After homeowners and businesses hunkered down during the pandemic for over a year, residential, commercial, and industrial contractors have a new problem: How will they handle the accumulated, pent-up demand as the crisis passes?
Home and business owners have deferred maintenance and remodeling to their properties as the pandemic and national economy worsened. This left unresolved issues ranging from HVAC, electrical, plumbing, cleaning, flooring, and roofing to the full gamut of contractor trades.
Now with the pandemic ebbing and the economy rebounding, contractors are starting to get a flood of non-emergency service calls for work customers can no longer delay.
However, contractors who may have already cut service staff during the lean times of the pandemic are now having trouble-keeping pace with the increase in business.
Fortunately, contractors and vehicle fleet managers who seek to maximize the productivity of their existing staff to meet rising demand and boost profits now have an advanced tool at their disposal that can cost-effectively facilitate this aim. By using innovative technology such as a real-time GPS vehicle tracking system via a smartphone, tablet or PC, along with text, email, and voice directly to the driver, they can dynamically manage their fleets and work crews to optimize dispatch and routing while minimizing downtime.
This approach not only reduces the cost of employee overtime, but also vehicle operation, including fuel use, wear and tear, maintenance, and premature replacement.
Doing More with Less
“Contractors have to be more efficient than ever today, and real time GPS vehicle tracking can help,” said Ben VanAvery, director of sales and marketing at Advanced Tracking Technologies (ATTI). “With it, you can see which technicians you have across the area, including who is nearest and who is experienced and properly qualified for the job. And by accessing real-time traffic data in the software, you can identify who is easiest to send to that location as well.”
According to VanAvery, once a job is complete, it is recorded in the system, so the dispatcher, owner or fleet manager can stay apprised of who is available for the next job. In this way, it can serve as a remote time sheet, which reduces the record keeping burden and promotes productivity.
Compared with typical GPS tracking devices that may only update every few minutes, the system provides real-time location updates as well as speed and idle time alerts if something is amiss. This data is transmitted via satellite and cellular networks to a smartphone or PC on a 24/7 basis. The system has access to nationwide speed limits in its database.
Post-pandemic, with such a system the contractor, fleet manager, or dispatcher via a smartphone app or PC can display the real-time location of the entire fleet on a map and zoom in on any specific vehicle. At a glance, he or she can see if a vehicle is moving (displays green) or stopped (displays red). If he or she touches a vehicle icon, the app will display where the vehicle has been, where it stopped, and how long it has idled.
By zooming in or out on the map, the contractor can see where all the fleet’s vehicles are and quickly reallocate any to where they are most needed. This can be particularly important whenever job service emergencies arise and must be quickly accommodated.
Since this approach enables contractors to quickly route the nearest available vehicle and work crew to any required service call, it helps to minimize employee overtime as well as vehicle fuel use, maintenance, and eventual replacement costs.
As post-pandemic demand for maintenance, repair, remodeling, and construction services continues to rise for contractors, real-time GPS vehicle tracking systems can also help vehicle drivers and work crews take more responsibility for their own productivity. To instill greater self-monitoring and efficiency, contractors and fleet managers can configure the system to automatically send real-time text or email alerts to individual drivers, groups, or the entire fleet if factors such as traffic congestion, travel route, vehicle speed, starts, stops, or idling pose a concern or deviate from policy.
To take advantage of the most efficient routing determined over time for more established accounts, emailed vehicle tracking reports can be configured to automatically summarize fleet performance of such factors on periodic basis. For instance, because the GPS system is automated, travel reports can be generated that analyze vital historical data, such as on-time jobsite arrivals, departures, and time on the job, can also be emailed without anyone having to open software.
The reports can be customized to include as much detail as needed, such as how many stops, how long per location, top speed, mileage, idle times of the day, etc. Identifying and implementing more efficient routing and performance, in turn, enables individual drivers and the fleet as a whole to accomplish more in less time.
Such a system can also help individual drivers to drive more safely and take greater responsibility for their own conduct without the need to micromanage. A maximum vehicle speed, of say no more than 8 mph over the posted limit, can be set and drivers informed of this. The system will then track their vehicle speed and compare this with the speed limit in its national database, with exceptions automatically emailed to the driver and contractor in a report, if desired.
Implementing real-time GPS tracking can also increase driver accountability by making them less inclined to take unauthorized excursions, such as for personal errands, when not on a job because the system documents actual routes and stops. This can help to further minimize unnecessary vehicle mileage, fuel use, and wear and tear.
Of course, GPS tracking can also be used to recognize and reward consistently rapid employee response, which encourages greater productivity.
As contractors struggle to meet pent up demand resulting from the pandemic’s long economic slowdown, today’s advanced GPS tracking systems can help to profitably meet that demand by optimizing vehicle use and work crew productivity.