What initially drove PoolCorp to use a GPS system in its delivery vehicles was the desire to become more fuel-efficient and reduce maintenance costs. In doing so, the fleet has also reduced accidents, as well as the unsafe driving behavior that usually causes them.

Managing the PoolCorp Fleet

More than 3,600 employees, 285 locations, and 70,000 wholesale customers worldwide make up PoolCorp, a worldwide wholesale distributor of swimming pool products and related equipment. The fleet management team, based in Covington, La., consists of Fleet Manager Margret Huval, Janet Howell, delivery truck fleet assistant, and Jodie Smith, assigned vehicle fleet assistant.

Huval has been fleet manager at PoolCorp for 31/2 years. She began her career with the company as a fleet assistant. Currently, her duties include servicing the fleet and company drivers throughout the U.S. and Canadian branches. She is responsible for budgeting, vehicle manufacturer negotiations, selecting appropriate vehicles for the selector, implementing cost savings initiatives and programs in conjunction with its fleet management company PHH Arval, providing requested information to company executives, and policies and procedures.

PoolCorp operates approximately 1,300 leased vehicles and forklifts. The fleet includes executive, sales, and administration units, mostly Dodge Ram 1500 Quad trucks and delivery vehicles. These vary from cargo vans and stake beds to flatbeds with Sellick Piggybacks and tractor trailers. While most sales and administration vehicles are kept in service for 32-36 months or 75,000 miles, delivery vehicles are usually replaced after 65 months or 225,000 miles.

Approximately 525 vehicles are assigned to branch managers, business development representatives, and regional sales personnel, with about 512 drivers operating delivery vehicles, Huval said.

"Our company provides driver training on multiple levels, depending on the type of driving the employee is required to do," said Huval.

The fleet management company provided training sessions to branch office managers and the fleet department staff to help monitor driver behavior and give appropriate feedback to drivers.

The GPS technology is only available in delivery vehicles, where personal use is not allowed. Vehicles operated by sales and corporate staff are not equipped with GPS.

Increasing Fuel Efficiency

PoolCorp installed the first NetworkCar GPS devices in April 2005. With a fuel consumption of more than 3 million gallons annually, PoolCorp was continually looking for ways to increase fuel efficiency.

PoolCorp’s interests were in monitoring speed, vehicle location, engine diagnostics, idling, and improving efficiency and vehicle routing. Speeding and idling were already known to be gas-guzzling culprits, so GPS was tested out.

"We evaluated GPS companies based upon their financial strength, capabilities, and the cost of the solution. NetworkCar was a finalist," Huval said. "Ironically, our fleet management partner, PHH, was evaluating GPS partners at the same time. When we found out that PHH had selected NetworkCar, we felt confident in moving ahead with them," she added.

By integrating GPS and vehicle diagnostic data from the NetworkCar device with PHH accident, maintenance, and fuel data, the department knew it would provide several advantages.

"NetworkCar was the best fit for our needs, in terms of features, cost, and especially because of the potential integration with PHH’s systems," Huval said.

Getting More Than Expected

"Before we had the GPS device, we didn’t have a way to evaluate our performance in these areas. Having the diagnostic data on our trucks serves two important roles," Huval explained. PHH gets an early warning whenever the truck’s computer indicates a problem, so they call the truck operator with instructions to take the vehicle in for servicing. Because the warnings happen frequently, Huval said they can avoid major repairs. PHH’s maintenance technicians can also see the diagnostic data when the repair shop calls for authorization of repairs.

This way, "PHH can ‘keep the shop honest,’ knowing more about what’s actually wrong with the vehicle," Huval said.

In the vehicles equipped with the NetworkCar device, PoolCorp has seen a substantial improvement in both fuel consumption and maintenance costs. Fuel mpg improved 6.5 percent and maintenance expense dropped by 14.6 percent.

"We have been able to practically eliminate speeding, and we have a better understanding of how much our vehicles idle. We are working toward enforcing a policy there, which should further improve fuel consumption. We are also looking for additional ways to measure productivity and improve routing efficiency," Huval said.

Staying Out of Danger

The fleet department continuously monitors driving behavior and sends violations to the management team in a timely fashion.

"If drivers don’t get that feedback immediately, they begin to forget the device is installed," Huval said.

The fleet has seen a significant reduction in accident rates in the GPS-installed vehicles. Most accident/incidents reported in GPS-equipped vehicles are related to unsafe driving habits — "damaged while parked," "clearance," and "backing and parking" incidents.

According to Huval, vehicles with GPS reported 40-percent fewer accidents and 48-percent lower repair cost per incident. Seventy-five percent more accidents were recoverable, and there were no accidents involving injury.

"Because we’ve had fewer and less serious accidents, our overall accident-related expenses have been reduced," Huval said. Throughout the company, PoolCorp’s response to the early results produced with the GPS systems has been positive.

"The general and regional managers are really digging into the information now to hold their branches more accountable for their actions," Huval said. Dri- vers have also responded positively, she added.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet