More Than Fleet Tracking: Utilizing GPS Fleet Tracking Solutions to Manage Field Communication

By Wyn Partington, NexTraq

Managing a team is difficult. Managing a team of remote workers often seems almost impossible. Utility business operators and fleet managers are often managing hundreds of employees, creating a clear need for efficient oversight and simplified communication between the office and the field. While fleet and asset tracking are becoming more common, many managers don’t realize that fleet tracking solutions can do much more than simply pinpoint a vehicle’s location on a map. These solutions also can simplify the lines of communication and make communication between home base and the fleet both safer and more efficient.

At the basic level, telematics solutions provide simple “track and trace” options, allowing fleet managers to locate a vehicle or asset on a map. Global Positioning System (GPS) fleet management solutions, however, can streamline communications in the field, allowing for increased driver productivity and increased fleet efficiency among other things. A fleet management solution can connect managers at the office with employees in the field.

Explain Where to Go and How to Get There

A well-developed GPS fleet management solution should offer a dispatching tool. This powerful feature allows operations personnel to easily schedule jobs and dispatch vehicles to the appropriate site, while also sending messages to and from the workers in the field. This tool becomes especially handy when last minute jobs are scheduled, ensuring that the vehicle closest to the site is assigned to the new job, thus saving time and fuel. A Georgia-based utility improved driver productivity by 15 percent by allowing the dispatcher to communicate with the closest driver when a service call is received. This not only increased productivity, but also improved customer satisfaction. Dispatchers should be offered an intuitive, easy-to-use display, ensuring that dispatching tasks can to be completed efficiently.

Once drivers have received their service assignments, they also need to know the best way to get to the job. Routing goes hand-in-hand with dispatching and is another important feature that increases communication between drivers and the main office. Any GPS fleet tracking solution being considered should offer a route planning feature that optimizes routes for field workers. This feature ensures that the business is not losing revenue due to excessive driving and stops that are out of the way. Optimized routing examines all locations and stops in a vehicle’s route and orders them to create the shortest route, saving both time and money. Gone are the days of endangering your drivers by communicating via text messages, emails and phone calls. Routing and dispatching integration eliminate the risk for communication errors that might occur through cell phone communication.

The most useful fleet tracking solutions allow for dispatching capabilities to integrate with personal navigation devices (PNDs) used in vehicles, such as a Garmin®, or a mobile application. This enables optimized routes to be sent to the driver’s in-vehicle PND, saving time for both the dispatcher and the driver. These features ultimately mean more jobs can be completed in one day, which increases service revenue and driver productivity, while also decreasing fuel costs. In fact, Western Monmouth Utilities Authority increased fleet productivity by 25 percent with a GPS fleet tracking solution, allowing for more work to be done in a day and eliminating excessive driving.

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 by 10 percent. By allowing the fleet manager to locate the closest vehicle to the site, no fuel was burned due to excessive driving. Eliminating unnecessary fuel usage is an easy away to better a business’ bottom line.

Keep Them Safe.

Field workers often are driving to and from sites, transporting new equipment and meeting customers. These drivers are making and receiving phone calls regarding routes and other updates. For each second he or she is distracted, a driver’s chance of an accident increases. Currently, 46 states ban text messaging while driving for all motorists. A GPS fleet tracking solution that integrates with in-vehicle technology means drivers no longer must communicate via cell phones with their dispatchers or fleet managers. Not only does eliminating the need for cell phone use while driving keep both drivers and others on the road safe, but it could also potentially save a business from being the target of a lawsuit if the driver is responsible for an accident. Damages awarded to plaintiffs making negligence claims against companies are at an all-time high, and settlements of more than $1 million are not unusual.

According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, distracted driving is a factor in 25 to 30 percent of all traffic crashes. In addition, the National Safety Council estimates that cell phone use is involved in 26 percent of all car crashes. Companies spend significant funds on branding and logo development, which is often showcased on fleet vehicles, essentially transforming these vehicles into moving billboards for the companies they represent. If a driver is behind the wheel and is using a cell phone to get an update on his or her next route, it could hurt the business’ reputation, turning that branding investment into a poor company image.

Another system available is a distracted driving solution, which gives users the option to disable mobile devices, such as a cell phone or tablet, while a vehicle is in motion. This allows drivers to completely concentrate on the task at hand. In addition, it takes pressure off the driver to respond to messages or phone calls immediately. A focused driver is a moving advertisement, representing a company’s reputation and brand.

Added Benefits.

Though simplified communication is a good reason to implement a GPS fleet management solution, many companies have found added benefits once the solution was rolled out. One of the greatest benefits felt by a Georgia-based utility after implementing a GPS fleet tracking solution was a 25 percent increase in preventative maintenance tickets. Whether working with a big or small fleet, this benefit is helpful in a number of ways. Not only does it reduce the need to keep track of vehicle maintenance schedules manually, but it also increases productivity. The Georgia-based utility fleet manager noted that after implementing a preventative maintenance feature, his fleet experienced less vehicle downtime, which resulted in a more productive fleet operation.

While productivity and efficiency ultimately impact the bottom line, a large line item in most fleet manager’s budgets is gasoline. It is impossible to predict gas prices, but a fleet manager can control the fuel spend with fuel card integration options offered by GPS fleet management solutions. With dedicated fuel cards, managers can gain a better understanding of their fuel expenses by tracking, monitoring and analyzing fuel consumption. This insight will provide fleet managers with the data needed to improve efficiencies, reduce waste, account for unauthorized fuel purchases and improve buying behavior.

GPS fleet management solutions can provide a number of benefits 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, providing a safe and simple way to speak with workers on sites. The dispatching and routing features of these solutions eliminate the need for excessive cell phone use while a worker is behind the wheel, protecting the driver and the brand. These features also provide added benefits such as increased efficiency, improved productivity, decreased fuel spend and maintenance savings.

Wyn Partington is the vice president of marketing at NexTraq, a fleet tracking company based in Atlanta that provides GPS vehicle management and fleet tracking solutions.

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