Though the cost of fuel may be down 25 percent compared to 2015, costs related to insurance, depreciation, and maintenance are all on the rise this year, according to a study from AAA. Because of this, managing fleet vehicles is an important part of maintaining a successful HVAC contracting business.
Fleet management software is constantly adapting to market needs. One of the biggest trends right now is connected software applications, according to Jenny Malcolm, content marketing specialist for GPS Insight.
“For HVAC contractors, time is money, and there is a need to make sure all systems are speaking to and supporting one another seamlessly for more efficient workflow,” Malcolm said. “GPS Insight provides many integration options, including an integration partnership with ServiceTitan. This partnership provides HVAC contractors streamlined business intelligence by combining powerful GPS fleet tracking and business management software. With a simple turnkey integration, GPS Insight is able to send vehicle location data straight into ServiceTitan’s dispatch board to make more efficient dispatch decisions.”
GPS tracking technology gives contractors the ability to manage operations effectively while reducing cost, reducing risk, and increasing revenue, Malcolm noted. “The right use of a GPS tracking application will allow HVAC contractors to cut fleet operating costs, improve customer service, dispatch more efficiently, and more.”
Malcolm said decentralized fleet management is also becoming more prominent with the increasing popularity of mobile applications.
“There will no longer be a central office or dispatch location, as fleet managers and dispatchers are now able to perform their jobs from anywhere, at any time,” she said. “Many GPS tracking systems have already adapted to mobile computing and will consistently enhance the flexibility of their applications to meet the market’s needs. Since drivers will not be congregated to one location, closest-to features will help identify vehicle locations across wide service areas to pinpoint the closest vehicle to any job site. To run an effective decentralized fleet, it will be imperative for HVAC contractors to have the best GPS tracking systems in place to avoid negative effects on fuel usage, fleet utilization, and efficient dispatching practices.”
IMPORTANCE OF INTEGRATION
Integration of fleet management software with field service, dispatching, and business software is another key trend, noted Matthew Curtis, strategic alliance manager, TomTom Telematics.
“When companies integrate fleet management software, they are able to automate many processes, leading to better decision-making and reduced drive time,” Curtis said. “Integration between systems also boosts efficiency for both dispatch and technicians by allowing dispatch to send work orders directly to technicians through their driver terminal. Other benefits of integration include increased billable hours and lower operational expenses such as overtime hours, fuel, vehicle maintenance, accidents, and insurance. And, with more on-time arrivals, fleets and business owners benefit from reduced labor time while still ensuring customer satisfaction.”
Additionally, fleet management software helps increase driver safety and lower liability.
“There are safety and legal risks associated with using mobile phones and tablets when driving, and many states now have hands-free laws,” Curtis said. “Employers are being held legally responsible for their employees’ negligent actions. So, when employers provide mobile technology for employees to use when driving or allow employees to use their personal technology, that employer’s actions are viewed to be within the scope of employment. By using fleet management software, dispatch is able to send work orders directly to a driver’s terminal, which eliminates any need for drivers to manually enter each address. This eliminates yet another reason for drivers to use their consumer smartphones or tablets in order to do their jobs efficiently.”
TomTom’s WEBFLEET displays vehicles and their movements via interactive maps.
“Dispatch is always aware of a technician’s exact position and movement, which allows firms to keep customers awaiting service calls updated in real time,” Curtis said. “Dispatch can stay in touch with technicians through two-way communication tools using a TomTom navigation device. And job dispatch is made more efficient, ensuring techs have clear and detailed driving instructions without tedious phone calls, texts, or emails. For instance, when a technician is within 100 yards of a job, WEBFLEET’s auto-arrival feature automatically notifies the system of the technician’s arrival.”
Additionally, the software can also improve the parts delivery process by routing technicians to the nearest parts store to improve on-the-job efficiency.
“Integration between systems will be increasingly important and complex in the future,” Curtis said. “Knowing where your technicians are is only half the story; knowing where they are in relation to each order and being able to send those orders with one-click job dispatch improves decision-making capabilities, speeds up job dispatch, reduces data entry errors, simplifies the experience for technicians, and ultimately improves the customer experience.”
Todd Ewing, director of product marketing, Fleetmatics Group Plc, agreed that integration is essential, saying, “Fleet management software is expected to work with more types of information and in more places than ever before.
“Supporting safety initiatives with unique insight, clear scoring, and quality programs have become the focus, especially for larger field service fleets,” Ewing said. “For smaller customers, it’s identifying ways to utilize location and fleet data to better inform customers around service appointments and analyze trends via on-site time versus work quality. And, for fleets of all sizes, the requirement to support decision-making in the mobile environment has clearly gone from nice-to-have to need-to-have.”
Fleetmatics is leveraging mobile technology with its REVEAL software that allows fleet managers to perform all key functions without a laptop. REVEAL’s field app supports drivers who need intuitive vehicle assignment capabilities, access to the job list, and visibility into their own performance on key metrics against their peers.
“Momentum also continues to grow around our Fleetmatics WORK solution, as customers are quickly seeing the value in having workforce management tied closely to their real-time and historical activity in the field,” Ewing said. “Fleetmatics’ solutions extract actionable business intelligence, providing fleet owners/operators — contractors, in this case — with visibility into vehicle location, fuel usage, speed, and mileage, among other insights. This knowledge ultimately enables our customers to reduce operating and capital costs as well as increase revenue.”
According to Paul Goldsmith, segment manager of Trimble MEP, fleet management is more than just monitoring vehicles; it’s a full workflow management system that monitors operations from beginning to end.
“Trimble has been tracking vehicles in a variety of different industries for quite some time, so we have a pretty sophisticated solution to put into a vehicle to manage speed, fuel usage, diagnostics, and location, among other things,” Goldsmith said. “But the trend we see is bringing that fleet management piece with the technicians back into the office to manage the full workflow. It’s more of an integrated solution between the vehicle and the technicians themselves. For the dispatcher, they get to see the vehicle and the technician and get notifications when the vehicle needs repairs or service. They also get visualization into their equipment for when that needs to be repaired or certified. It’s much more than just the vehicle itself. It’s about getting to the client, making sure the job is done properly, and, at the same time, managing all the company’s assets.”
Trimble’s AllTrak Cloud tracks other assets such as testing equipment in addition to vehicles.
“AllTrak Cloud manages and optimizes not just vehicles, but the tools technicians use when they go out on a job site,” Goldsmith said. “All Trak Cloud supports both barcode and RFID technologies through a mobile scanner, which allows for easy check-in and check-out of equipment as it goes on and off trucks. The contractor benefits from increased transparency of equipment location and use and, therefore, improves productivity.”
Goldsmith also noted that more cloud-based software is allowing for more instantaneous data sharing between the field and the home office.
“Real-time tracking helps optimize fuel usage and improves safety,” he said. “Once a device is installed in a vehicle, technicians know they’re being monitored, so, safety wise, we’re seeing fewer accidents and slower speeds. Real-time tracking also manages and optimizes where a technician should be and helps them arrive when they should. If they’re not going to make it, the app lets them know if there is somebody else close by who can get there. It ensures they get there on time, with the right data and equipment to solve the problem, which speeds up the overall success with the client.”
Publication date: 5/16/2016