Regardless of the size of your fleet or the distance you travel to get to jobsites, fuel consumption is a major line item in your operating budget, as well as a thorn in your side if your company has launched a campaign to reduce its carbon footprint. Construction contractors are addressing both problems by using GPS-based fleet tracking technology to put their equipment on a fuel diet. And it's paying off.
New York-based demolition contractor LVI Services, for example, slashed more than $800,000 in diesel expenses for its 400+ heavy construction machines last year by deploying a fleet tracking system to identify fuel-wasting practices such as excessive idling. Equipment utilization data collected by the system also is enabling LVI to improve job billing and bidding accuracy, optimize maintenance schedules and achieve other efficiencies for its nationwide operations.
How It Works
Known as fleet tracking, telematics and wireless fleet management, fleet tracking systems consist of small GPS tracking units installed in each equipment asset plus back-office software used by dispatchers and managers. Each GPS device captures the asset's physical location every few seconds and transmits the data to the software over the cellular network for reporting purposes. GPS units can also be connected via sensors to machine attachments such as buckets, hammers and shears for measuring attachment activity.
At the most basic level, these systems make it possible to view the location of all equipment on a single map in real time. The software also analyzes and correlates the data to produce detailed performance reports on issues ranging from engine hours and idling time for each asset to how many times a crane arm moves up or down.
Solutions such as Navman Wireless' OnlineAVL2 enable both off-road equipment and on-road vehicles to be shown on the same map display, as well as analyzed in reports accessed from the same software application. This strategy eliminates the need to use different systems for different asset types.
Savings #1: Idling Reduction
From a fuel-saving perspective, the ability to measure idling tops the list of fleet tracking's benefits. In the case of LVI Services, the data revealed that one branch alone was wasting $80,000 a month in fuel during the winter because the seven heavy excavators at the site were left running all day. That impacted not only the fuel budget and CO2 emissions, but equipment life and profit margins.
"Idling was adding hours to the machines, and that meant extra wear and tear, as well as a discrepancy in hours estimated versus hours billed," said Gil Gilbert, LVI's corporate equipment manager. "If our estimators say it's going to take 22 hours to tear down a building but the machine logs 35 hours because the operator keeps it running, I have to bill the branch for 35 hours and the profit on that job gets eaten up."
With fleet tracking, the GPS tracking unit can detect a lack of movement as well as whether the ignition is on or off. The system can then link the two data sets to generate reports showing idling time per asset, making it possible to take corrective action.
Savings #2: No Idling Penalties
Reducing idling can also help avoid fines like those imposed by environmental regulators in California, where idling a diesel-powered machine for more than five minutes can cost $300 per occurrence or up to $10,000 for a machine with multiple violations. Nearly 30 states are considering similar laws to reduce the release of carcinogenic diesel exhaust.
Savings #3: Better Equipment Utilization
Fleet tracking also provides real-time visibility into actual equipment utilization, down to the number of times a dump truck tips its bed. By closely monitoring the data, managers can detect signs that work is not being performed at peak efficiency and make adjustments to avoid unnecessary equipment use, associated fuel consumption, and possible cost overruns.