Working Smarter with Fleet Tracking

October 28, 2014

By: Steve Blackburn, Vice President – Navman Wireless

Fleet tracking technology can improve your truck-related operations in a variety of ways that can also help beef up your bottom line. From displaying the real-time location of every vehicle in your fleet and calculating the optimal routes for each day’s work, to sending that information directly to dashboard terminals in each truck and providing a laundry list of other controls, it can bring significant new efficiencies to anyone in the mulching/landscaping business.

One company that is reaping the benefits is Kramer Tree Specialists, a highly regarded Chicago-area tree care firm with a 60-truck fleet that offers mulch delivery, tree trimming, municipal leaf collection and related services in a three-state area.

With Navman Wireless’ OnlineAVL2 fleet tracking system in place, Kramer Tree is seeing more timely deliveries, fewer “I’m lost” calls from drivers, reduced customer complaints about missed brush pickups or mulch deliveries, and hours of time saved every week by automating routing processes.

“Our goal is to squeeze the most delivery and production time out of every workday. Given our size, that’s not something we can do effectively without automation,” says Kramer Tree scheduling manager Doug Kraft. “We started seeing improvements almost as soon as we began using Navman Wireless’ technology, including a lot less frustration in getting employees where they need to be.”

TRACKING + ROUTING

The Navman Wireless system that Kramer Tree is using includes GPS tracking units installed under each truck dashboard, back-end software that generates real-time vehicle location maps as well as an array of reports, and all-in-one GPS navigation, dispatch and messaging devices connected directly to the software for phone-free yard-to-driver communication.

Integrated Dashfly route optimization software calculates the fastest and shortest driving routes for up to 25 stops in seconds. Dispatchers transmit the results as well as any midday route adjustments to the appropriate navigation/messaging terminal by choosing from a dropdown menu listing each vehicle in the fleet. The unit then displays the relevant map and turn-by-turn directions as the driver moves from stop to stop.

For Kramer Tree, this seamless combination of fleet tracking, route optimization and turn-by-turn navigation is a major benefit.

Previously, according to Kraft, putting each driver’s day together was a manual process that took each salesman as much as two hours every morning, lacked coordination between salesmen to group jobs by proximity, and offered no guidance in sequencing stops to minimize mileage or drive time. Drivers were handed a stack of tickets and expected to find their way by consulting a map. Lost runs were not uncommon.

Switching to the new system and adding a two-person scheduling department to manage it not only freed salesmen to generate new business but also reduced time, mileage and fuel waste caused by do-it-yourself routing. While Kramer Tree’s mulch, production and plant health care crews are optimized differently – by destination for mulch deliveries versus by geographic zone for plant health care, for example – all three business units enjoy the same efficiency benefits.

CONTROL AT EVERY TURN

The advantages of fleet tracking for Kramer Tree and other users extend far beyond routing and real-time vehicle visibility. For one thing, it makes for happier customers.

Kraft says that customer complaints about crew no-shows have fallen from 10 to 15 a week to 5 or less, partly because the route optimization keeps drivers on schedule and partly because the GPS navigation has cut the lost driver rate to near zero. In addition, when Kraft does get complaints, he uses OnlineAVL2 trip reports that document and time-stamp each driver’s daily activity to resolve them.

“If someone says we didn’t pick up their brush or our crew was 2-1/2 hours late for a mulch delivery, we can pull up reports showing precisely when we arrived at that address as well as when we left,” Kraft says. “We also produce these reports for municipal customers who want to be sure we’ve covered all of the lane miles for brush pickups and leaf collections in the fall. If there’s a dispute, we have verifiable proof where we were and at what time.”

On other fronts, Kramer Tree uses the ETA calculations the system generates for each stop to determine whether crews are on schedule, be sure the day’s jobs get completed, and check for signs that workloads are too heavy or too light based on early or late arrivals. And the dispatch department leverages the system’s direct-to-truck electronic messaging to notify crews about schedule changes required to accommodate emergencies or last-minute work additions.

“Before we went live with the Navman Wireless system, we frequently couldn’t reach our drivers or operators on the road because they didn’t all have phones or have them turned on,” he notes. “Now we can send a message to the in-cab terminal and they will see it as soon as they get back in the truck and turn on the ignition. This saves us from going back to a site that calls in an extra service after our crew has left the yard or dropping a mulch delivery at the north end of a location if the customer has changed it to the south end.”

Kraft and his team also utilize the fleet tracking technology to monitor employee behavior. By using the system to draw electronic perimeters called geofences around popular pit stops like gas stations, for example, Kramer Tree can generate reports showing company trucks leaving and entering each geofence to determine if crews are taking inordinately long breaks. In addition, with the system’s driver scorecard capability, the company’s safety and performance manager can spot problems like speeding and harsh braking by individual drivers. And there’s more to come, Kraft says. As the repository of information collected by the OnlineAVL2 platform grows, Kramer Tree will have a baseline that will allow the company to analyze vehicle idling patterns, evaluate whether schedulers are allotting too much or too little time for a specific type of job, determine whether making a mulch delivery to a given client’s yard at 6 am takes 25 minutes more than at 7 am so that schedules can be adjusted accordingly, and much more.

Bottom line: fleet tracking systems make it possible to work smarter at every turn. If you’re interested in increasing your operating efficiency, call 877-891-5009 or email information @navmanwireless.com.

 

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