Implementing a GPS tracking to your fleet has many benefits, chief among them, cost savings for your business.
Whether you've already implemented GPS tracking into your fleet, or are still weighing the pros and cons, it's important to know the benefits exceed route efficiency.
Fuel is a necessary but fluctuating cost for HVACR contractors. Your technicians regularly drive company vehicles to attend to service requests — and they can't do that without fuel.
Through proper implementation, GPS tracking can actually help your company save on fuel costs. HVACR Business spoke with two of the leading GPS tracking suppliers — GPS Insight and NexTraq — to get their thoughts on this important topic, as well as other ways GPS tracking can add to your bottom line.
What are some ways GPS tracking can help contractors lower fuel costs?
Wyn Partington, vice president of marketing for NexTraq: Implementing a GPS fleet tracking solution offers many fuel-saving benefits, through routing, reports, fuel card integration, vehicle maintenance, driver behavior and alerts. Optimized routes are sent directly to an in-vehicle personal navigation device to ensure drivers are traveling on the most time- and fuel-efficient routes.
In addition, the numerous fuel reports managers have access to provide actionable data to identify any wasteful behaviors or inefficient vehicles and practices. Fuel card integration manages and tracks company fuel purchases, ensuring all purchases made are for business related travel and automated maintenance schedules and alerts ensure vehicles are properly maintained. Well-maintained vehicles operate at their most fuel efficient levels.
Acceleration, harsh braking and cornering are driving behaviors that waste fuel. A GPS fleet tracking solution monitors these behaviors so they can be addressed and coached. Real-time alerts can eliminate wasteful practices such as excessive speeding and idling.
Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for GPS Insight: Contractors can lower fuel costs quickly and easily with GPS fleet tracking. The lowest hanging fruit is to reduce idle time. By setting up an alert via text message or email that is sent to the driver of a vehicle that says something like, "You've been idling for 10 minutes, shut off your truck."
The threshold is customizable to whatever your company policy is. If they do not shut the truck off, an alert can be sent to management letting them know that the driver continues to idle despite the alert that was sent out to them.
Other ways to reduce fuel costs include reducing speeding, eliminating off hours usage and unnecessary trips, optimized routing and eliminating fuel fraud.
How does GPS tracking help cut down on excessive idling?
Partington: A GPS fleet tracking solution monitors wasteful practices such as idling. Managers can set up alerts that indicate when idling is occurring and on which vehicle. Managers can also set up automated reports that include details such as idling frequency, length, etc. These reports can also be pulled on an as-needed basis.
Other than mapping out the most efficient route from job to job, what are some other efficiency benefits of GPS fleet tracking?
Driscoll: First and foremost, the software is designed to automate many parts of fleet management, which will unquestionably increase efficiencies company wide. Contractors can practically eliminate paper with GPS tracking. All reporting that they need done is electronic — payroll, fuel spend, activity, any KPIs, etc. Dispatchers also eliminate the need to make a ton of phone calls to techs every day.
Preventative maintenance can be completed much more efficiently with GPS fleet tracking. Letting both the driver and the shop know that a truck is due for maintenance will expedite the process of scheduling a time to come in and getting the maintenance completed. It's a proactive approach.
From a customer service standpoint, the dispatch/ management team will be more efficient when they don't need to call the tech to find out where they are or how long they will be. They will be able to use the software to give accurate ETAs over the phone. Some contractors are proactive and send messages to customers letting them know when the tech will arrive.
Partington: Aside from fuel benefits, a GPS fleet tracking solution allows for more jobs to be completed in a day, thanks to optimized routes, dispatching and an easy-to-use job schedule board.
In addition, a maintenance management tool is included in a comprehensive GPS fleet tracking solution that automates maintenance schedules and keeps vehicles safe and running efficiently for employees.
How much training is involved to both the fleet manager and the drivers, when it comes to implementing GPS tracking to save on fuel consumption?
Partington: A comprehensive GPS fleet tracking solution should be intuitive, fully integrated and easy to use. An easily understandable interface makes it simple to pull reports with actionable data that can be used to improve driver behaviors and practices.
The provider should also offer demonstrations and training as part of your purchase and should have an easily accessible customer support line.
Driscoll: Most training takes about an hour and can be done with online training courses or with an account manager. Any additional training can be requested any time for new employees or refresher courses.
Our customers work with the account management team to learn how to use the software and also set up everything with them so that they are up and running the same day. Once training is completed and everything is set up, the savings start rolling in.
The caveat here is that the software needs to be used and the data needs to be enforced. If techs and management are not reacting to the alerts being sent or the data from the reports, there won't be any savings.
When it comes to fuel costs, what can a contractor see as a typical ROI from implementing GPS tracking?
Partington: Businesses that implement a GPS fleet tracking solution can save up to 20 percent in both fuel and labor costs and achieve ROI in as little as one month.
Driscoll: A small fleet of five trucks can see an ROI of as little as 400 percent, saving about $500 a month or as much as 2,000 percent ROI, saving around $2,120/month. Once up and running, the ROI is realized on average in the first few months.
At what point — number of trucks — should a contractor consider implementing GPS tracking and how much additional staff is required for dispatching and programing?
Driscoll: You can justify an ROI from GPS fleet tracking with as few as two trucks. If you're not riding shotgun with one of your mobile assets that you front the bill to run, you want to be sure to track it.
The leading GPS tracking providers designed their software to be highly automated so that someone doesn't have to be on staff specifically for the software. It's intended to be set up to run on its own for the most part, outside of dispatching.
Proactive alerts can be set up based on company policies, so that management only knows about exceptions and reports can be set so that the appropriate personnel receive the data they need, when they need it, the way they want to see it.
As far as a programmer goes, a contractor doesn't need one unless they're trying to do some integrations between software platforms. Otherwise, the GPS fleet tracking solutions are web-based, so once a device is installed and registered, you are up and running.
It's a great tool that is essential for some jobs and a nice to have for others. GPS tracking software has changed the game for dispatchers, maintenance managers, and fleet managers. Once using it, they will never want to go back to the old school fleet management methods.
GPS fleet tracking software is nice to have for other departments such as accounting, because they can have reports automatically sent to them that show hours worked in a day/week/month for payroll and time spent at each job location for billing.
Partington: There are features of a GPS fleet tracking solution that can be beneficial for any size fleet, whether a company has five or 500 vehicles, and fuel savings will be realized in all fleet sizes.
An advanced GPS fleet tracking solution makes dispatching easy to use and can be as simple as a drag and drop feature on a job scheduling board. A provider should be able to assist companies answering questions specifically related to their fleet size and needs.
What are some other ways GPS tracking saves contractors money?
Partington: The increased efficiency benefits save contractors money as they are able to complete more jobs in a day while using less fuel and resources.
Driscoll: GPS fleet tracking saves contractors money in labor, maintenance/ extending vehicle lifecycles, proof of service to ensure payment, insurance discounts, reducing accidents and tickets, rightsizing the fleet and
NexTraq is part of FleetCor Technologies, Inc., a leading global provider of fuel cards and workforce payment products. For additional information, please visit nextraq.com.
GPS Insight works with businesses that have fleets of vehicles and other mobile assets to solve your unique business challenges through increased revenue, reduced costs, and reduced risk. For additional information, please visit gpsinsight.com.