A vehicle tracking system gives location and status information and fleet management reports via the Internet.
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    FleetDirector eClient reports compile information on a vehicle's scheduled and unscheduled stops. It also details whether a delivery was made on time.

This has resulted in a much quieter, much more efficient dispatch department. “You can imagine the chaos, especially as the day progressed with some time slots running over into other time slots and new orders coming in,” says Barras. “With the new system, much of the workload is now automated. Our dispatchers can see exactly where every truck is. When a driver reverses his drum and starts to pour, a signal is automatically sent and pops up on the status screen.

If a customer needs another load while a truck is on-site, the driver can use the message terminal to place the order.”

The improved route planning and dispatch efficiency gained from the system has paid off with a 20% to 25% increase in productivity for TCM. Barris says the producer was able to handle an average of one additional load per week per truck, without additional equipment or drivers.

Customer service component

The system also greatly improved customer service. When customers want to know where their truck is, they receive an immediate, complete answer. “We can tell them exactly where their truck is, how fast it is going, and when it should arrive,” says Barras. “Conversely, we can reach out to each customer and be proactive if we see a problem such as a traffic jam or mechanical problem—anything that might affect the scheduled delivery time.”

Customers appreciate this because they are able to plan what to do with their crews while waiting for the load to arrive. “We can let them know exactly what we are doing or ask them what they want us to do,” says Barras. “The main thing is, they aren't just sitting around waiting, not knowing what is going on.”

The system also allows TCM to accommodate customers' jobsite changes as they occur. For example, the customer sets up a schedule that calls for a delivery volume of 50 yards an hour for five hours. The first two trucks arrive, with a third on the way. With GPS, we know when the trucks arrived, how long it took for truck one to complete its discharge, how long truck two was stationary waiting to unload, and how soon truck three would be arriving, he says.

“It becomes apparent the crew cannot handle that volume of concrete per hour,” explains Barras. “In analyzing the reports, we can utilize that information to bring our deliveries in line with the customer's capacity. Plus, we can free up trucks to handle other jobs while keeping the first job on the revised schedule.”

The GPS location information, combined with the two-way messaging, has also paid big dividends for TCM by virtually eliminating wasted or out-of-route miles. When delivering to a new residential area, drivers have no standard references such as street signs. Dispatchers can set up a Landmark icon on their map screens to mark the jobsite. They can also send free-form messages to guide the driver, turn-by-turn, to the jobsite. Not only do the loads arrive on time, but driver frustrations at being lost are eliminated.

Safety benefit

The system has also helped TCM augment its safety record. Safe driving rules can be monitored by reviewing each truck's speed. Although the trucks are governed and cannot exceed 60 mph, fleet managers want to know if a mixer truck is traveling too fast on a residential street. Locations, speed, stationary times, and engine idling times are among the data collected and stored for the various management reports.

Any consistent trend that violates company policies can be noted and conversations held with the appropriate drivers. If the company receives a complaint from the public about a truck's speed, the complaint can be checked back against the recorded information and handled accordingly, including documenting mistaken complaints to exonerate the driver.

The system has also proven to be an excellent tool if disputes develop over invoices regarding jobsite arrival and departure times. “Contractor back charges had been a problem,” says Barras. “I'm sure we paid a lot of claims that we shouldn't have because it was our driver's word against the customer's foreman. Now, we can document exactly when our truck arrived, how long we had to wait before we could start discharging the load, how long it took to empty the mixer, and exactly when our truck left the jobsite. For the most part, back charges have become a non-issue.”

The author is the marketing manager for Teletrac. Visitwww.teletrac.netfor more information.