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3 Ways to Leverage Your Fleet to Weather the Construction Labor Shortage

Feb. 12, 2020
Your vehicles and assets are your greatest advantage when it comes to combating this worker shortage.

by Ryan Reading, VP of Engineering, Samsara

More than 79% of construction companies are suffering from worker shortages and are actively looking to hire new talent. The problem? Current construction workers are retiring and millennials—who are more likely to seek out office jobs than previous generations—aren’t replacing this aging workforce.

The result? There just aren’t enough skilled laborers to go around. In fact, industry experts expect workforce growth to slow to less than 1% over the next 10 years. This labor shortage isn’t just inconvenient, it’s impacting businesses of all sizes. With fewer workers, jobs take longer to complete, which cuts into your profits and efficiency.

The good news is, your vehicles and assets are your greatest advantage when it comes to  combating this worker shortage. Here are three ways your operations team can strategically utilize your fleet to run an efficient, safe, and profitable construction company, despite a limited pool of workers.

Attract and retain workers by promoting safety

It's critical to retain the skilled workers you've already hired, with construction having one of the highest employee churn rates of any industry. One way to tackle this is by putting your worker's safety front and center and demonstrating your commitment to a safe workplace, no matter how tough the job.

While construction companies often have programs in place for on-site worker safety, there’s room to promote safety on the road. Reducing accidents en-route to job sites creates an all-around safer company. And in doing this, you show workers that you care about their health and well-being, and that you see them as more than just employees.

Identifying dangerous behavior is also critical to improving workers’ safety while driving, and taking steps to make corrections. Dash cameras can be extremely helpful for understanding what’s actually happening on the road. In fact, fleets deploying dash cams have been proven to reduce accidents by 52%. Using this technology gives fleet managers greater visibility into harsh events on the road, like sudden braking and harsh accelerating, and enables a comprehensive understanding of what caused that event. This kind of insight can improve driver coaching and training to ultimately reduce these safety-related incidents.

You can also use these insights to develop safety scores and reward your safest workers—those with the fewest accidents on job sites and on the road. Building out a rewards program is a simple and effective way to recognize your top workers while improving your company’s overall safety. Rewards don’t have to be monetary—You can award your safest workers with career advancement, award plaques, special parking spots, or hardhat stickers and decals. It’s often the recognition and appreciation that makes a difference.

When you build out training and promotion programs that reward your best employees, you make your commitment to their safety and growth tangible. Workers that feel appreciated and respected are more likely to stick with your company and not seek out other opportunities.

Curb costs through right-sizing 

With fewer workers available for jobs, projects are taking longer to complete, which is increasing costs for construction companies. Since 2018, the amount of money it takes contractors to complete jobs has increased by 4.84%. By maximizing the utilization of your fleet, you have an opportunity to make up for these lengthy, costly jobs that the construction labor shortage is creating.

Maximizing your fleet’s utilization begins with right-sizing. Right-sizing is all about ensuring you have the right number of vehicles and assets you need to successfully run your business. Telematics solutions can help you right-size in a data driven way, by aggregating usage data for your entire fleet in real time. Vehicle gateways and asset trackers, for example, plug into your vehicles and powered assets to track mileage and engine hours. You can also opt into specialized utilization reports, which use engine data to calculate what percentage of time your powered assets are being used during work hours, so you can easily identify opportunities to allocate your assets more efficiently.

If you have underused vehicles and powered assets, you can either sell them or rent them out to generate more revenue. This revenue actually has the potential to make up for the increase in construction job costs that the labor shortage is creating.

Improve productivity with preventative maintenance 

Your employees can’t work without the necessary equipment—Having assets and vehicles constantly in and out of shops not only cuts into your profits but also reduces productivity. As job lengths grow due to fewer workers, every vehicle and piece of equipment plays a critical role in helping you complete more projects on time.

Automating your preventative maintenance schedules will allow you to cut down on machine downtime, which increases the productivity of your workforce and helps reduce job length. When navigating a labor shortage, this increased productivity can make up for having a smaller number of employees.

The best preventative maintenance schedules are created based on engine usage data continuously pulled directly from your machines. Telematics solutions can make tracking this data seamless—they automatically track mileage or engine usage and allow you to set maintenance alerts, so you don’t have to rely on manually logging odometer data and engine hours to create preventative maintenance schedules.

If vehicles or heavy machinery alert with a fault code while on the road or on a job, your mechanics can immediately receive automated texts or emails about what issue has been detected. By receiving these immediate alerts, your mechanics have time to prepare the necessary tools and parts for repairs before the vehicle or asset even arrives at the shop.

The tools are in your hands

By leveraging your fleet to incentivize safe workers, right-size your vehicles and assets, and improve your maintenance, you can weather the construction worker shortage so you can continue running an efficient, safe, and profitable business.

Ryan leads Samsara’s high-performance software engineering team. He has played a central role in scaling the team and the Samsara platform to meet the rapidly changing needs of a company in hyper-growth. Ryan’s teams iterate quickly and enjoy a high level of autonomy, ownership, and impact that is central to Samsara’s engineering culture.

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