What doesn’t take down a business only makes it stronger. The pandemic has caused many to have to adjust to a “new normal.” When it comes to fleet, that means adapting to hiccups caused by COVID-19 and coming out better for it.
Here, Bob Adamsky, fleet manager for Area Wide Protective (AWP), discusses how the company has used the pandemic as an opportunity to cultivate strong relationships and improve the way it operates.
Protecting with the Right Trucks
Area Wide Protective, Inc. (AWP) is a professional traffic control company that protects its customers’ people, business, and time. Founded in 1993, the company delivers safe, reliable, and compliant traffic control services ranging from work zone flagging to comprehensive transportation management plans. The company employs 5,000 protectors at 124 locations across the U.S. and Canada.
Its fleet currently consists of 2,800 powered vehicles and 1,800 trailers, some with mounted equipment. AWP’s primary fleet vehicle is a light-duty, full-size, ½ ton pickup truck, which makes up almost 50% of the fleet. Medium-duty trucks make up less than 10%. Typically, a standard full-size pickup with an 8-foot bed and light-duty towing ability covers the largest percentage of the company’s needs.
Employees use company trucks to transport themselves and road safety equipment to various worksite scenarios that require flagging and traffic control – including creating road safety zones for everything from construction work to special events.
Adapting to Tough Times
The company strives to maximize utilization models to ensure timely assignment of available or underutilized trucks and equipment across the many geographical areas it serves. It continues to target the correct lifecycle of its fleet and equipment, as supply and resale dollars have varied over the last 12 months due to interruptions caused by COVID-19. One of its goals is to continue to reduce the downtime needed for repair and maintenance services.
To combat these challenges, AWP implemented telematics using Azuga GPS for tracking driver performance. The company won the Azuga Safety Star Fleet Driving Award for 2020, which involves ranking fleets with a weighted average of several individual components, including speeding, hard braking, harsh acceleration, and the number of trips made in a given day, and miles traveled per hour.
Partnering with the manufacturers of its fleet and equipment to better understand the engineered total lifecycle of major components and to find and rectify the most common fails has helped the company a great deal.
“AWP has cultivated strong relationships with its vendors and has developed a strong preventive maintenance program,” Adamsky said.
In addition to this, the company has been working to consolidate its outsourced programs and multiple leasing partners. It has also been conducting best practices training for drivers and field management, which has resulted in improved productivity and better financial results.
Overcoming COVID-19 Complications
Finding new business and keeping employees safe and productive while remaining profitable are critical challenges AWP and most fleet-based businesses have had to deal with during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The primary challenges the company faces include finding available pickup trucks as the company grows. Delayed order delivery times can cause the extension of service of an aged vehicle.
“There is no doubt challenging times still lay ahead, even as businesses continue counting their losses. 2020 brought many challenges; what we have learned from this experience will make us fleet managers better in the future,” Adamsky said.
Best Practices Yield Best Results
Adamsky entered the fleet world from the shop floor. He said he always knew from a young age that he enjoyed mechanical challenges and making things better. A few weeks after turning 16, he got his start as an auto mechanic at the local gas station, where he performed repairs and maintenance. A few years later, he worked as a flat-rate tech in a dealership but found the desire to treat all the vehicles like they were his own, not just warranty work or the cheapest repair.
He entered the fleet world as a company mechanic for a construction company. Immediately, he enjoyed improving the efficiency and longevity of trucks and equipment. This progressed into operational and financial efficiency.
“I truly enjoy the continued challenge of making a fleet operation better and more efficient. Prior best practices can always be improved by discovering new methods, and nothing is more exciting than seeing results,” he said.
His advice for others is to optimize your business operations by monitoring costs, leveraging technology, taking good care of your employees, and preparing for shifting customer needs.
“This will give you an edge over the tough times ahead,” he said.