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Fleet management systems reduce expenses, increase safety for contracting businesses, Part 2

Nov. 7, 2013
Safety driving programs are growing due to distracted driving. Mobile apps are becoming more popular, streamlining productivity. Fleet management systems may help lower insurance costs. Fleet management continues to go hand-in-hand with fuel efficiency.  

Part 2 of the article, Fleet management systems reduce expenses, increase safety for contracting businesses, will feature fleet management experts discussing the future of GPS fleet management systems and the areas that are poised for growth.  

According to Chris Ransom, director of sales engineering for Verizon Networkfleet, right now telematics is only about 25% penetrated in the market. “People are still looking for new ways to become more efficient and as businesses start putting in more telematics to become more efficient, so will their competitors,” says Ransom.  

Networkfleet's map tracking allows dispatchers to see where vehicles are at during all times.

“One of the reasons that we are seeing an uptick is because companies in the industry have a conversion of value,” adds Ransom. “When looking at the cost of the product and technology, you get to the point that it’s no longer just appropriate for early adopters that understand the value they can drive out of it, it’s also appropriate for everybody that can drive value out of it because the value is now across the board.”

Ransom also notes that it’s a really exciting time and the next three to five years will be great. “We are excited to be positioned with Verizon now, so it makes a world of opportunities open up for us,” says Ransom.  

In March, Verizon rolled out Networkfleet on the Verizon Wireless network. Networkfleet is a fleet-management solution that provides a wide variety of monitoring and management capabilities for increased productivity and improved customer service.

The Networkfleet solution, part of Hughes Telematics which Verizon acquired last year, is now combined with the speed and reliability of the Verizon Wireless network.

According to Ashley Jones, director of marketing at NexTraq, the areas that customers are most interested in and will no doubt grow in the future are mobile apps and safety. Plus, keeping an eye on fuel efficiency will always be a concern.  

NexTraq's Instaview shows exactly where the vehicle is on the street.

“Our users are utilizing a lot of mobile apps to mobilize their workforce,” says Jones.

“They can clock in and out without having to be in the office. It verifies time worked. It acts like a virtual time card. Instead of going into the office at the end of the day, they don’t have to do that to clock out. We also have an intuitive user interface with the mobile app. Some of our customers communicate electronically through the app, increasing productivity.” 

Jones said “Our fleet tracking solution also has a job schedule board with drag-and-drop functionality, ensuring better customer service.”

NexTraq also has a web service offering, so any third party application can be integrated with the customer’s existing solutions.”

Jones explains, “As an example, we integrated our solution with a customer’s power outage software specific to the utility industry through our web services offering, so if there is a need for it, then we will integrate with solutions. We can definitely integrate with a jobsite management solution.”

Safety is another issue that is becoming more of a concern because of distracted driving.

“We ramped up our safety offerings,” says Jones. “We have a Driver Safety Scorecard, which is not used to call out a driver, but it’s something that you can talk to a driver about if you see that there is hard breaking or aggressive speeding. We also offer an award-winning districted driving solution and online driver safety courses. We also developed a driver safety handbook with a leading risk and safety consultant to help our customers improve fleet safety.”

“I’ve actually seen a service truck hit a car and it’s not pretty,” adds Jones. “I think companies big and small are smart enough to realize the fallout from a lawsuit.” 

CONTRACTOR magazine also had an opportunity to discuss the future of GPS fleet management systems with Jonathan Durkee, VP of product marketing at Fleetmatics.

Fleetmatics dashboard home, showing idling time, speed violations, etc.

According to Durkee, in the past few years, there are three new areas in which GPS helps contractors lower their bottom line.

GPS can help lower insurance costs, and Fleetmatics released a driving style feature about 18 months ago. This feature tells customers when there is harsh breaking, a quick start, and hard cornering.

“You can get an idea of the driving style that a person has out there on the road,” said Durkee. “With that we developed a proprietary safety score that takes into account harsh driving as well as other risk factors that contribute to a likely hood of a collision, such as driving during hours that are riskier to be on the road,  high speed, night time driving, etc.”

All the driving style information the feature obtains is then considered for a driver’s safety score.

“A lot of customers use this to create a safety program,” explained Durkee. “It’s an easy way to jump start a safety program. Using something like this doesn’t ensure an insurance savings, but our solution as a part of an overall safety program, enables a company to go to the insurance provider and make a very strong case for an adjustment in an insurance rate. A lot of customers have built their safety program around the safety score that we offer.”

Another new area that popped up a few years ago is apps.“We released native apps for iPhone and Android a little over two years ago and these have been incredibly received,” explained Durkee. “It’s clear contractors are not behind their desks much, so they really value how they have access to the fleet management where they are. We have strong mobile capabilities. We are one of the first providers to launch native apps for the iPhone and Android and we have really invested significantly there. We also released last year an app that is designed for the driver. There are basic tools out there that help the driver.”

Another area Fleetmatics is focusing on is business intelligence value with the information available with the fleet management solution. The company invests resources in unlocking additional insights for customers that can drive their performance further.

Durkee explains, “For example, for contractors we can provide them benchmarks for what is the average miles per day for the vehicle in that industry, and we can narrow it down to the geographic area they are in. When they evaluate their own performance they can compare how they are doing based on prior months but can also evaluate how they are doing based on other people in the area that are in the same line of work. This gives people a flavor of how they are really doing.”

Contractors can find out if they are doing good or if there is room for improvement. “The solutions are getting smarter and smarter,” says Durkee. “The key is how you unlock additional insights from the information.”

Looking towards the future, Durkee thinks that the industry will see different solutions that contractors use coming together, such as vehicle tracking, field service management and work order management productivity solutions.

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