Looking at today’s high-tech construction equipment, it’s hard to miss the addition of telematics software as manufacturers look for ways to help customers get the most out of their machines and businesses. These systems help construction contractors maximize the long-term investments of owning off-highway equipment, preventing unexpected downtime, property theft and a variety of other equipment inefficiencies. But telematics is not just for earthmoving machinery. Truck fleets have always been a prime target for electronic fleet management, even though acceptance has been slow.
According to a study by service market research firm MarketsandMarkets, only 12.6 percent of commercial vehicles in the United States and Canada are optimized with fleet management solutions.
Looking to improve that number and grab a larger slice of the global fleet management pie, Fleetmatics, a global provider of mobile workforce solutions for service-based businesses of all sizes, rolled out a new, and some would say bar-setting, platform with three new products based on that platform. The Boston and Dublin, Ireland-based company made the official announcement April 8 at a simulcast launch event in New York City and London.
The new products include Fleetmatics Reveal, a highly-differentiated business-intelligence based fleet management solution for small-and-mid-sized businesses like plumbers, flower delivery drivers, landscapers, utility contractors and public works departments; Fleetmatics Reveal+, which extends Fleetmatics Reveal to larger enterprises with national fleets; and Fleetmatics Work, a field service management solution, which can augment either Reveal option. Fleetmatics clients include Thompson Cat, Utility Partners of America, New Jersey Natural Gas and EnviroVac.
“Today’s service-based businesses have an opportunity to achieve new levels of excellence and profitability in managing their mobile workforces,” said Jim Travers, Fleetmatics CEO and chairman of the board at the launch event. “Whether for a business with five service vehicles or many thousands, Fleetmatics’ new platform helps businesses to be smarter about their mobile workforces and turn them into true engines for growth, cost savings and differentiating customer service. As part of that equation, we’re providing customers intelligence about their business, such as how the fleet has performed operationally in the past and how their performance compares with similar businesses. This capability is powered by tens of billions of data points gathered through the system over the past several years. This incredibly rich data set has also helped us generate the new concepts and features in our products.”
The data collected every 90 seconds from vehicles (both equipment and trucks) equipped with Fleetmatics software amounted to 52 billion data points by the end of 2013. That is a mountain of data considering the company, founded in 2004, has approximately 23,000 clients worldwide and the software is in 472,000 vehicles. Designed with customers in mind, the end goal of the new platform, and the new products, is an improved and simplified customer experience. This goal brings the addition of mobile capabilities for Android and Apple products, improved geofencing options, timeline view, driver-centric vs. vehicle-centric data, money based metrics, live alerts and field service management integration for customers who purchase the Fleetmatics Work software.
How does this factor into the life of a contractor?
“We have our Fleetmatics Reveal solution, which is our GPS telematics solution, and we offer another solution called Fleetmatics Work that was recently launched in the market that is more of a workforce management software used to create work orders and send jobs to the field application,” said Todd Ewing, director of product marketing. “The primary use for these types of folks [utility contractors] would be the Fleetmatics Reveal solution. Fleetmatics Work is more focused on a small business [white van] market.
“I think Fleetmatics Reveal would make the most sense for contractors because where they are seeing value with us today is in understanding real time location — being able to coach those drivers throughout the day whether that’s in real time or whether that’s after the fact, and getting value out of fuel payroll savings and things of that nature which is in the Reveal platform.”
The company recently released its first FleetBeat report, which looked at the five years of data points from 12 categories of Fleetmatics customers from heavy and light contractors to passenger transportation and trucking companies. Some of the highlights for the heavy contractor segment, when employing the Fleetmatics software, included:
■ Heavy contractors reduced payroll hours on the job by more than two hours per vehicle (crew), resulting in payroll savings per vehicle of $76.73 (daily) and $18,537 (annually)
■ Heavy contractors, such as utility contractors, were able to add an extra job stop per day, per vehicle without adding hours to the work day
■ Heavy contractors realized a reduction in idling by 8 percent per vehicle
“The lowest hanging fruit for our customers is in those fuel savings,” Ewing explained. “It’s amazing how much fuel is out the door, even with some of our largest customers in cable, teleco and utilities. In many cases the technicians may not feel responsible for turning off the engine and may leave the company’s vehicles idling for hours without a second thought.”
With the GPS-based software in place, business owners, among other things, can monitor fuel, payroll, start and end times and driving habits. With the data in hand, it’s up to the contractor to implement a plan of action, whether it be alerts when idling for more than a certain amount of minutes, going 10 mph over the speed limit or starting earlier than a specified time. Ewing says it’s important for the business owner to realize that these items need constant monitoring and these systems are most effective when owners use the findings to educate the drivers to keep bad habits from returning.
The new Fleetmatics platform can provide driver-centric metrics, beyond monitoring a particular vehicle, an important feature when trying to improve driver behavior considering it’s the operator that has the need for speed not the work truck. Also in the Fleetmatics toolbox is a geofencing system that not only accepts customer input including customer or asset locations to create the fences the system also assesses the tracking data on a weekly basis and suggests new geofences based on that data. In the customer dashboard, the geofenced areas are listed by names that the customer recognizes — Head end 7 or North Olmsted United Rentals for example — as opposed to a street address that they might have to look up to further decipher where their equipment is.
All of this reporting is done in real-time and equipment owners can choose when and how the data is received whether it is immediate text alerts, daily or weekly e-mails. Though the Fleetmatics software is geared mostly to vehicles, Ewing says that there is equipment outfitted with the software and the systems can be attached to anything from forklifts and generators to excavators and backhoes.
“It tends to be a complement because OEM software is targeted at mostly maintenance of equipment and in many cases it may tie back to the dealer as opposed to the owner,” Ewing said. “Our software is more focused on end consumers and productivity metrics to derive more ROI from the field as opposed to solely looking at maintenance.”
Among the benefits of using the Fleetmatics software on compact equipment includes monitoring idling — one of the key wastes of fuel for an equipment owner, monitoring for theft and tracking service intervals for equipment that does not feature OEM telematics software.
“We work closely with our customers to push the envelope on what could be possible with service fleet and field service management solutions,” said Peter Mitchell, CTO for Fleetmatics.
Tags: August 2014 Print Magazine, Fleetmatics, Software
Mike Kezdi is a contributing editor to Compact Equipment, based in Brecksville, Ohio.