Management can define geo-fences (arbitrary boundaries that the equipment is not allowed to leave). If a piece of equipment is transported outside of a defined boundary, the owner can be alerted via computer, cell phone or pager. You can also be notified if the equipment is started during off hours.
What about trying to disable the system? “You can get an alert if somebody tampers with the box or clips the antenna,” says Henley.
“You can also enable or disable the ignition systems,” says Phil Gabriel, vice president, sales, CSI Wireless Inc. “You can do what we call a lockdown between certain hours. So all of this equipment is disabled and then re-enabled before the workday starts — all remotely, all automatic. So there are a number of unauthorized use or theft deterrents that can be implemented.”
There is a wide variation in the costs of these systems. “Obviously, the higher the initial cost, the more compelling the return on investment proposition has to be,” says Gabriel.
In general, the more reports that you generate in a given time frame, the higher the cost. Equipment that reports in once every 15 minutes will be much more expensive than systems that report in once a day.
Hardware can cost from $500 to $1,500 per vehicle, depending on which system you choose. Monthly fees depend on the type of service, how much data you are monitoring and how many reports you generate. Typically, monthly fees range from $10 to $45 per vehicle.
But the return on investment can be much greater. Theft prevention, while important, only represents 2% to 5% of the overall value proposition, says Lewis.
“There is a huge value in everything from managing your work to job costing, maintenance and owning and operating costs. It’s not just the equipment manager, it’s the accounting, it’s the finance, — it’s the project manager.”
Contractors Adopt Wireless Tracking
Adoption of wireless tracking is not as simple as it first appears. It requires a change in management practices to profit from the new data being generated.
One of the contractors implementing the technology is Zachry Construction, based in Texas. It selected the QUALCOMM GlobalTRACS equipment management system for its entire heavy equipment fleet. “We reviewed several wireless equipment management systems before we chose GlobalTRACS,” says Mike Monnot, equipment department director for Zachry Construction. “The system will enable us to be more competitive by allowing us to monitor accurate equipment usage data, perform timely maintenance and increase security for our equipment.”
Another contractor that already has several years of experience with wireless tracking systems is Housley Communications Ltd., Carrollton, TX. The firm is in the utility construction business. “We run about 300 vehicles and in the neighborhood of 500 pieces of equipment,” says Dave Meek, vice president of engineering and construction.
Housley Communications installed its first wireless tracking systems about three years ago. But it wasn’t an instant success. “We were fairly disappointed in the technology with the first few systems that we had,” explains Meek. A lack of adequate coverage created challenges.
“We were sold units in the beginning that we were assured would cover anywhere,” says Meek. The equipment is often used in the remote regions of Texas, where the previous providers’ cellular service did not work. “When you get back off into the woods, or in the desert of West Texas, there is no cell coverage,” he continues.
“We would lose the signals for days at a time. Then all of a sudden the equipment would show back up because it had finished what it was working on in the field and it was headed toward home.” Fleet Management Solutions (FMS) provided a more effective solution and coverage is no longer an issue.
Justifying the purchase of the equipment tracking systems has been easy for Housley Communications. “We received a discount from our insurance carrier, which more than paid for the equipment,” says Meek. “The monthly service fee is pretty nominal when you consider that we have already saved three pieces of equipment that were stolen and recovered right away because they have tracking units in them. You only have to recover one $50,000 backhoe to make that worth its while.”