Southern Vending Co. in Ardmore, Okla. uses a passive GPS system from Advance Tracking Technologies in conjunction with CompuVend route handhelds and Videx electronic locks. Aldo Waters, Southern Vendings president, said the employees home addresses have been inputted into the system so management can be alerted if an employee takes a vehicle home. The system also allows management to review how much time employees spend at each stop; too much or too little time can cost the company problems.
"Since we put the system in, our repeat calls have drastically dropped," Waters said.
Appreciated Vending Service in Cinnaminson, N.J. is presently testing a system from GPS North America in three of its seven vehicles, noted Tom Sheehan, CFO. He estimated the hardware will cost between $700 and $800 per truck, which he will lease for a four-year period. In addition, monitoring will cost $35 per month per vehicle.
Systems provide options
Todd Elliott, president of Tomdra Inc., a 16-route operation based in Tucson, Ariz., tested a GPS system three years ago and thinks costs have come down enough that hes decided to invest in a passive system. He sees it as a good management tool. If management finds there is a problem with a certain route, they can imbed the truck with a GPS receiver and review its activity.
GPS helps keep employees honest
Elliott also thinks employees become more honest and productive when they know they are being watched.
Several operators recently have taken interest in a GPS product from a company called Xora Inc. based in Mountain View, Calif. that relies on Nextels cellular signal. The service is similar to other GPS products except that the tracking device is not hardwired to the vehicles engine. Instead, the GPS receiver is in the mobile phone which the employee carries with him.
The Xora charge of $11.99 per month appears on the Nextel bill. There is a one-time $24 charge to set up the service per phone.
Some operators noted that the Nextel product can be disabled simply by turning the phone off. However, the operator will know if a driver has turned off his Nextel phone.
Williams Food Service Inc., based in Louisville, Ky., uses Xoras real-time monitoring for its service techs, supervisors and route drivers with extra-long routes. The system "pings" each driver every five minutes.
System documents employee activity
When one employee was dismissed for not doing his job, the company didnt have to pay unemployment benefits because the GPS system documented the violation so well.
The company also uses a hard-wired GPS service for special situations.
Jeff Payne, president of Williams Food Service, said there are pros and cons to both the Xora and hard-wired systems. The Xora product, besides being less expensive, is also more versatile; theres no need to rewire a GPS receiver if you want to use a different vehicle.
In addition to all of the efficiencies and enhanced accountability provided, many operators also noted that GPS provides a good selling tool. It assures customers' service needs will be met.
GPS benefits at a glance
- Improved fleet efficiency
- Faster response time/improved customer relations
- Improved employee accountability
- Reduced fuel costs
- Improved driver safety
- Reduced liability and insurance costs
- More efficient route management
- Decreased vehicle wear and tear
- Automation of vehicle record keeping functions
What to consider when choosing a GPS system
In assessing a GPS system provider, veteran providers identify several factors to evaluate.
- Value added functionality. The operator should first define what it needs to control in existing operations. A company may not need to know where vehicles are all the time, yet will need to know mileage information for lease, tax or maintenance purposes.
- Simplicity of use for employees.
- Stability of service provider. If the provider goes out of business, it could render the whole system obsolete.
- Support structure. It is important to know what warranties and support are included in the sale and installation. It is also important to know how the customer will be charged for upgrades.
- Integration costs. A GPS system will require equipment installation in vehicles and special software to translate fleet operations data to a format useable by the business. This can include mapping software, a fleet database, and graphics to indicate trends. Some systems require additional infrastructure hardware, such as dedicated phone lines, antennae for signal reception, and Internet connectivity.