How to Improve Vehicle Maintenance And CSA Scores

For Veolia Environmental Services North America’s operating groups, reducing waste is not only a key part of the company’s mission, but also a key objective in the company’s fleet operation. To help it fulfill that objective, the Electronics Recycling Division (ERD) of Veolia ES Technical Solutions (www.veoliaes.com) in 2010 adopted Zonar’s electronic fleet management system. The system includes an electronic vehicle inspection reporting (EVIR) solution for pre- and post-trip inspections and an onboard telematics platform. The telematics system captures data, including fuel consumption, rate of travel, idle time and fault codes.

 

Zonar is a leading electronic fleet management solutions provider specializing in tracking and operations services for both private and public fleets (www.zonarsystems.com).

Managers at ERD monitor this data to manage driver performance and streamline the vehicle maintenance process, which helps with continuous improvement.

As a result of using Zonar to identify and then repair mechanical problems early, the division has realized $41,000 in year-over-year savings, says Michael Bomgardner, ERD’s fleet manager. Roadside service calls have been reduced by 22 percent, resulting in a savings of $13,000 when compared to a 12-month period prior to Zonar’s installation.

ERD has also experienced a 13 percent reduction in the amount of time its vehicles spend in the maintenance shop, realizing annual savings of about $28,000 as a result of improved maintenance shop efficiencies, he adds.

DOWNTIME COSTS LOWERED

Bomgardner’s estimate of these savings does not include Veolia driver downtime costs, which are based on $85 per hour.

Veolia charges customers when drivers are detained. It’s a fixed cost based in large part on how much Veolia pays drivers per mile, he explains.

That estimate also doesn’t include the cost of roadside assistance or equipment that must be repaired or replaced to return the truck to service.

Ultimately, reducing driver and vehicle downtime results in better on-time service to customers. This provides great value, notes Bomgardner, but is difficult to quantify in terms of savings.

CSA SCORES

More important than the savings are the significant improvements in the division’s and company’s scores under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) Program, says Bomgardner.

Since adopting the Zonar system, the division improved its percentile scores in nearly all of CSA’s seven Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories used to quantify on-the-road safety performance: Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo Securement and Crash History. The percentile scores were reduced by more than a third, which also has contributed to the reduction of overall company scores, he says.

CSA is an initiative designed to improve road safety by increasing FMCSA’s efficiency in collecting and utilizing inspection data to identify high-risk carriers and drivers. Under CSA, the lower the percentile score, the better.

COMPANY OPERATION

Veolia ES Technical Solutions offers a complete range of hazardous and non-hazardous waste services for industrial and municipal customers through its nationwide network of service, treatment, disposal and transportation facilities. The group operates incineration, solvent recycling and electronics recycling services, along with low-level radioactive and mixed waste solutions, and provides onsite services from a national footprint of locations.

The Phoenix-based ERD operates a mixed fleet of 33 tractors with dry van, flatbed and tanker trailers, maintained through a nationwide leasing program administered by Penske. With equipment running in all of the “Lower 48” states, ERD drivers or dispatchers call a toll-free number to schedule maintenance or arrange for assistance for emergency roadside service calls.

MAINTENANCE EFFICIENCIES

“By using Zonar and catching and fixing problems before our trucks leave, we’re avoiding having to pay a tremendous markup for whatever parts and pieces the roadside serviceman is going to sell us to fix our truck,” Bomgardner says.

Veolia also realizes savings through maintenance shop efficiencies because Penske can better respond to unscheduled maintenance issues, he adds.

“If the ‘check engine’ light comes on while the truck is out on the road, I’m going to see it at the same time or soon after the driver sees it on his dashboard,” explains Bomgardner. “Using Zonar, we can then determine whether it’s a problem that needs to be addressed right away or if the driver can continue to finish his run. I can then alert Penske that our truck is coming in and this is what the truck’s sensors are telling us.

“In these kinds of situations, we’re going to have downtime no matter what,” he observes. “Zonar gives us a heads up so we can minimize the effect on our operations by getting our trucks and drivers in and out of the shop faster and back on the road sooner.”

FACTUAL DATA FOR INCIDENTS

Another significant positive aspect of Zonar is being able to produce hard-to-refute records that show, among other things, how fast the company’s trucks are actually traveling when drivers are involved in accidents, says Bomgardner.

From August 2011 to August 2012, there were three accidents in which he was able to trace the path of the truck and clearly show what company drivers were doing. From a disciplinary standpoint, it cleared all three drivers from repercussions as far as the company was concerned.

“The Zonar system protects our company and our drivers when they’re involved in accidents by giving us the ability to show what happened,” he says. “That’s how we sold it to our drivers who were initially concerned about this ‘Big Brother’s watching you’ aspect.

“I think all of our drivers have really come to appreciate the need for this, particularly since we’re a hazardous materials hauler.”

Bomgardner says the company is better prepared should its safety records ever get audited by state or federal inspectors. Currently under CSA, all accidents count against the carrier and the driver, regardless of who is at fault.

A SUPPORTER OF CSA

Bomgardner says he has been a big proponent of CSA since it was introduced in late 2010 for two key reasons. One is that it places equal responsibility for safety on the company and its drivers. Secondly, it makes driver behaviors and pre- and post-trip inspections more critical to running a safer operation.

Bomgardner acknowledges that CSA could be a double-edged sword if it ever shows company drivers speeding or driving erratically. But since the Zonar system alerts him to vehicle speeds, it allows him to monitor driver behaviors and quickly identify potential problems and then address them before they lead to accidents.

Zonar’s onboard computer and EVIR make it easier to monitor and counsel drivers on their driving behaviors and for drivers to conduct their pre- and post-trip inspections correctly and more efficiently, he says.

“Because we’re doing better pre-trip and post-trip inspections on our equipment, we’re catching more problems before they leave to go on the road, and we’re identifying potential problems and fixing them before we go out. At the end of the day, we’re providing a better service for our customer and operating safer equipment on our highways.”

VEHICLE INSPECTIONMETHOD

Here’s how electronic vehicle inspection reporting helps Veolia accomplish better pre- and post-trip inspections. Zonar’s radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are placed, just once, on the division’s vehicles in critical inspection “zones.” These weather-tough tags contain information about their location on the vehicle, the components to be inspected and the identity of the vehicle or trailer.

Using Zonar’s 2010 inspection tool, Veolia drivers conduct their inspections by placing the reader within inches of each tag and indicating the condition of the components within the zone with one-handed, push-button responses. When a defect is discovered, the driver selects a description from a pre-defined list and indicates if the vehicle is safe to operate.

When the inspection is complete, the driver places the handheld Zonar 2010 into the cradle of the vehicle mount, typically located in the cab. The information is then instantly transmitted to a secure database that Bomgardner can readily access from any web-browser via Zonar’s Ground Traffic Control web-based fleet management software to have a real-time picture of fleet operations.

“We have to improve and maintain good CSA scores in order to maintain our safety rating,” he says. “If we lose our good safety rating, then we can’t haul certain hazardous materials for Fortune 500 companies, and that’s our bread and butter to make a living. We can’t afford to have a cowboy out there driving a truck, getting us into trouble and jeopardizing our livelihood.”

Mike Bartholomew, director of special programs for Veolia ES Technical Solutions, adds that Veolia’s customers are increasingly recognizing the importance of their carriers having a good and robust asset tracking and management program in place. As a result, the company has plans to expand the use of Zonar in more of its divisions.

“With some of the high-hazard materials we haul, safety and security are critical issues,” he says. “Our customers need to know where our trucks are, and having the ability to track them using Zonar is a very important tool for our operation.”

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