When Ronny New installed the first telematics device in his fleet, he thought it was broken. The general manager for Austin, TX-based Southside Towing was interested in using telematics devices from Networkcar to help locate and dispatch his wreckers when the City of Austin needed a vehicle towed away. To find out how well it worked, he had one unit installed in the oldest truck in the fleet. The GPS-based location function worked like a dream, but New kept getting e-mail after e-mail informing him that the truck was throwing fault codes.
IT MUST BE BROKEN... RIGHT?
What did New do with all those e-mails? Well, he didn't install the unit to get maintenance alerts, so he ignored them.
"We run our old trucks 24 hours a day, because we try to use them up, and I had put the unit in our oldest truck," New explains. "So I'm receiving all these e-mails every day, and I'm wondering, 'What is going on?' I thought it was broken, because I was receiving too many e-mails! I just ignored it, thinking the system wasn't working, that it had a short in it and it kept sending me stuff."
But at the end of the month, New decided to bring the truck in for an inspection, and he was surprised by what he found. Every maintenance alert that Networkcar had sent to his e-mail in box was legit.
"Sure enough," he says, "it had all these things that were coming up, ABS sensors, everything.
"We'd never had a truck that could talk to us," he says. "We just thought, 'It can't be,' because if there was something wrong, if all these codes were true, the truck would be sitting on the side of the road. From that point on, we started bringing it in, and sure enough, all these little things started adding up."
Even after that stellar performance, New had trouble convincing the owner of the company to equip the entire fleet with Networkcar units, but in the end he prevailed. Today, two years after that trial run, all 21 wreckers in the Southside fleet keep in touch with the home base with a telematics unit that is transparent to the driver.
Because New needed the Networkcar system to aid in vehicle location, that modality has always seen heavy use. Southside Towing has an exclusive contract with the City of Austin for auto hauling and impound work involving arrests, and stolen and abandoned vehicles, and the company is in rotation with other companies to recover wrecked vehicles from accident sites.
The fleet's light-duty trucks work around the clock on those contracts. The heavy-duty wreckers handle heavy truck towing and everything else that comes up: "You name it," New says, "and we do it."
Telematics has made the dispatch operations much more efficient than ever before, New says.
"We operate differently than other tow companies," he explains. "Other companies, if there's a vehicle to be towed in North Austin, and they've got a truck in South Austin and one in North Austin, well, they're going to send the one in North Austin. The way we operate is, no matter where that vehicle is, we have to send the truck that can get there the fastest, because of the city contract."
In other words, a tow truck that's closer to the vehicle may be in the middle of a job, while a truck that's farther away may be free and able to respond in half the time.
"It's all about response time," New says, and Networkcar has helped to cut that time. "If you're in the dispatch screen, there's actually an icon you can click on next to the location of the vehicle we need to tow; you can click on that icon, and it'll bring Networkcar's map up and show you your closest vehicle to that location. That's one way it helps with dispatching."
"The Networkcar people told me that they built the system on the diagnostics end of things, and it's kind of hard to sell that," New says. "People just think, 'Well, when the truck breaks down I'll figure out what's wrong with it.'
"I was the same way: when the truck breaks down, the driver will tell me something's wrong," he goes on. "Now that I have it and I'm using it, yeah, I would have bought it for the diagnostics alone."