map to find this information.” Now, the airport can spend more time working on improvement initiatives rather than tracking people down.

A group of various HIAA fleet vehicles. (Taken by HIAA)

Collecting data to improve airport sustainability

The HIAA is planning to move its fleet towards greener options in the future. Its plan is to collect five years’ worth of data to help build a case for sustainable alternatives. “Our sustainability committee is working on a new initiative,” says Sutherland. “We’re using Geotab telematics to view vehicle activity, collect data, and determine which vehicles could be suitable for replacement with an EV or gas hybrid technology.”

The airport data collected includes vehicle type, range capability via location tracking, and projected cost savings. By using Geotab’s Electric Vehicle Suitability Assessment, the airport can analyze real-world EV performance data to determine if it’s worth replacing its gas-powered vehicles with electric. The EV assessment also calculates the total cost of ownership including procurement, maintenance, and electricity use versus the cost of fuel. “We also want to ensure the batteries will cover our driving range at the airport – especially in extreme weather conditions,” comments Sutherland. “Assessing our carbon emissions and reducing fuel is an important step in our journey towards a more sustainable fleet.”

An airport tractor facing the Halifax Stanfield International Airport. (Taken by HIAA.)

Northern BI makes customers feel important

HIAA is looking forward to learning how other airports use Geotab to optimize their services. Despite COVID-19 putting a damper on the data collection for their study, the airport believes they’ve still gained a lot of valuable information. There are lots of opportunities in aviation to capitalize on the benefits of fleet telematics. “I think other airports have similar ideas but have taken telematics in one direction or another,” says Sutherland. “Another airport might be interested to know how we’re using Geotab and we’re curious to learn how we can improve our services too.” The Halifax airport is keen to implement Geotab telematics in its heavy-duty vehicles along with its winter operations.

HIAA appreciates the level of support Northern BI provides for them. “In general, we’re very happy with the service they give us. From the initial acquisition with Lucas, on the sales team, and Henry, our customer success manager, they’re always responsive. I can talk to them anytime I have a question,” says Sutherland. “The thing that sticks out the most is the patience and pacing of everyone we’ve worked with. Everyone has been very accessible and always genuine. I feel important, and these folks help with that.”  


Halifax International Airport Authority

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Light-duty fleet



“Everyone has been very accessible and always genuine. I feel important, and these folks help with that.” 

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Torrie Rogers

Marketing Coordinator

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