By Del Williams
In the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, owners and fleet managers of service businesses such as landscaping, plumbing, electrical, and HVAC still need to manage their fleets, but may not want to go to the office daily and risk possible exposure to themselves or others.
Fortunately, using technology like a real-time GPS vehicle tracking system via a smartphone, tablet, or PC remotely (in addition to email, Zoom meetings, etc.) they can socially distance as well as dynamically manage their fleets and work crews throughout the day without missing a beat.
In fact, compared to traditional techniques like meeting face-to-face and shuffling paperwork, the advanced technology now available actually improves control and allows immediate response and adjustment to the inevitable emergencies and changing demands that occur throughout the day.
“With an advanced, real-time GPS vehicle tracking system, essentially all employees can socially distance,” says Ben VanAvery, director of sales and marketing at Advanced Tracking Technologies (ATTI), a Houston, Texas-based designer and manufacturer of GPS tracking products. “To avoid potential viral transmission from other employees and vehicles, they can leave from their homes in their typical company vehicle and go directly to the jobsite without returning to the office except to retrieve any needed supplies.”
According to VanAvery, such a GPS tracking system can facilitate social distancing and virtually eliminate the need for routine personal interaction, while ensuring that drivers and work crews stay on task.
“Dispatches can be made throughout the day and sent directly to the driver’s phone to tell the work crew the next jobsite address,” he explains. “Once they complete the job, it is recorded in the system so the dispatcher, owner, or fleet manager can stay apprised. In that way, it can serve as a remote time sheet.”
FOR THE JOB
When emergencies occur or work must be handled by the nearest qualified, available technician, such a system can be very advantageous.
“With real-time GPS vehicle tracking you can see which technicians you have across the area, including who is nearest and who is experienced and properly qualified for the job,” VanAvery says. “By accessing real-time traffic data in the software, you can identify who is easiest to send to that location as well.”
As an example, one GPS vehicle tracking device, the Vision™ from ATTI transmits 10-second updates, showing precisely where vehicles are the moment the fleet manager or dispatcher needs to know.
Compared with typical GPS tracking devices that may only update every few minutes, the system provides real-time location updates as well as speed and idle time alerts if something is amiss. This data is transmitted via satellite and cellular networks to a smartphone or PC on a 24/7 basis. The system has access to nationwide speed limits in its database.
When logistics during the pandemic require it, with such a system the fleet manager or dispatcher via a smartphone app or PC can also display the real-time location of the entire fleet on a map and zoom in on any specific vehicle. At a glance, he or she can see if a vehicle is moving (displays green) or stopped (displays red). If he or she touches a vehicle icon, the app will display where the vehicle has been, where it stopped, and how long it has idled.
By zooming in or out on the map, the fleet manager can see where all the fleet’s vehicles are and quickly reallocate any to where they are most needed. This can be particularly important if the volume of delivery or requests suddenly changes and must be rapidly accommodated.
To instill greater self-monitoring and efficiency during the pandemic, fleet managers can configure the system to automatically send real-time text or email alerts to individual drivers, groups, or the entire fleet if factors such as traffic congestion, travel route, vehicle speed, starts, stops, or idling pose a concern or deviate from policy.
Emailed vehicle tracking reports can be configured to automatically summarize fleet performance of such factors on a periodic basis to help determine which routes are the most efficient. Such a system can be easily customized and automated to enable business owners and fleet managers to more easily manage their service organization’s vehicle fleet and work flow.
EFFICIENCY & SAFETY
During the pandemic or any period when a quick response is required, advanced GPS tracking systems can also improve efficiencies on more established routes.
For example, because the GPS system is automated, travel reports can be generated that analyze vital historical data—such as on-time pick-ups or drop-offs—and can be emailed without anyone having to open software. The reports can be customized as needed to include as much detail as needed, such as how many stops, how long per location, top speed, mileage, idle times of the day, etc. Identifying and implementing more efficient routing and performance, in turn, enables individual drivers and the fleet as a whole to accomplish more in less time.
When fleet managers are busy dealing with the logistical impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, such a system can also help individual drivers to drive more safely and take greater responsibility for their own conduct without the need to micro manage. A maximum vehicle speed of say no more than 8 mph over the posted limit, can be set and drivers informed of this. The system will then track their vehicle speed and compare this with the speed limit in its national data base, with exceptions automatically emailed to the driver and fleet manager in a report, if desired.
Additionally, implementing real-time GPS tracking can increase driver accountability by making them less inclined to take unauthorized excursions such as for personal errands when not on a job or rescue. This can help to minimize unnecessary vehicle mileage, fuel use, and wear and tear. On the plus side, GPS tracking can also be used to recognize and reward consistently rapid employee response.
For any service business owner or fleet manager, the bottom line however is that today’s advanced GPS tracking systems can help keep everyone as socially distanced from each other as possible, while still enabling optimal vehicle and crew management for work productivity.