Many utility business operators and fleet managers are aware of the need for efficient oversight and simplified communication between the office and the field. It is a necessary task that businesses in the utility industry face on a daily basis. While fleet and asset tracking are becoming more common than ever, many managers do not realize these fleet-tracking solutions can do much more than simply pinpoint a vehicle's location on a map. These solutions can also simplify the lines of 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, 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, increased fleet efficiency and other benefits, including fuel savings. By providing a fleet management solution, you are connecting the employees at the office to the employees in the field. Enabling fleet managers to track the vehicles in their fleet provides them with a wealth of information regarding the drivers' activities and eliminates the need for unnecessary cell phone usage while behind the wheel.
Though communication is a metric that is difficult to measure, business owners and fleet managers see the return on their investment through increased productivity and fleet utilization. According to a survey by Aberdeen, extremely efficient fleet operations have a vehicle utilization time of 80 percent or above, compared to 55 percent of other respondents. A consistent characteristic among those best-in-class organizations is the integration of a GPS fleet tracking solution into their operations. 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, ensure your options offer dispatching as a feature. This powerful tool allows fleet managers or any other 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. 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 in an efficient manner.
Routing goes hand-in-hand with dispatching and is another important feature that increases communication between drivers and the main office. The GPS fleet tracking solution you consider should offer a route planning feature that optimizes routes for field workers. This ensures your business is not losing revenue because of excessive driving and stops that are out of the way. 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 improves driver productivity by 15 percent by being able to communicate to the closest driver when a service call is received. This not only increases productivity but also improves 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) used in vehicles, such as a Garmin or mobile application. This enables optimized routes to be sent to the driver's in-vehicle PND, saving time for 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. Western Monmouth Utilities Authority increased fleet productivity by 25 percent with a GPS fleet tracking solution, allowing more work to be done 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 by 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 your business' bottom line.
By using a GPS fleet tracking solution that integrates with in-vehicle technology, drivers no longer need to communicate through cell phones with their dispatchers or fleet managers. Awareness surrounding the dangers of distracted driving is increasing and cell phones are a major part of the concern. Currently, 41 states ban text messaging while driving for all motorists. Not only does eliminating the need for cell phone use while driving keep your drivers and others on the road safe, but it could also potentially save your business from being the target of a lawsuit if your driver is responsible for an accident.
According to the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), 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 is often showcased on fleet vehicles, essentially transforming these vehicles into moving billboards for the companies they represent. If your driver is behind the wheel and is using a cell phone to get an update on his or her next route, it could hurt your business' reputation, turning that investment into a poor company image.
In addition, with a GPS fleet tracking solution, businesses can prove where a vehicle is located, reducing liability. With the large risk of accidents or other safety issues while driving, a GPS fleet tracking solution can provide assurance that you know where your drivers are and how they are driving.
Although simplified communication is a main reason to implement a GPS fleet management solution, many utility companies have found added benefits once the solution was introduced. One of the greatest benefits experienced by a Georgia-based utility company after implementing a GPS fleet tracking solution was 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 is helpful in many ways. It reduces the need to manually keep track of 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.
In addition to the basic tracking features, GPS fleet management solutions provide many benefits to utility companies. 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, while also providing added benefits such as increased efficiency, improved productivity, decreased fuel costs and maintenance savings.
Submitted by Ashley Jones, marketing director at NexTraq. The NexTraq Fleet Tracking solution and its applications-fleet dispatch, fleet metrics and NexTraq Connect-deliver real-time data needed to optimize fleet operations.