By Daniel Valentine
GPS fleet tracking technology (also referred to as telematics) has made a name for itself over the past few years, with features and functionality that allow for complete fleet management. What was once associated with simple track- and-trace functionality, is now a crucial business tool for many businesses in almost every service-based industry, public and private. Companies and public-works agencies that handle wastewater treatment can use this technology to simplify business processes, improve organizational efficiency and increase worker productivity, while reducing operational costs.
Wastewater treatment providers often deliver services throughout many different areas, so it’s important that their business processes run smoothly. Fleet tracking technology allows owners and managers to streamline many of these processes, including job scheduling, route optimization and dispatching. Dispatchers can use drag-and-drop scheduling to view and assign jobs and service appointments to employees quickly and easily. When employees have multiple service appointments in a day, it’s crucial that they are provided with the most efficient routes, so they can respond quickly. Fleet tracking solutions can take all of the locations on a driver’s itinerary and order them to create the shortest and most efficient routes, which helps to increase productivity throughout the day, as well as reduce fuel costs.
Because sewer lines are underground, wastewater utility drivers typically navigate to sites using coordinates rather than physical addresses. Some fleet tracking providers allow for integration with GIS mapping technology. Having these internal Web Map Service (WMS)-based map layers overlaid on the existing maps helps dispatchers easily locate sewer lines and send drivers to accurate coordinates. Dispatchers can also pinpoint the closest driver to a location and re-route them instantly when service calls come in. Drivers can use in-vehicle Garmin® devices or mobile applications for smartphones and tablets to navigate directly to job sites and improve communication between the office and field.
Using in-vehicle Garmin devices or mobile applications on smartphones and tablets specifically designed for improved communication can help everyone in the office and out in the field stay connected. Drivers can quickly and easily receive appointments, update job statuses and report any problems on the job. Certain mobile applications also allow employees to clock in and out and record break times, automatically assign themselves to vehicles and update odometer readings right from their smartphones or tablets. This vastly streamlines processes, helps to increase efficiency and keeps everyone updated and informed around the clock.
Enhancing safety with technology
The importance of driver safety has gained much trac- tion over the past few years. Organizations have always been concerned with the well-being of their employees but many organizations, specifically those with employees in the field, are implementing solutions to try to improve driver safety. Speeding and reckless driving not only increase the risk of vehicle crashes, but directly impact company and agency reputations. In addition to a damaged reputation, aggressive driving can lead to costly lawsuits, draining any sort of budget. Wastewater treatment pro- viders can set up alerts that send them instant notification when employees are speeding or driving aggressively. Automated reports provide an in-depth look into driver behavior patterns, such as harsh braking, rapid acceleration and sharp cornering. Another big safety concern is employees using their cellphones and texting while driving company vehicles. A truly compre- hensive fleet tracking solution will also provide tools to help reduce distracted driving and properly educate drivers on safety. Certain providers offer mobile applications that use BluetoothTM trigger units that render cellphones unusable when vehicles are in motion. This eliminates the temptation to call, text, email or surf the web while driving. Management can also use online driver education courses as a proactive and reactive approach to driver safety. The courses can help to educate new hires on safety best-practices or reinforce safety measures for drivers with multiple instances of poor driver behavior. With a combination of safety reports and alerts, distracted-driving technology and driver training, wastewater treatment providers have all the tools necessary to improve driver safety and reduce vehicle crashes. As an added bonus, certain auto insurance providers even offer discounts of anywhere from five to 15 percent to organizations that utilize fleet tracking technology to improve driver safety.
Tracking equals savings
When budgets are tight, it’s important to find ways to cut costs. Keeping vehicles properly maintained is crucial when trying to reduce operational costs. Routine maintenance helps to prevent breakdowns and expensive repair costs and improves overall fuel efficiency. With most telematics systems, automated maintenance scheduling provides instant notification when it’s time for upkeep or repairs, helping to ensure preventive maintenance is occurring consistently and on schedule. Maintenance logs are also usually available. They offer details of services performed and reports provide an overall picture of fleet maintenance, helping to prolong vehicle life and reduce wear-and-tear. Well-maintained vehicles mean greater reliability, so employees can have peace of mind when driving to and from service appointments.
