Telematics Cut Contractor's Fuel Costs $54,000 per Year

In the first year after implementing Zonar telematics, Goodfellow Brothers halve equipment idling; unauthorized equipment use and speeding fall as shop efficiency rises

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Senior managers at Goodfellow Brothers Inc. General Contractor face a geographical challenge like few others in their profession. They must coordinate the activities of fleet operations and several maintenance shops separated by more than 2,500 miles of Pacific Ocean and three time zones.

The fourth-generation family-owned company operates a fleet of 1,200 vehicles and earthmoving machines on project sites on all five of the Hawaiian islands, and in Oregon and Washington. The company works on a variety of different construction projects including airport runways and taxiways, bridges and other road transportation projects, marinas and site preparation for housing and business developments.

Coordinating the maintenance and operations of that many pieces of equipment over the company’s huge territory is the responsibility of a small group of Goodfellow Brothers managers at the company’s headquarters in Wenatchee, Wash. The group has always successfully managed the fleet operations, maintaining safety awareness and keeping on top of equipment and truck repairs, said Richard Kornmann, visual inspection analyst for Goodfellow Brothers.

“Still, we knew we could do better,” Kornmann said. “We suspected that we had problems with excessive weekend vehicle usage and idling; and with illegible, incomplete and inconsistent vehicle inspection reports. We also had drivers speeding to and from work sites and through them to get to work, to stay on schedule or to finish their assignments."

“Without some way of measuring what was happening, we really had no idea about the extent of these issues,” he added. “And we certainly couldn’t hold our employees accountable for things we weren’t tracking.”

Phase 1: $54,000 Annual Savings in Fuel Costs

Starting in 2010, Goodfellow Brothers’ managers turned to Zonar for answers. With Zonar’s help, Gooodfellow Brothers implemented a four-phased telematics project to improve the safety and efficiency of the company’s fleet operations.

The first phase involved equipping the company’s fleet of about 450 pickup trucks with Zonar’s telematics system and then monitoring usage through the Zonar Ground Traffic Control web application. During the second phase, which started a year later, the company outfitted its construction vehicles — including dump trucks and about 650 earth-moving units, with the Zonar telematics system and the Zonar Electronic Vehicle Inspection Reporting (EVIR) system. The third phase involved monitoring the fuel usage and emissions of its rock crushers. And during the fourth phase, the company provided suppliers Zonar’s portable telematics devices to get a more complete view of its work sites.  

Within a year, Goodfellow Brothers achieved an immediate drop in weekend vehicle usage, speeding and idling. By cutting the incidences of idling in half, the company realized an annual savings of about $54,000 in fuel costs. 

“In the reports generated by Zonar, the amount of time each truck spent idling surprised us all, particularly the drivers,” Kornmann said. “Before we implemented Zonar, it wasn’t uncommon for us to see our trucks and equipment burn as much as $600 worth of fuel each week just idling.

“After implementing Zonar and providing drivers counseling on how to reduce their idling, we saw the amount of fuel burned due to idling reduce to $160 to $180 per week,” he said. “Now it’s rare if we break $100 per week in fuel costs due to idling, and that’s usually on account of traffic.”

Phase 2: Greater Maintenance Shop Efficiencies

While the reduction in annual fuel expenses more than paid for the cost of implementing Zonar, Goodfellow Brothers managers say success with the telematics project’s second phase is what really paid off for the company.

During the second phase, Goodfellow Brothers established its two-tier program that indicates the severity and importance of issues discovered by vehicle and equipment operators during their pre- and post-trip inspections. The alerts also prioritize issues reported by onboard equipment and vehicle sensors and computers, such as engine performance.

“Any issue or problem that could inflict injury or endanger the lives of our employees or others, or lead to further damage to a machine is considered a red alert,” said John Stump, equipment department manager for Goodfellow Brothers. “Yellow alerts are for issues that should be addressed, but don’t require immediate attention.

 “For example, if the operator reports that the back-up alarm isn’t working, that would be considered a red alert,” Stump said. “Any equipment with a non-working back-up alarm would be taken out of service until it’s fixed.”

In many cases, particular problems like non-working back-up alarms are already preset as red-alert issues on Zonar’s EVIR but the inspection application allows equipment or vehicle operators to reclassify yellow-alert issues with a higher red-alert priority when they deem the situation requires it.

