GPS Used for Tracking Fuel Usage and More Helps With Business Finances

Technology increases profitability and operational efficiencies on many levels.

GPS Used for Tracking Fuel Usage and More Helps With Business Finances

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For Steve Fox, the third-generation owner of Fox Plumbing in San Diego, the GPS TrackIt technology his company uses is so much more than just a way to track service vehicles.

The technology also enables him to minimize fuel costs, increase operational efficiencies, reduce insurance premiums, resolve customer disputes over service calls and determine if company vehicles are used improperly.

The technology also enables him to put on a coaching hat — have a teachable moment with technicians and dispatchers.

“It’s very easy to use,” says Fox. “You just click on the desktop app and boom, you can see everything that’s going on. It helps me out on so many different levels.

“And it’s not just for companies with large fleets, either,” he adds. Established in 1992, the family-owned company runs five service vehicles (Nissan 1/2- and 3/4-ton cargo vans) and employs nine people, including six technicians that serve the greater San Diego metro area.

“It helps optimize efficiency even for a smaller company like mine,” he says.

Fox says he’s been using GPS technology for more than 15 years, back when GPS units relied on a wire antenna. Today’s wireless units can be hidden under dashboards, operate on a cloud-based platform and include an array of useful business management features.

EFFICIENT ROUTING

One of the most valuable features is truck tracking and route optimization/efficiency, Fox says.

“I can look at the map during the day and see if we have technicians driving in a circle or a square route that begins and ends at the same point, or if they’re zig-zagging across town all the time, burning fuel unnecessarily,” he explains.

The system also tells him when technicians start and turn off their vehicles, which they’re allowed to take home but are not allowed to use for personal driving. The vehicle start/shutdown data helps immeasurably if a customer calls to complain about the price of a plumbing job and claims a technician was on the job for, say, only 10 or 15 minutes.

“I can check the GPS and it shows the technician was there for an hour,” Fox says. “It’s a great verification tool for other things, too, like timecards. I had one guy that just wrote 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day on his timecard, but the GPS showed he usually left his house around 8:15 — and the clock doesn’t start until our technicians are on a job site.”

VEHICLE TRACKING

Furthermore, the system also reveals if drivers are using their vehicles for personal use.

“It’s a privilege to be able to take the trucks home, so I want to be able to track authorized and unauthorized use,” he notes.

It also sends email notification if drivers brake hard, turn while going too fast or exceed speed limits, he adds.

“By knowing that kind of information, I can remind a guy to drive his vehicle like it’s his grandmother’s car, not a NASCAR race car,” Fox says.

The coaching also extends to dispatchers, thanks to a feature that can show the routes driven by trucks each day.

“Gasoline is so dang expensive these days that it helps if I can coach a dispatcher about having drivers take the most efficient routes,” he says. Or if technicians make too many trips to supply houses, Fox can remind them that it’s more cost-effective to make sure their trucks are fully stocked at the start of each day.

ENHANCED SERVICE

As for the GPS tracking creating a big-brother-is-watching atmosphere that breeds resentment, Fox says it’s all about how it’s presented. He says he tells employees that it has nothing to do with them or a lack of trust — unless they’re using vehicles for personal use or driving recklessly.

“For me, it’s all about customer service — how fast can I service the next customer and strategize accordingly as service calls come in,” he says. “I have too much to do each day to spend all my time tracking employees on GPS. And furthermore, if someone steals a truck while it’s parked at an employee’s home, I want to quickly find out where it is so we can get it back.”

Fox says he pays about $20 a month per unit for having the GPS units installed on eight company vehicles. And he believes he receives great value from that $160 a month.

“It’s extremely worth it,” he says. “It’s a cost of doing business, but it easily pays for itself. It’s an invaluable part of our business.”  



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