Tri City Glass is learning to use telematics to operate its fleet more efficiently

We've been using the Sprinters as our service vehicles because our techs have a lot of parts on each one, so they're a little bit larger so we can incorporate the racks, plus they can actually stand up inside, whereas a regular van was pretty hard to work out of.

FM: Are specific drivers dedicated to specific vehicles?

LB: They are primarily in the same vehicle. Occasionally they switch around, depending on what they're hauling or what they're doing, but they primarily are assigned.

So there's a sense of ownership, and also, if we switched vehicles between drivers, if there's something that happened to one particular vehicle, you would never know who to ask, because there are different drivers. This way it's easier to keep track.

We have one truck that requires a CDL, and we have a few people who have their CDLs, but there is one primary driver.

FM: Do you outsource your maintenance?

LB: Yes, we do. We have three locations, and we deal with a few different vendors, depending on the vehicle type. Some work better with the gas engines, some with diesel, so we coordinate our maintenance through the local providers. They do a good job for us.

FM: Are there some instances where you need to let your trucks idle while on a job?

LB: Mainly with the auto glass replacements. Typically if we're changing a windshield, that job takes about an hour, hour-and-a-half. But the sealants, to work properly, need to be kept above freezing. And the glass, when it's set against the adhesive, needs to be warm to get the proper bond. So with that in mind, we set our normal service and install trucks at a 15-minute idle time; that's the maximum that we allow before we get an alert. But our auto glass vehicles, in the wintertime, we have bumped out to an hour.

We don't like to see any of the vehicles idling any longer than that. It's just not needed.

The unit doesn't shut off the truck; it sends us an alert via e-mail, and then we'll talk to the driver. There's a handful of people who, it's just the way they've always done things to leave the truck running. It's not their gas money, so I guess they're just weren't in tune with what that actually costs.

FM: Have you quantified how much idle time you've eliminated?

LB: We haven't actually done any tests to get the actual results, but I know from when we first installed the units until now, our alert rate has gone down drastically. In the first few days and weeks, it was almost an hourly thing that we were getting alerts for speeding and maximum idle time. That has been drastically reduced, so I do know that our drivers have a better awareness that we're watching.

FM: How do the drivers feel about that?

LB: At first there was a little uneasiness with it. They were thinking it was more of a watchdog-type thing, but as we got more and more involved with it, we've had a number of things come up that have saved us substantial amounts of money. Number one is fuel economy; we can see those fuel rates were bumped up slightly. And we had one unit send a diagnostic alert to us concerning a problem with a turbocharger, and it was right at the vehicle's warranty expiration period. We weren't experiencing any performance problems, but it said there was a potential problem. When we brought it into the dealer, they checked it out and said, 'Boy, it's a good thing you caught this, because if you had run it for another month or so, if the turbocharger had flown apart or broken down, components could have gone into the engine, and it would have cost $4,000 just for a new engine.' But we caught it under warranty.

Those are the kinds of things that, as they come up, we bring up to our installers and techs, and say, 'There are other reasons for this than just watching where you're going.'

FM: How has the telematics system helped you with asset management? Has it made your fleet utilization more efficient?

LB: Most definitely. We had a number of situations where, with our multiple locations, we have our service guys out on jobs, and say one of them is at the mall and he needs a hand setting a big piece of glass or removing a door, he'll call back and ask if we can send someone to give him a hand for an hour or so. Well, we look at the GPS, and our other store has a vehicle and installer on the other end of the mall. We just call him up and send him, and five minutes later he's there to help. It's a huge time-saver.

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