Contractor Finds Many Benefits by Going to a Vehicle Tracking System

GPS system improves plumbing firm’s profitability, weeds out dishonest employees

Contractor Finds Many Benefits by Going to a Vehicle Tracking System

A dispatcher at Rub-A-Dub Plumbing in Tyler, Texas, uses the GPS Insight vehicle tracking system on a computer at the office to track a truck and send directions to the next job.

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By simply investing in a GPS system, Rub-A-Dub Plumbing in Tyler, Texas, reduced fuel expenses, decreased driving-insurance costs, eliminated operational problems and improved technician’s accountability.

The company’s experience underscores the value of GPS tracking software — in this case, a system developed by GPS Insight. The cost? About $275 a month to monitor seven service vehicles — an expense the company easily recoups, says Ginny Rivers, general manager.

The company — which was founded in 2004, employs 12 people and runs six service trucks — first started thinking about using GPS tracking when fuel bills started increasing. To save money and boost efficiency, the company already was remotely dispatching technicians from their homes in the morning; they cover such a wide area of rural East Texas that it makes more sense for them to avoid driving to the office every day, she explains.

Yet fuel bills kept rising. The main culprit? Turns out some technicians were doing extracurricular driving when they were supposed to be working. In one instance, a gas receipt from a company credit card showed a technician was 50 miles away from a job site where he supposedly was working, Rivers says.

“We didn’t want to be in the embarrassing position of calling customers and asking, ‘Is our guy there?’” she says. “So we had to figure out a better way to keep track of technicians.”

TECHNOLOGICAL ASSIST

The GPS Insight system, which the company started using in October 2017, proved to be a viable solution. One feature allows the company to set boundaries on a map; if trucks pass those boundaries, dispatchers receive alerts.

“We put their homes outside those boundaries,” Rivers explains. “So if someone goes home and takes a two-hour nap, for example, we know they’ve gone where they’re not supposed to go.”

Another feature allows the company to “landmark” specific locations, such as approved parts depots where the company has established accounts, as well as other critical locations. That helps new drivers who may be unfamiliar with the service area reach destinations faster, she says.

In addition, the system alerts dispatchers when technicians exceed speed limits. “As soon as I get an alert, I call the driver,” Rivers says. “They dread that phone call.”

The system also indicates when trucks are idling. So dispatches know if, for instance, technicians are sitting at a parts depot for 1 1/2 hours. “We understand the parts depot is like a beauty shop for guys — a place where they can stop and shoot the breeze,” she says. “We understand that it’s good to meet your peers and talk about new ideas. But we don’t want them doing it for 1 1/2 hours.”

Dispatchers can also see where trucks are located in real time; the vehicles are color-coded to notate whether they’re driving or stopped (the trucks turn green and red, respectively). And if drivers lose internet service while driving in remote rural areas, dispatchers can guide them to their next service call, she explains.

Furthermore, a tampering alert tells the company if a technician tries to disable the system, she adds.

WIDE RANGE OF BENEFITS

The system provides the company with many benefits, both financial and otherwise. For starters, Rivers says the company’s fuel expenses dropped about 16% per month, for a monthly savings of around $600. In addition, overtime dropped by 10 hours a week.

“Guys who were a problem could no longer lie about where they were and for how long, so that’s a huge impact for us,” she says. “That alone probably raised our gross profit margins by about 3%.”

The GPS also makes drivers more conscious about not speeding, which decreases insurance expenses. The system produces a report that shows how many times drivers exceed the speed limit; the company submits that report to its insurance company as proof of safe-driving habits.

The bottom line: Driving-insurance expenses dropped by $200 to $300 a month. In addition, the GPS system serves as a tool for weeding out untrustworthy employees, she adds.

Initially technicians resented having their vehicles tracked. Technicians who weren’t bending rules were insulted that management was lumping them in with a few bad players. “But in the end, they understood this was a management tool that had to be applied across the board,” Rivers says.

To boost employee buy-in, the company integrated some driving metrics into its employee-of-the-month competition, in which workers get rewards by earning points for meeting certain performance standards. For example, technicians earn points if they go without a speeding alert. “So we’ve turned it into a positive,” she says.

The system helped the company eliminate its employee problems in about five months. “Now GPS Insight is just a part of our everyday lives around here,” Rivers notes. “And we don’t have operational problems anymore. All of that went away.”  



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