When it comes to keeping track of your crews once they leave the shop, technology makes the options almost endless. While the equipment itself may be expensive, and keeping track of the data could be seen as time consuming, the ROI may make it worth it for your company.
“A lot of folks still don’t have a great idea on what GPS actually provides,” says Matt Deloge, vice president of GPS Fleet Consulting.
GPS software can monitor idle time and allow you to see how many times your crews are stopping at stores or gas stations.
“One of our landscape companies didn’t realize how many wasted trips his crews would take on a daily basis (to Home Depot or the gas station),” says Ryan Driscoll, marketing director with GPS Insight. “He found out he was wasting $4,000 annually on trips his crews were taking four to five times a week to the store when they could have just bought more the first time they were there.”
It can also keep your crews safe and your insurance costs down by tracking driver behaviors and alerting you to sharp braking, fast acceleration and other dangerous driving techniques.
“GPS has always been this stigma of being Big Brother and having a negative connotation,” Deloge says. “(This) puts it in a more positive light.”
If you’re in the market for GPS and routing software, here’s a rundown of some products.
GPS Fleet Consulting
Options: The owner can use the system as much or as little as he wants. The company offers seasonal flexibility where you’re not required to lock into a long term contract year-round when your crews may be off in the winter. This offers the flexibility to pay as needed.
How it helps you: Unlike some software and tracking programs, which are cell phone based and require users to initiate the tracking, GPS Flight Consulting’s system is a web-based user interface.
The product is hardwired into the vehicle and run entirely from the home system. It uploads all data at the rate you choose it to, whether that be every 30 seconds or every 5 minutes.
With the system’s ability to monitor idle times, data will show you how long your crews leave trucks running.
“You can actually set up real -time alerts when vehicles are idling for more than a specific amount of time,” Deloge says. “This system will give owners the opportunity to set goals and expectations and reduce idling significantly.” GPS Fleet Consulting offers users a report that details the work day of a crew, showing when the crew starts the day and any stops the crew takes in between jobs, whether scheduled or unscheduled.
“Even if (your crew’s) off by 15 minutes each day, that adds up over the course of a week, with overtime pay,” Deloge says.
Tracking crews also helps you solidify billing with clients. You may have two crews go work on a property for eight hours and the customer questions the price on the bill. With this type of tracking software, you can build a customized report for the client that shows all the data.
Without the software data, you may have still “won” the argument, but Deloge says that’s not winning, because you’re still arguing with a client.
“The GPS system doesn’t allow you to get in an argument,” he says. “It helps retain that customer as well.”
“We really have a strong focus on landscaping, so we have a lot of knowledge about the industry,” Deloge says. “We’re involved with some consulting firms just so we know about the changing needs and changing issues.”
Training: Offers in person and online training, but more emphasis is put on web demos, which the company finds highly effective.
Options: Priced per truck.
How it helps you: GPS Insight offers three separate products, depending on the size of your company. The one for small businesses considers fleet size to be 1 to 25 trucks, mid-sized is 26 to a few hundred, and then the largest is for companies with thousands of trucks.
The program is automated so no one needs to sit at a desk and watch the screen all day.
“They have to deal with a lot of other things over the course of their day and monitoring trucks is something they don’t have to do,” says Driscoll.
The small business software is completely new this year and because it is more basic, Driscoll says a lot of companies will scale up to use the pro products with more features.
With the standard software, driving stats are done based on the vehicle, so it’s up to you to know who was driving which vehicle that day. With the pro products, you can do driver identification and monitor each person. The pro product also offers driver scorecards, which help you see exactly how your guys are doing.
“Management can really see driver behavior and rank drivers against each other,” Driscoll says.
“You can see problem drivers and coach them as needed.”
The pro product also allows you to send routes to a driver’s Garmin GPS system so they know what customer sites to go to.
Training: GPS Insight has account managers that train new customers on the product. They also offer online classes that include quizzes at the end to ensure you have a working knowledge of the software.
“It really helps make sure whoever’s using the product understands it,” says Driscoll. “You can get a certificate of training to say you’re a certified user.” There’s also a technical support team available all the time if a customer runs into a troubleshooting problem.
Options: Price is based on size of the company’s fleet, but packages are also priced on what modules the customer wants to include. Customers have the option to choose between unlimited support or limited support, whichever works best for their company.
How it helps you: ServSuite is a full enterprise application that offers routing and GPS, both fully integrated into the system and offered in conjunction with the full service system. This includes managing accounts, scheduling, routing, payments, developing programs and a mobile app. After purchasing ServSuite, customers can add on the GPS or routing software.
The GPS module is just two years old, and the application was written by ServicePro, so it comes with functions and features created specifically with the green industry in mind.
It comes integrated to the scheduler program, and features a dispatch function. If customers call with an emergency or need you to come back, and it’s not initially set up in the day’s schedule, the software will look through that day’s schedule and get that customer scheduled in for the service.
When the GPS information is reported on, it doesn’t just give the basic information like you would see on an off-the-shelf GPS system.
“If you’re going to run a report for yesterday on the jobs someone did, you can run a report with all the work orders, the account name … things of that nature,” says John Cole, director of mobile solutions.
Training: A training package is offered for ServSuite, and ServicePro also offers an implementation and training package where they set up all the different functions and help train staff, which includes anyone in the field using the mobile app component.
Options: Each option from WorkWave is priced based on number of vehicles and size of the route. The company also offers month-to-month contracts so customers don’t have to lock into long term contracts.
How it helps you: WorkWave’s newest product is completely cloud-based.
When it comes to routing your crews’ days, the program breaks down what technicians are assigned to what route, as well as what time window the customer wants and whether the job requires certain tools. It can even look at things such as whether a job requires someone who speaks Spanish. It’s a pick list, but you’re able to define and set it up yourself with what you know your jobs will need.
“As it’s looking at the best way to schedule and route these jobs, it takes all of that into account,” says Chris Sullens, president and CEO of WorkWave.
In regards to tracking, WorkWave has an app program that geo stamps your crews’ activity. When your crews check in at a job site, it shows you where that check in was done.
“You can check that not only did they check in and check out of a job, but did they do it at the right location?” Sullens says.
The system also tracks your vehicles and records driver behavior. If the driver does anything dangerous, it not only alerts you, but it also sets off a buzzer to let the driver know it’s been recorded.
All the driver information can be placed into scorecards, which can then rank your drivers based on their score. When companies implement that, Sullens says they see a significant reduction in the number of incidents because guys don’t want to be listed at the bottom.
The system comes as a device that you plug into the vehicle’s 12-volt plug. If the system comes unplugged, it alerts you so you can call the driver and let them know it’s been unplugged. It also can track for up to two hours after being unplugged, so you still can see what’s going on.
On the software side, WorkWave’s system has a user-friendly interface where you can watch how your vehicles travel throughout the day. If a new job comes in that you need one of them to do, you can press a button and the system sends it to the crew’s Garmin GPS, saving the time they would take to type it in themselves.
Training: WorkWave offers online training videos and tutorials, as well as a walkthrough when you first start the app on your phone.
The company also offers webinars, as well as calling to speak with someone over the phone one-on-one. If your company is large enough, WorkWave offers onsite training.L&L