Improving Water Utility Management with GPS Fleet Tracking

June 2, 2015
The water utility management industry involves a number of moving parts -- from business operations to field data collection and responses-- and with so many activities taking place, efficiency is key. As such, business owners and operations managers can benefit from a solution that helps optimize productivity while also reducing operational costs and providing visibility in the field. GPS fleet tracking solutions enable water utilities to easily manage jobs, vehicles, fuel, and vehicle maintenance needs.


By Steven Payne

The water utility management industry involves a number of moving parts -- from business operations to field data collection and responses-- and with so many activities taking place, efficiency is key. Even just one interruption in day-to-day operations can create a backlog of issues that could set back the rest of the week, costing money, time and other vital resources.

A GPS fleet tracking solutions enables drivers to receive job updates and optimized routes via their Personal Navigation Device (PND), thus increasing driver safety.

Business owners and operations managers can benefit from a solution that helps optimize productivity while also reducing operational costs and providing visibility in the field. GPS fleet tracking solutions enable water utilities to easily manage jobs, vehicles, fuel, and vehicle maintenance needs.

Employee and Vehicle Management

Managing a fleet in the utility industry can be a complicated process. Dispatchers are tasked with assigning jobs to drivers, which can be time-consuming. In addition, uncontrollable factors can present challenges when the utility covers a large geographic region, and traffic and road conditions can change unexpectedly, causing drivers to get lost. Fortunately, a GPS fleet tracking solution can resolve these issues, keeping the day's workflow on schedule.

Tracking technology provides a clear view into operations, which also provides transparency from the main office to individual vehicles. With a comprehensive fleet tracking system, dispatch can provide real-time updates to drivers so they can avoid traffic incidents, roadwork and unnecessary tolls. In other situations where utilities are operating a fleet in remote locations, dispatch can stay up to date with where employees are and where they are going.

A fuel purchase report can be a useful tool for identifying any fuel slippage or excessive fuel spend.

Dispatch and routing features within a GPS fleet tracking solution address both of these situations. The office can easily schedule jobs, dispatch them to employees in the field and send messages between the two parties. Further, drivers are provided the most direct route, optimizing the number of locations they service in a given workday and reducing fuel usage. Utilities, such as Columbus Water Works, find that they are able to increase revenue due to an increase in productivity. The combined utility experienced a 15-percent increase in driver productivity after introducing a tracking solution into its operations.

As an added benefit, drivers are able to receive these job updates and optimized routes via their Personal Navigation Device (PND), thus increasing driver safety. A comprehensive tracking solution should allow for the driver to receive voice-guided, turn-by-turn directions for the current route. This eliminates the need for drivers to look at their devices while behind the wheel, which increases safety for both the employee and others on the road.

Fuel Management

Despite the fact that fuel costs are no longer skyrocketing, fuel consumption remains a concern among utilities, as it is one of the highest operating costs for businesses with multiple vehicles. For instance, simply idling a vehicle for an excessive amount of time (five or more minutes) can increase fuel consumption by 4 to 5 percent. Western Monmouth Utilities Authority, for example, reduced fuel costs by 10 percent with the idle reports provided by its GPS fleet tracking solution. In addition, idling can potentially damage vehicle engines over time, so it is crucial that employees practice efficient driving habits.

With a comprehensive fleet tracking system, dispatch can provide real-time updates to drivers so they can avoid traffic incidents, roadwork and unnecessary tolls.

A comprehensive GPS fleet tracking solution should offer an intuitive fuel management program, allowing companies to integrate fuel cards and receive detailed reports regarding fuel consumption and spend. Fuel card integration provides a complete view of fleet operations and fleet fuel consumption, ultimately helping companies better understand fuel efficiency. This incorporates gas card data, fuel card transactions and maintenance purchase information into a management and tracking solution.

As an added benefit, employees are equipped with the tools they need for smarter purchasing decisions. All gas and service stations in the vendor's network are added to a company's solution, allowing dispatchers to easily identify and direct employees to the closest merchants through their PND or mobile application.

Fuel reports are a helpful tool for any fleet, regardless of the size. Fuel purchase reports provide information needed to identify any fuel slippage or excessive fuel spend, while idle reports pinpoint any inefficient behaviors that can be altered.

Maintenance Management

Another way to improve overall fleet efficiency is to ensure that all vehicles and assets are properly maintained. Well-maintained vehicles are more reliable and operate at higher fuel-efficiency levels. A GPS fleet tracking solution provides the tools a company needs to track each vehicle's service history and ensure that they receive proper, routine maintenance. Having detailed service information can keep maintenance on schedule and reduce costly repairs in the future. Some companies do this manually, but it's time-consuming. In contrast, a tracking solution provides automated maintenance schedules, logs and reports.

Automated maintenance schedules can alert fleet managers when it is time for upkeep or repairs. By streamlining the process and automating reminders, preventative maintenance occurs consistently and on schedule. Managers can also customize or generate the data they need for a complete overview of their fleet. This automated process makes it easier to monitor and track maintenance, which in turn, leads to healthier vehicles and lower repair costs. In fact, Columbus Water Works experienced a 25-percent increase in preventative maintenance tickets after implementing a tracking solution.

Utilizing a GPS fleet tracking solution streamlines business operations and saves time and money across a number of areas. Further, it provides companies with the tools they need to operate efficiently, while directly benefiting the bottom line. Selecting the right GPS tracking solution can result in a one-stop shop for maximizing operations and increasing productivity.

About the Author: Steven Payne is director of Business Development at NexTraq. NexTraq's applications -- Fleet Dispatch, Fleet Metrics and Fleet Mobile -- deliver real-time data needed to optimize fleet operations.

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