Updated technology increases productivity and driver safety while reducing costs.

Service professionals can utilize GPS fleet management technology through various electronic devices. Photo credit: GPS Insight

We asked several GPS fleet management companies what the biggest advantages are for plumbing and heating contractors to implementing a fleet-tracking system in their businesses. And they told us improved productivity, reduced fuel and labor costs, driver safety and customer service.

  • Improved productivity. With GPS fleet tracking, dispatchers have real-time vehicle location data so that when a call comes in, it is easy to find the nearest service tech with the right skills to send to the job.

    “Dispatching can be done with a few simple clicks to the technician’s Garmin navigation device, giving turn-by-turn directions to the next job,” says Ryan Driscoll, marketing manager at GPS Insight. “The ability to monitor and manage the amount of time it takes a technician to arrive at a jobsite and the amount of time spent there will increase efficiency and productivity, opening up the opportunity to complete more jobs per day, which will directly increase any company’s bottom line.”

  • Reduced fuel and labor costs. With gas prices predicted to reach $5 a gallon this summer, reducing fuel costs for service trucks is extremely important to plumbing and mechanical contractors.

    “It’s all about efficiency,” remarks Chris Ransom, director of sales and engineering at Networkfleet. “GPS systems allow service techs to drive fewer miles, work fewer hours and use less fuel. Telematics for plumbing and heating contractors is ultimately about lowering costs and doing more work.”

  • Driver safety. Driving in traffic can be noisy and confusing. Distractions are everywhere, and it is easy to not pay attention to your own driving behavior.

    “Today’s systems focus more on the driver,” says Mark Roberts, chief marketing officer at NexTraq. “A GPS system removes stress and strain from the driver’s environment, resulting in less chance of accidents. In fact, many insurance companies offer discounts on their fleet insurance policies for GPS.”

    He adds that owners can also look at driver behavior to see if a problem exists or to reward an exceptional service tech.

  • Customer service. “The GPS system notifies the customer who is coming, when he is coming, if he has had a background check and is drug-tested, and what certifications the tech has,” says Paul Vishnesky, vice president of sales at Service Skeds. “In short, it puts the customer at ease and gives him confidence in the service company.”

    A GPS system also can help with customer disputes, Roberts says. If a homeowner disagrees with the number of hours listed on the bill that the technician worked on the job, contractors can go into the records system and provide the customer with an accurate readout of how long the service tech was at the home, if he had to go to the supply house for parts, etc.

  • Fleet management software is particularly effective when dealing with emergency service calls that require the rerouting of technicians. Photo credit: Networkfleet

    Going mobile

    Going paperless is certainly a green aspect of fleet tracking, but so is reducing emissions while on the road. “Limiting speeding and idling, increasing route efficiency, eliminating unauthorized usage, and scheduled maintenance are all ways that GPS tracking helps cut fleet emissions,” Driscoll says. “If a company wants to truly try to lighten its environmental footprint, the first thing to do is ensure drivers are educated and understand how important it is to drive more efficiently.”

    But the biggest trend seems to be going mobile. Plumbing and heating contractors who effectively manage their fleets are equipping their service techs with mobile devices to not only enhance communication between the office and the field, but to cut down on the amount of paper exchanged in the course of a job. Integration of systems reduces errors and costs, and increases efficiency.

    “If you have someone back at the office taking care of routing techs to the right locations, if an emergency comes up and someone is stuck in traffic, it’s very easy with these solutions to see where the next nearest tech is working,” Roberts says. “It’s simple to direct that tech to the emergency situation and redirect the tech stuck in traffic to the next job. Imagine trying to do that by phone - it’s at least four phone calls, a lot of notetaking and wasted time.”

    Ron Shai, vice president of sales atJonas Software, has noticed a recent increase in demand for fleet management solutions.

    “Fleet management has been around for years, but lately we’ve seen a real spike in demand as technology and hardware costs have come down,” he says. “We’ve seen a big spike in contractors wanting fleet management applications. Integrating fleet management with billing by way of mobile technology improves efficiencies in both areas.”

    Vishnesky sees fleet management technology continuing to gain popularity in the years ahead. “Mobile technology is here to stay, he remarks. “Going forward into the next three to five years, the companies that will grow and retain customers are the ones that understand the growing presence of mobile technology and the impact it will have on business.”