If there exists a single technology with the potential to change how you manage your equipment fleet, it’s the emergence of wireless equipment tracking systems.
Imagine getting accurate, to the minute utilization reports for each unit based on actual run time instead of optimistic estimates from the field. Imagine the ability to locate units at the press of a button and get exact hour meter readings.
Imagine receiving automatic alerts when a unit’s coolant temperature rises too high or the oil pressure drops too low. Imagine the peace of mind that comes with the knowledge that you will be notified immediately if your equipment is moved outside of set boundaries or if it’s started at an unauthorized time.
Today’s wireless tracking systems make this, and much more, a reality.
A True Management Tool
“Hidden” equipment charges can quickly eat into profits. “Most jobs, from a contracting perspective, show about 3% to 5% more profitability at the end than about a month later when you start reconciling all of the equipment costs,” explains Tim Lewis, senior director for the QUALCOMM wireless solutions construction equipment business unit. “Equipment typically is from 8% to 15% of the job cost. But you can have 3% to 5% creep out there because of the hiding and hoarding that goes on.” For example, the supervisor on the jobsite knows he will eventually need a piece of equipment, so it is simply held on the site.
At a management level, it’s important to know how much work a unit actually produces. Wireless tracking systems independently verify start and stop times. “Management can get idle vs. work times,” says Lewis.
Some contractors have been able to justify the cost of the systems just on fuel savings. “People are running them idle when they shouldn’t be,” says Lewis.
On trucks and service vehicles, you can set speed alerts. “With these types of vehicles, every 5 mph over 60 mph will burn 20% more fuel,” explains Henley. “So if they are traveling at 70 mph, they are burning 40% more fuel.”
So in simplified terms, the main benefit of these tracking systems is better control of your fleet. “Typically, 33% of the cost of running a fleet is directly controllable,” says David Starr, vice president of customer solutions, Satviz Inc.
This includes wasted fuel, vehicle abuse, etc. This is where these systems can quickly pay for themselves.
Wireless tracking systems also offer many benefits in terms of maintenance. “If you are going to reduce your owning and operating costs, you want to have world-class preventive maintenance,” says Lewis. You need to know where your equipment is and when the service is due.
Timing is critical. “You don’t want to over-maintain or under-maintain,” says Lewis. “It gets expensive either way that you go. ”This is where the accuracy of traditional hour meters also comes into play.
“With engine hours on most machines, the display can be off. We have customers that have demonstrated equipment engine hour display errors of as much as 40%,” says Lewis. “A lot of them are averaging 20% to 30%.” Tracking maintenance or utilization by these hour meters is not as accurate as you might think. The accuracy of the tracking systems, on the other hand, is very precise.
With these fleet management systems, you can get advance notice that equipment service is coming due and reduce the unpleasant surprises that often occur while reading hour meters in the field. There is less chance equipment will be overlooked and you no longer spend hours trying to locate equipment. In addition, you get immediate notification of problems such as overheating, low batteries and oil pressure, which can help cut downtime.
The insurance industry is helping drive the growth of wireless tracking systems. “Insurance companies, in some cases, are requiring that contractors have asset location devices on there because of theft,” says Henley.