The alerts are immediately communicated back to the maintenance shops. Maintenance technicians can then schedule the repair when the vehicle returns to the shop or assign a remote service repair truck if the vehicle or equipment can’t be driven or moved to the shop. Red alerts are also communicated to dispatchers and the company’s headquarters in Wenatchee, notifying senior company managers. The senior managers follow up a few days later to see if the local maintenance shop has completed the repair or needs more resources.

Stump said this two-tier alert system, utilizing Zonar’s EVIR and telematics systems, helped his company significantly increase the amount of scheduled work the company’s seven maintenance shops can complete in a week. By using Zonar’s equipment, drivers identify potential maintenance issues so they can be addressed long before they cause equipment breakdowns, and become unscheduled work, which can slow or even stop progress at job sites.

“We’ve been able to achieve better than the industry standard of 65 percent efficiency at our maintenance shop in Maui and 55 to 60 percent efficiency at our other locations with the information we get from Zonar,” Stump said. 

Phase 3 and 4: More Savings with Crushing Fuel Reports

For the telematics program’s third phase, Goodfellow Brothers added Zonar RFID tags to its crushing equipment. When the crushing equipment gets refueled, employees can scan the RFID tags and report the amount of fuel they put into the machines and the number of hours the machines have run. This allows managers to closely monitor fuel usage and emissions. Weight scales were also added to the crushing belts to measure tons per hour.

And for the program’s fourth phase, Goodfellow Brothers provided trucking companies that haul equipment and supplies to and from its work sites with Zonar telematics units that plug into a cigarette lighter. These plug-and-play devices offer Goodfellow Brothers a more accurate look into what’s happening at the job sites when supplies and equipment are delivered. 

“We can see if suppliers and vendors are having to wait to unload their equipment or supplies,” he said. “That can indicate to us that we have some scheduling problems or other delays on the job site that need to be addressed.”

Goodfellow Brothers management provides customers and regulatory agencies access to the detailed reports that Zonar telematics equipment offers. So customers and regulatory agencies know when crushing equipment is operated, when supplies and equipment are delivered, when trucks and other equipment are inspected, and if there were any issues found, how quickly those problems were fixed.

Goodfellow Brothers managers also appreciate the operational savings their company has enjoyed with Zonar.

“But it’s more than just those operational efficiencies,” Stump said. “The unique driver inspection capabilities Zonar offers us to focus and improve on equipment safety, coupled with the transparency we can offer our customers and to regulatory agencies, demonstrates that we don’t just talk about safety, we live it in everything we do. It’s why Goodfellow Brothers has become a subcontractor of choice for companies like RES Americas Construction Inc.”

Automated Inspection Reports

When it comes time for Goodfellow Brothers operators to identify vehicle and equipment defects that can lead to potential safety issues or breakdowns, the Zonar EVIR (electronic vehicle inspection report) can help them stay in the zone.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags are placed on equipment in critical inspection “zones.” These weather-tough tags contain information about their location on the unit, the components to be inspected and the identity of the vehicle or piece of equipment.

Using Zonar’s EVIR inspection tool and Zonar’s 2020 tablet, Goodfellow Brothers equipment and vehicle operators conduct their inspections by placing the reader within inches of each tag and indicating the condition of the components within the zone with one-handed, push-button responses. When a defect is discovered, the operator selects a description from a pre-defined list and indicates if the defect warrants a yellow or red alert unless the condition is preset.

When the inspection is complete, operators place the mobile unit into the mount, typically located inside the cab. Zonar’s telematics platform gathers that electronic trip inspection data and transmits that data wirelessly to Zonar’s web-based Ground Traffic Control data management application. Meanwhile, the telematics platform also transmits in real time diagnostic data whenever the equipment is in operation. Zonar integrates the data from the EVIR and telematics system into Goodfellow Brothers’ fleet maintenance system. This integration allows service requests to be automatically generated and transmitted through the company’s portal to the regional office maintenance shops.

Once repairs are performed and marked completed, they are automatically uploaded to Zonar’s web-based Ground Traffic Control data management application, indicating that the vehicle is in full compliance for operation. Because the data management application is web-based, company dispatchers and managers know when the equipment or trucks are ready to return to service.

“Equipment and vehicle operators are required to do their daily inspections and they are charged with the responsibility for making sure their equipment is safe and in good working order,” said Kornmann. “Any defects must be reported and Zonar gives our employees the tools they need to do that job.

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