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Telematics Use Grows in Work Truck Fleets

From tracking preventive maintenance to reducing vehicle idling and fuel consumption, truck-based fleets are adding telematics devices to their fleet vehicles to improve operations.

March 2010, Work Truck - Feature

by Lauren Fletcher - Also by this author

Asplundh Increases Safety & Improves Operations

 Asplundh Tree Expert Co., a line clearance service company for the utility industry, began working with Telogis Inc. in 2008 to initiate a full-scale telematics system deployment for its fleet of more than 10,000 vegetation management vehicles, including aerial lifts, split dumps, pickup trucks, and specialized units.

Telogis Fleet is a GPS-based fleet productivity and management platform.
"It is a scalable, easy-to-use, Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solution for enterprise fleets," noted Jim Orr, vice president, technical services - vegetation management at Asplundh Tree Experts. "We installed more than 7,500 units so far and plan to have nearly our entire highway fleet equipped with the solution by the end of 2010."

Orr was looking for a solution to maximize his fleet's operational efficiency, improve safety, and minimize unnecessary costs.

"In order to be successful, the solution had to be used by all levels of the company, from front-line supervisors to executives," explained Orr. The Willow Grove, Pa.-based Asplundh now tracks start/stop times, vehicle maintenance requirements, routes taken, geographical zone alerts, and use of the auxiliary "pony" motor, which operates the hydraulic system for aerial devices.

"We also track abnormal driver behavior, such as after-hours use, speeding, or route deviation. This means we can get immediate feedback on our crew's performance, as well as gain actionable intelligence that can help us make long-term business decisions for staffing, equipment purchasing, and maintenance schedules," said Orr.

Practically speaking, Orr knows exactly what equipment is deployed to each job and how it is used.

"There's no point sending a large truck out to perform a task a crew in a small truck or pickup could do. It's a waste of gas and also means the larger truck can't be used for a task somewhere else," noted Orr. "In the aftermath of a hurricane or ice storm, it can create a major issue if we don't have the correct equipment for each job."

Asplundh saw several major operational and safety improvements after deploying the telematics system.

"First, we saw a reduction in fuel usage, which helps offset the rising cost of fuel, as well as reduce our carbon footprint. Being able to track our assets ensures we send the appropriate vehicle and driver to each job, improving efficiency and customer service. We also saw a positive change in driver behavior. Drivers were less likely to speed, deviate from routes, or misuse equipment," said Orr.

Asplundh needed the solution to be adopted by all organization levels within the company. Telogis worked closely with the service company to determine the most important information to collect, then provided a solution for delivering it efficiently.

"As with any new system or technology, there is bound to be some pushback from the workforce," said Orr. "To offset this, we rolled the new system out in phases so efficient training and administrative support was available during the learning stage. Some of our workforce also felt like 'Big Brother' was watching their every move."

Orr emphasized safety, customer service, and operational benefits, and it didn't take long for drivers to realize the new system actually made their jobs easier.

"We are still measuring the scope of the technology's benefits throughout our operation, but we fully expect the improved efficiencies will pay for the system in a relatively short amount of time. And, of course, the ongoing safety and customer service benefits also make the investment worthwhile for our company," said Orr.

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