Plumbing Firm Uses Software to Improve Driver Safety Across Large Fleet

Almost four decades into business, the Bill Howe Family of Companies in San Diego continues to look for ways to improve operations, such as its recent implementation of Verizon Connect’s Reveal platform

Plumbing Firm Uses Software to Improve Driver Safety Across Large Fleet

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A business doesn’t last 40 years — and continue to grow — by sitting still or staying stagnant. That’s something the Bill Howe Family of Companies in San Diego practices as it approaches its 40-year milestone.

The company, which has plumbing, heating/air conditioning and flood/restoration divisions, was last featured in Plumber magazine in 2015. Since that time, it has added another 50 employees bringing it to a total of 200 and increased its annual revenue generation from $20 million to $25 million.

That kind of growth also means more than 160 vehicles across the three divisions, servicing the 70 square miles of San Diego County. Yet last year, the fleet traveled a total of 3 million miles with only two minor incidents. Rhett Wheeler, the company’s operational risk manager, credits a lot of that good vehicle safety record to a fairly recent purchase that has aided the mission —Verizon Connect’s Reveal, a fleet and mobile workforce management software that the company started using about two years ago.  

According to Wheeler, the year before implementing Reveal, the company had 16 accidents totaling nearly $1 million in damages.

“The reports initially were very shocking,” says Wheeler. “The drivers’ average safety score was a 77, and some were below 30. Through driver coaching, the average improved to a 97.”

Wheeler says the company wanted a system that would help monitor driver behavior and readily produce reports, and Verizon Connect’s Reveal fit the bill. The company can see actionable data through reports, such as those dispatchers use for verifying time cards, as well as detailed safety reports.

“I created a custom report inside Verizon Reveal that helped me determine how many events were going on for a week, such as hard turning or hard braking incidents,” Wheeler says. “This helped me pinpoint the drivers that needed additional coaching and training.” 

Now, when unsafe driving occurs — speeding, hard braking, fast acceleration and hard cornering — Wheeler receives immediate alerts, as well as weekly reports. This helps him coach his drivers on their safety scores.

“A lot of people in general when behind the wheel go into autopilot,” says Wheeler. “People just tend to space those things out. 

“I can auto-email these alerts to the drivers. At the end of the day, the drivers can get a report that tells them when they slammed on the brakes or when they increased speed. These reports just make everyone aware of the mistakes. Safety is hugely important to us. We made the choice, and since then, our records have been improving, our individual driving records are improving — we couldn’t be happier with the growth we’ve seen.”

While some Bill Howe drivers have commented that getting these reports changed their driving habits, Wheeler admits that it wasn’t always seen as a good thing.

“There was definitely a ‘big brother’ mentality when we first implemented it,” he says. “But now, more than a year later, the drivers have come to realize it’s par for the course. 

“To keep that many people in line with our company values is tough. It’s an excellent tool in my toolbox; invaluable to our daily routes and how we coach and train our staff to be better drivers.”   

In addition to improved driver safety, the company has seen other positive side effects with Reveal, including lower insurance costs and reduced fuel consumption. And while the company used to rely on its technicians to determine when a vehicle needed service, now it receives alerts for oil changes, part replacements and other critical maintenance — especially important for a large fleet. 

Staying viable in business is all about pinpointing efficiencies, and Wheeler says that’s what the software has done for the Bill Howe Family of Companies as it approaches its milestone 40th anniversary in 2020. 

“It’s become an indispensable tool for us,” he says.


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