by Ashley Jones, NexTraq
Although fleet and asset tracking are becoming more common, many business operators and fleet managers do not realize these fleet-tracking solutions can do much more than pinpoint a vehicle’s location on a map. These solutions also can simplify communication and make communication between home base and the fleet safer and more efficient.
At the basic level, telematics solutions provide simple track and trace options that allow fleet managers to locate vehicles and assets on maps. GPS fleet management solutions, however, can streamline communications in the field, allowing for increased driver productivity, increased fleet efficiency and other benefits, including fuel savings. Fleet management solutions connect employees at the office to employees in the field. Enabling fleet managers to track the vehicles in their fleets provides them with information regarding the drivers’ activities and eliminates the need for unnecessary cell phone usage behind the wheel.
Although communication is difficult to measure, business owners and fleet managers see the return on their investments through increased productivity and fleet utilization. According to an Aberdeen survey, extremely efficient fleet operations have a vehicle utilization time of 80 percent or more compared with 55 percent of other respondents. A consistent characteristic among those best-in-class organizations is the integration of a GPS fleet-tracking solution. Streamlining communication between the main office and the field is the first step to realize those results.
Dispatching and Routing Capabilities
When selecting a GPS fleet management solution, a manager should ensure his or her options offer dispatching as a feature. This powerful tool allows fleet managers or any other operations personnel to schedule jobs easily and dispatch vehicles to the appropriate sites while sending messages to and from field-workers. Some solutions offer advanced dispatching solutions that are automated, allowing for maximum efficiency. Whether automated or done manually, dispatching field-workers directly to sites allows the fleet manager to be sure the vehicle closest to the site is assigned to it. Dispatching should be offered in an intuitive, easy-to-use display, ensuring it can be completed efficiently.
Routing goes along with dispatching and increases communication between drivers and the main office. A GPS fleet-tracking solution should offer a route-planning feature that optimizes routes for field-workers. This prevents lost revenue because of excessive driving and out-of-the-way stops. Optimized routing takes all locations and stops in a vehicle’s route and orders them to create the shortest route, saving time and money.
The benefits of an effective communication tool are measured through driver productivity and fleet efficiency. A Georgia-based utility provider improved driver productivity by 15 percent by being able to communicate to the closest driver when a service call is received. This increased productivity and improved customer satisfaction, enabling field-workers to handle meter reading and other meter services efficiently and in a timely manner.
The most useful fleet-tracking solutions allow dispatching capabilities to integrate with personal navigation devices (PNDs) in vehicles, such as a Garmin or mobile application. This enables optimized routes to be sent to the driver’s in-vehicle PND, which saves time for the dispatcher and driver. These features mean more jobs can be completed in one day, which increases service revenue and driver productivity, while decreasing fuel costs. Western Monmouth Utilities Authority increased fleet productivity 25 percent with a GPS fleet-tracking solution, allowing more work in a day and eliminating excessive driving. Routing and dispatching integration also eliminates the risk for communication errors that might occur through texting or other cell phone communication.
Western Monmouth also discovered dramatic fuel savings after implementing the GPS fleet-tracking solution. Through the available reporting features, the fleet manager noted that fuel costs were reduced 10 percent. By allowing the fleet manager to locate the closest vehicle to the site, no fuel was burned because of excessive driving. Eliminating unnecessary fuel usage is an easy away to better the bottom line.
Using a GPS fleet-tracking solution that integrates with in-vehicle technology, drivers no longer must communicate through cell phones with their dispatchers or fleet managers. Awareness about the dangers of distracted driving is increasing, and cell phones are a major part of the concern. Currently, 41 states ban texting while driving for all motorists. Not only does eliminating the need for cell phone use while driving keep drivers and others on the road safe, but it could save a business from lawsuit if a driver is responsible for an accident.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, distracted driving is a factor in 25 to 30 percent of all traffic crashes. In addition, 28 percent of all accidents are caused by mobile devices. Companies spend significant funds on branding and logo development, which often is showcased on fleet vehicles, essentially transforming these vehicles into moving billboards. If a driver is using a cell phone to get an update on his or her next route, it could hurt his or her business’s reputation and turn that investment into a poor company image.
In addition, with a GPS fleet-tracking solution, businesses can prove vehicle location and reduce liability. With the large risk of accidents or other safety issues while driving, a GPS fleet-tracking solution can ensure a manager knows where drivers are and how they are driving.
Although simplified communication is a main reason to implement a GPS fleet management solution, many utilities have found added benefits. For example, the Georgia-based utility experienced a 25 percent increase in preventative maintenance tickets. Some solutions allow fleet managers to receive automated email notifications when a vehicle is due for maintenance. Whether a fleet is large or small, this benefit helps in many ways. It reduces the need to manually track vehicle maintenance schedules and increases productivity. The fleet manager noted that after implementing a preventative maintenance feature, his fleet experienced less vehicle downtime, which resulted in a more productive fleet operation.
GPS fleet management solutions provide many benefits to utilities, in addition to the basic tracking features. By implementing a GPS fleet management solution, fleet managers can streamline communications between the office and the field for a safe, simple way to speak with workers on sites.
The dispatching and routing features of these solutions eliminate the need for excessive cell phone use behind the wheel and provide added benefits such as increased efficiency, improved productivity, decreased fuel costs and maintenance savings.
Ashley Jones is marketing director at NexTraq, a GPS fleet management solution for customers with fleets from two to more than 200 vehicles. NexTraq serves more than 100,000 subscribers and is headquartered in Atlanta.
PowerGrid International Articles Archives
View Power Generation Articles on PennEnergy.com