As any concrete producer knows, operating and maintaining a fleet of ready-mix trucks is not only a necessity, but also a big capital expenditure. So it's worth investing in a system that will help simplify and streamline your costs.

Fleet management systems, or telematics, can help producers increase productivity by gauging maintenance, reducing idling, downsizing the fleet, improving asset tracking and routing, and monitoring safety. These systems increase a company’s bottom line while improving the efficiency of the entire fleet.

More than just a GPS system, a telematics system consists of on-board GPS, comprehensive communication systems, real-time status reports for dispatch, and much more.

Knowing the benefits and how they can best serve your fleet management needs can help determine the system best suited for your company.

How it works

Telematics are not new to the industry. But as technology gets better, more producers are implementing these management systems for their fleets. According to Verizon’s 2015 Fleet and Vehicle Management Survey, 41% of respondents have implemented a form of telematics system in their fleets. Lower costs, improved routing, and customer service are among the top benefits cited in the survey.

Some operations managers are wary of implementing the technology because of the cost, perceived lack of need, and time it takes to install the system. While the cost of these systems can seem daunting, most producers that have installed this technology have seen a return on investment within the first six months.

So what are the benefits? According to Verizon, 76% identified improved productivity as the number one benefit of fleet management systems. Here's a breakdown of the benefits:

  • Reduce labor costs: Minimizing inefficient driving habits can reduce labor costs. Excessive idling time, improper speeds, poor route choices, and improper braking can add to fuel consumption and wear and tear on a vehicle. Since drivers are typically in their vehicles with no accountability, these problems can be difficult to track. Optimizing routes, tracking excessive idle time, and monitoring vehicle performance to reduce downtime all add up to more productive drivers, more customers served, and less overtime costs.

  • Control fuel costs: By spending less time on the road, fleets cut down on fuel costs. There has been a reported 10.2% drop in fuel consumption among fleets with onboard technology. With these devices, producers can save thousands of dollars per year from recovered fuel tax refunds. GPS tracking can help control fuel costs by reducing idle time and speed, preventing unauthorized vehicle use, improving route efficiency, leveraging engine diagnostics, and verifying fuel expenditures.

  • Improve customer service: Telematics can link real-time data to customers and dispatch. With geofencing, users draw zones around customer sites. Geofencing allows customers to keep track of arrival and departure schedules, eliminate delays, add extra security, keep track of vehicles, and limit fleet travel to particular locations. This can help to keep optimization and costs where you would like them..

  • Increase fleet safety and security: Nothing is more important than making sure your people return home safely. Tracking metrics like hard braking, speeding, and seat belt use can help prevent incidents and clear up any disputes with other drivers on the road. Accident costs for producers with fleet management systems have decreased by 21.1%. Improved asset tracking helps producers identify the location of their equipment at all times and helps recover stolen vehicles, saving replacement costs..

  • Reduce operating expenses: Reduced idling leads to substantial drops in fuel consumption. Reports are generated to show when the vehicle’s engine is running and when it doesn’t need to be. By turning the engine off while the vehicle is not driving or placing concrete, drivers reduce fuel consumption and increase the life of the vehicle. Real-time data informs a driver exactly when to schedule preventative maintenance. Scheduling preventative maintenance and fixing problems before they happen on the road minimizes safety and compliance issues, and maximizes uptime. Also, selling underutilized vehicles reduces the total cost of ownership across an entire fleet.

What works best for your fleet?

It doesn’t take long for producers to see a return on investment after they install a telematics system.

Clyde Companies installed the complete Trimble telematics system for two of its subsidiaries, Geneva Rock Products and Sunroc Building Materials. The producer paid for the system within a year, and saw a 133% return on investment based on yards per hour.

Trimble’s navigation, driver alert features, ticket information, and easy access to data have helped Clyde Companies run more efficiently.

“Just having the data and having our main dispatch system updated with accurate locations keeps dispatch monitoring better,” says LaNette Andrews, concrete materials system manager for Clyde Companies.

Although some employees may be working at the dispatch office, they still have real-time status updates keeping them as informed as those who are working at the jobsite.

Devices like Trimble's Driver Safety Scorecard allows managers to easily track and record driver performance, and also to shift focus to those who need a little more coaching. It’s all about catching patterns of behavior early and then helping drivers see the problem and know how to correct it.

Joel Beal, managing partner for JBA Telematics, believes accountability, organization, and incentive programs are key. “The issue is not with employees not working hard enough; being unorganized is the issue here,” says Beal. “Drivers show up early or late to a jobsite because it wasn’t properly planned out. Telematics provides accurate arrival times, which ultimately leads to improved productivity.”

Productivity is divided into two halves: people and equipment. “The right equipment will help people do their jobs more effectively,” Beal says.

Beal outlines 12 steps to find the right telematics system for your fleet. These steps include: determining your immediate requirements, estimating requirements five years out, writing a request for proposal, identifying suppliers, creating a short list of potential suppliers, evaluating potential suppliers, making the decision, assigning responsibility, installing equipment, training your people, establishing a recommended daily procedure checklist, and auditing your performance.

By following these steps, you will create a process that allows you to find, choose, and use the right technology for your fleet.

Employee buy-in

Implementing a fleet management system is useless without employee buy-in. Drivers must be educated on the benefits associated with telematics from the start. Initial resistance from drivers is expected, but it can be overcome.

“At first, employees felt like we were putting the big brother technology in and watching their every move,” says Andrews. “They’ve come to realize that we’re only looking to increase our efficiencies by making sure that everyone is doing their jobs. We are by no means micromanaging them.”

Implementing safety incentive programs are a good way to get drivers excited and onboard with telematics. These programs promote healthy competitions among drivers, who will be motivated to work harder if there is a cash or prize payout to the best performer.

A fleet management system will impact the culture, and it will be the project champion’s job to manage the transition. This person will work with management to set expectations and timelines for the rollout. The project champion is critical in order to gain traction and for the buy-in from all parties.

Finding a reliable and trustworthy telematics provider is the key and will ultimately help with employee buy-in.

The final goal is to help you develop a culture where everyone in your organization understands the importance of safety and strives to achieve it.

The future of telematics

Concrete producers are increasingly cashing in on telematics. Within a few months of implementation, producers will realize that it helps their business, and ultimately their bottom line.

This technology gives fleet managers insights they didn’t have access to even a few years ago. Technological advances are being added to fleet telematics systems every day, and regardless of how you feel about them, they are here to stay.