In addition to vehicle maintenance, payroll acts as a major operating expense for wastewater treatment providers. Fleet management technology allows management to monitor vehicle and driver activity, so they can ensure employees are working productively. Management can view bread-crumb trails to determine where employees have been throughout the day. This helps to pinpoint employees taking excessive lunch breaks or driving to unauthorized areas. Alerts can be set up to notify management when employees approach a certain amount of hours on the job each week, helping to reduce overtime and improve payroll accuracy. Because different organizations may have similar vehicles, it can be difficult to determine who to hold accountable when complaints are made. Being able to monitor vehicle activity and location can help managers to determine if their drivers are responsible when complaints are filed, helping to resolve disputes.
Wastewater treatment providers can use Power Take Off (PTO) sensors together with alerts and reports to monitor not only vehicle usage and activity, but also any extension of that vehicle used in the working process. With alerts, management can receive instant notification when drivers engage the vehicle’s PTO mechanism; for example, when water pumps are running. Reports offer information showing time, location and duration of pump usage in addition to standard vehicle data. This helps management better understand PTO usage and provides concrete data on sensor activity, helping to validate jobs.
Being able to keep an eye on vehicle activity can also help to minimize theft. Because service vehicles are extremely vital assets, it’s important to keep them safe and secure. Fleet tracking solutions can act as anti-theft devices, as they provide managers and owners with 24/7-access to vehicle location data. Geofences create virtual boundaries around locations and can be set up to trigger alerts when vehicles leave designated areas, instantly notifying management of unauthorized use. Being able to access this type of information at a moment’s notice increases the chances of locating and recovering stolen assets.
When fuel costs are constantly fluctuating, it can be especially difficult to manage expenses properly. Fleet tracking solutions can help wastewater treatment providers monitor fuel usage. Fuel reports allow management to pinpoint idling drivers and identify vehicles burning more fuel than they should, helping to eliminate wasteful practices. With fuel card integration, managers and owners can set limits on fuel-related purchases and keep an eye on fuel card transactions and maintenance purchases, reducing fuel card abuse and theft.
Many organizations are feeling the pressure to comply with green standards. Because motor vehicles contribute greatly to the spread of harmful pollutants throughout the environment, it’s important that organizations and businesses with vehicles and employees in the field implement green initiatives. Being able to monitor and reduce vehicle idling and provide drivers with efficient routes helps to lower the spread of harmful carbon emissions. Transitioning to automated business processes also helps organizations contribute to sustainability.
Companies and public works agencies that handle wastewater treatment can use fleet tracking technology to manage virtually every aspect of their business. Businesses that implement fleet tracking can save up to 20 percent in both fuel and labor costs and achieve ROI in as little as one month. With fleet tracking providers continuously investing in research and development, solutions will continue to advance to help businesses and organizations better manage their fleet related processes.
About the author
Daniel Valentine is the Director of Marketing at NexTraq®. With 15 years of experience in the technology industry, he brings extensive knowledge and strategic insight to his role. Valentine has been with NexTraq for three years and has a proven track record in planning, building and executing success- ful marketing strategies to increase brand identity and drive lead generation. He holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree from Schiller International University, Paris, France.
About the company
Headquartered in Atlanta, GA, NexTraq is part of FleetCor Technolo- gies, Inc., a leading global provider of fuel cards and workforce payment products. Since its inception, it has been a pioneer and innovator in the telematics space and now serves more than 110,000 subscribers. The NexTraq mission is to provide the most easy-to-use, reliable and comprehensive solution in the GPS vehicle and fleet tracking industry.
About the product
With more than a decade of industry experience, NexTraq is the GPS fleet management solution of choice for a growing number of customers with fleets ranging from two to more than 2,000 vehicles. The NexTraq Fleet Tracking system is a comprehensive fleet tracking solution with a number of features that increase productivity, reduce costs and simplify fleet and business operations. NexTraq Fleet DispatchTM is a powerful tool that allows you to easily schedule jobs, dispatch them to your ve- hicles and send messages to and from your workers in the field using a Garmin personal navigation device or the NexTraq ConnectTM mobile app, which simplifies other time-consuming methods of assigning jobs.