Owners and managers in the vending industry are aware that it's essential to monitor and manage their fleets. In an industry that relies on drivers servicing their routes in company vehicles, operators know that overseeing those vehicles and drivers is a necessary task. Fleet and asset tracking are becoming more common than ever, as fleet managers look to increase efficiency and cut back on costs in their fleets during a tough economy.
Vending operators today are using a range of new information technologies to improve efficiency and boost profit in a tough economy. State-of-the-art automated vehicle location can contribute substantially to this effort. Less "windshield time" makes drivers more productive while reducing fuel expense, and the ability to monitor route trucks remotely can enhance security, improve safety and cut maintenance cost. The global positioning system is the key to deploying a versatile set of tools for intelligent vehicle tracking.
While a GPS fleet-tracking solution can go a long way toward doing that, managers are often reluctant to employ such a solution because of concern over employee resistance. Just as with route drivers asked to use data-retrieval devices instead of their familiar manual route cards, securing employee "buy-in" by explaining the benefits to them and involving them in the implementation of the system can go a long way toward overcoming this.
And it is worth doing. A comprehensive GPS fleet tracking solution is an essential business tool for fleet-based route delivery companies as it cuts back on costs and liability in a number of ways.
FUEL COST SAVINGS
In an industry that relies heavily on vehicles, fuel costs are a major concern for vending operators. A GPS fleet-tracking solution can assist in reducing these costs in two ways: efficiency and vehicle reporting. According to AAA's 2013 Your Driving Costs study, the cost of owning and operating a vehicle in the United States has risen by 1.96% from 2012. Additionally, fuel costs have increased 1.93%, on top of a 14.8% increase in the previous year. All these rising costs affect a business's financial performance, and controlling them directly bolsters the bottom line.
The routing feature of a GPS fleet-tracking solution not only ensures your driver arrives at the next stop on time, but it also ensures that he or she has the most direct route to the location, reducing fuel consumption and saving time. Some solutions integrate with personal navigation devices (PNDs) such as Garmin. The ease of use of these consumer systems has encouraged their adoption for fleets. A GPS fleet tracking solution that integrates with a PND can offer advantages besides a quick adoption rate. Integrating these technologies can cut down on unnecessary driving in a fleet by providing voice-guided turn-by-turn directions. By taking advantage of this integration's routing feature, vending fleets are able to increase driver productivity and reduce fuel costs and wear and tear on trucks.
In addition to increasing route efficiency, a comprehensive GPS fleet tracking solution can reduce costs by providing detailed reports on vehicle usage. These contain a wealth of information about how and where a vehicle is being used, through idle reports and detailed activity reports. This information allows fleet managers to analyze fuel use and identify fleet inefficiencies or incidents of fuel slippage, which directly affect operating costs. A comprehensive GPS fleet-tracking solution can provide actionable data based on these reports in a graphically rich dashboard, showing managers clear ways to improve processes.
A study conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that trucks left idling for long periods of time waste approximately 960 millions of gallons of diesel fuel each year -- and commercial vehicles left idling often invite complaints about air pollution. Variable costs, such as idling, can be monitored through the real-time data collection provided by a comprehensive GPS fleet-tracking solution. Companies are increasingly tracking their fleets so that they can report on key metrics, including idling time, fuel consumption and driving speeds.
When selecting a GPS solution, it makes sense to choose one that offers reports on vehicle status and provides the option to implement maintenance schedules. These features offer two major benefits: extending vehicle life and reducing repair costs, both of which contribute to cost savings. Proper vehicle maintenance keeps assets running with optimum fuel efficiency.
AAA's Your Driving Costs reported that the costs associated with maintaining a vehicle showed the single largest percentage increase from 2012 to 2013, growing by 11.23%. With the increasing cost of maintaining and operating a vehicle, fleet managers should consider a solution that can help bring that cost down. Automated vehicle maintenance reports allow fleet managers to decease the frequency of major repairs, saving money not only on the repair itself, but also on loss of productivity from vehicle downtime.
SAVINGS FROM TRACKING ASSETS
In the vending industry, companies own and manage a number of expensive vehicles, assets and equipment. If an asset is stolen or lost, the cost of replacing it is a major concern -- as is the effect on productivity. A fleet-management solution that provides GPS-asset tracking features enables the operator to monitor, track and recover assets quickly, returning operations to normal as soon as possible.
A solution also can ensure that vehicles and their associated assets are being used appropriately. Drivers using their vehicles for personal errands unrelated to the job concern fleet managers. A comprehensive package includes a provision that can send an alert to the manager if a vehicle is moving after hours or on the weekends. Advanced solutions also can allow managers to place "geofences" around specific areas to monitor vehicles within them and alert the manager if a vehicle leaves its designated area. And drivers are glad to know that if the truck is stolen, it is easy to locate and coordinate a rescue with the police.
Fleet-tracking and vehicle-maintenance reports can also have a very positive effect on cost and company image by reducing liability. By knowing where their vehicles are located and how fast they're going, fleet managers can be confident in both the driver and the vehicle, should an accident occur. A GPS fleet-tracking solution allows operators to ensure that their employees are obeying the rules of the road, that accident risk is reduced, their liability exposure is less and their trucks are improving their companies' professional image in the community.
WYN PARTINGTON is marketing director at NexTraq (Atlanta). NexTraq's applications -- Fleet Dispatch, Fleet Metrics and NexTraq Connect -- deliver real-time data needed to optimize fleet operations. NexTraq has 23 years' experience in providing fleet-management solutions to clients with fleets ranging in size from two to more than 200 vehicles. Its operations, development, manufacturing and support are based in the United States.