Even with the recovering U.S. economy, unpredictable fuel prices and increasing insurance costs for fleet vehicles continue to be challenges for HVACR contractors.
As many companies have discovered, investing in technology can help. For example, next-generation Global Positioning Systems (GPS) have proven helpful in lowering insurance costs and reducing fuel consumption. These advanced GPS vehicle-tracking systems rely on satellite-based wireless communications and sophisticated mapping to provide bi-directional communications, as well as minute-by-minute vehicle tracking and monitoring; and reporting on location, movement, and activities of mobile resources in real time.
How Next-Gen GPS Vehicle-Tracking Systems Work
Unlike the standalone GPS devices installed in consumer automobiles, these new wireless networked systems combine various hardware components and software applications. The software provides a powerful and deeply functional fleet-management system that can help companies in the service industry reduce operating costs across the board by optimizing fleet and driver performance. The systems have been proven to improve efficiency, productivity, and customer service.
Fleet-monitoring functionality may differ significantly in the various systems available in today’s marketplace. Here are some key attributes and capabilities to look for in a state-of-the-art vehicle-tracking system with GPS:
- Robust, tamper-proof GPS transmitters/receivers that can be installed safely, securely (and inconspicuously, if desired) into each vehicle in the fleet.
- System provides up-to-the-minute, round-the-clock tracking of each vehicle’s location and movement, including start-up, speed, and shutdown.
- Sophisticated mapping technology that provides routing and monitoring accuracy and flexibility, as well as an easy-to-use dashboard at the dispatch end.
- Nearest-vehicle locator capability so a service-call location can be instantly matched with the nearest vehicle in the fleet.
- Driver-behavior monitoring and reporting relative to time, speed, and vehicle usage at any hour of day or night, on the job or off.
- Maintenance tracking and recording, as well as issuance of alerts for scheduling maintenance based on manufacturer guidelines or owner-defined criteria.
- Reporting capabilities both for managing day-to-day fleet operations, as well as historical data and reporting for performance comparisons and analysis over time.
And finally, in selecting a fleet-tracking solution, the cloud-based computing business model, also known as SaaS (software-as-a-service), is a practical and affordable choice for most businesses. With SaaS delivery, there’s no need to purchase, license, or download the application software or incur high implementation costs. Instead, the software is web-based and ready to use as soon as the contract is signed and the GPS receivers are securely installed in each vehicle to be tracked. The host company maintains the system and provides upgrades and technical support as needed, for no additional cost.
Tracking and Monitoring Can Lower Insurance Rates
In addition to precise location of every vehicle, the best fleet-tracking solutions provide up-to-the-minute live traffic conditions so dispatchers can route drivers around delays, thus avoiding excessive idling. More advanced systems allow business managers to plan and manage fleet activities more strategically to reduce overall mileage, as well as monitor drivers’ behaviors on the road.
A multi-functional system will be able to track on-time driver delivery rates and driving speeds, for example, as well any deviation from prescribed routes or unauthorized personal usage of the vehicle when off the job. Should a particular driver or group of drivers be found guilty of excessive speeds, unsafe driving practices, or the use of company vehicles for personal errands, management will know about it immediately and can quickly take steps to remedy the situation.
Similarly, maintenance alerts can be set for each vehicle based on calendar time, engine on time, or mileage guidelines. Undoubtedly, vehicles that receive regular maintenance run more efficiently, use less fuel, and have fewer accidents and unexpected breakdowns than neglected vehicles.
All of these tracking, monitoring, and reporting capabilities can be presented to your insurance provider as evidence that the business has firm control over both its vehicles and drivers. This can give you maximum negotiating power in lowering insurance rates, or at least in keeping them from rising. (See “Rohrer’s Uses GPS to Control Insurance Costs, Save Money.")
Increased Safety and Efficiency at Lower Cost
In addition to lowering insurance costs, the deployment of a GPS vehicle-tracking system has proven to result in various other benefits for fleet-based service-and-repair companies. Chief among these is reduced overall mileage and a reduction in associated fuel usage and costs. As prices at the pump continue to rise, these savings alone can be significant.
The systems typically create gains in driver efficiency and productivity over time, which can improve bottom-line results since drivers can accomplish more work in less time. In many cases, overtime pay has been reduced and customer service has been improved through faster response times, leading to higher levels of customer satisfaction, as well as the promise of repeat business.
Other areas of improvement, both measurable and intangible, include reduced cell phone bills and increased driver and vehicle security, thanks to the tracking system’s communications capabilities. In the event of an accident, or an attempted crime or theft, dispatchers or managers instantly become aware of the situation and can swiftly arrange for help.
Many businesses have used these improvements to ramp up their marketing efforts to expand the customer base and increase revenues, without having to add more trucks or drivers. And that is a goal well worth striving for.
Rohrer’s Uses GPS to Control Insurance Costs, Save Money
Rohrer’s One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning has served the Lancaster, PA, area for over 50 years. The company provides installation and repair of HVAC equipment and guarantees 100% customer satisfaction. As the Rohrer’s service fleet grew to include 37 vehicles, the company’s management team looked for ways to combat its steadily rising insurance costs.
“The bigger our fleet grew, the more our insurance costs increased,” said President Scott Rohrer. "We needed to make sure we were doing everything we could to keep these costs as low as possible.”
Since some insurance providers extend discounts to companies having GPS truck tracking systems installed, Rohrer’s decided to invest in real-time location technology for its mobile assets. After evaluating marketplace offerings, the company determined that the FleetMatics GPS Vehicle Tracking System delivered the best functionality for its needs, as well as the best value for the money. The company then had the GPS tracking hardware installed in each of its vehicles.
Once implemented, the system’s tracking capabilities enabled Rohrer’s dispatchers and business managers to know the exact location of every vehicle in the fleet during every minute of the day. It also provided the ability to monitor various other activities, such as travel routes, driving speeds, time on the road, and time spent on a service call. Since FleetMatics’ GPS receivers are hardwired inconspicuously inside the vehicles, they are virtually tamper proof and theft resistant.
In addition, since Rohrer’s allows drivers to take the trucks home overnight and on weekends, the system reports on any use of the vehicles for unauthorized activities during non-working hours. This not only helps in tracking driver compliance, but also helps to quickly locate a vehicle in the event of an accident or theft.
“Initially, our insurance company was concerned about speeding and the safety practices of some of our younger drivers,” Rohrer said. “But once they knew we had installed an accurate, always-on GPS fleet-management system, they felt better about putting young drivers on the policy because we were monitoring and controlling their speed.”
Also, now with FleetMatics’ Garmin Integration, Rohrer’s has been able to eliminate the need of cell phones and texting, saving $15 per truck per month, totaling close to $7,000 a year.