Include Time, Quality Control with Fleet Management
BY Sandy Lender
When the members of the crew are invested in the success of the company, the owner and managers typically have fewer worries about lost time or missing parts stacking up to cause a dent in the bottom line. Savvy owners still keep track of employee behaviors that can have an impact on project costs. The June 1 edition of Caterpillar’s Heavy Construction Equipment online newsletter mentioned “operating skills, fuel consumption behaviors, knowledge of the equipment, and diligence in taking good care of the equipment” as factors that influence project costs.
“Many studies have documented that when workers understand how their behaviors impact the financial performance of the company, they [employees] are more likely to change behaviors or embrace new ones,” the newsletter continued. “Many contractors report that sharing or posting fuel consumption and/or idle time data has made significant differences in how operators run machines.”
Let’s say you don’t know how to share fuel consumption data with the crew members, and certainly don’t know how to tell them they can improve on fuel consumption to get a raise in the future. Some of the tools available to contractors within fleet management software can do more than just pinpoint a machine within a geofence.
Simple software programs can show owners where equipment is located, whether or not the ignition is on, whether or not the equipment is moving—i.e., idling—at what speed it’s moving, whether or not it has moved outside of a preset grid or “fence” that the owner can assign to a project site, and more.
The more robust software programs can send equipment updates such as when it’s time for regular oil changes and when it’s time to rotate tires, as well as operating updates such as when milling efficiency is lowering due to tooth wear, and when an operator is jerking the machine to a stop and starting with jack-rabbit inefficiency.
Consider how a manager can use the feedback from a report that shows truck idling times. Let’s say you notice a trend where the company work truck idles for about 45 minutes every work day between noon and 1:00 p.m. Is the foreman sitting in the truck with the air conditioner running while he eats his lunch? That’s a lot of fuel wasted if that happens frequently. That’s also an indication that the worker could be headed for heat sickness with fluctuating body temperatures.* Even if you don’t mind an employee taking a longer lunch break from time to time, the fuel wasted starts to add up in costs.
Consider the mind-boggling haul truck patterns that can leave you with 18 to 20+ tons of cooled mix. You can find out why Haul Truck B arrived at your paving site a full 40 minutes after Haul Trucks C and D arrived by looking at the GPS tracking. A driver might not be willing to confess what you can see if the tracker in the truck shows he took a detour and stopped for a few minutes at a garage in a nearby commercial district.
Pull that address up on Google Maps or Google Earth to get the exact name, take a screen shot or familiarize yourself with the spot for questioning the driver. Hopefully your driver doesn’t have a side business as a courier of some sort! No matter what he did or didn’t do during the extra stop, the naughty driver cost the imaginary business in this example fuel and time, and possibly quality if the perishable product in his truck was affected by the extra time.
Do you pay the bill for the foreman’s mobile phone? That bill is your business and you have a right to know who he was talking to for 45 minutes in the middle of the shift on a Monday afternoon. That’s 45 minutes his time was divided between the job and another task. Safety, quality and performance were taking a back seat to something else.
These bits and pieces of fleet management have come a long way in the past few years as software companies have perfected their monitoring and reporting capabilities. By receiving and then using reports wisely, managers can show workers how even the little things impact the bottom line.
*Check for the signs of heat stroke and how to avoid heat sickness at the American Road & Transportation Builders Association’s National Work Zone Information Clearinghouse at https://www.workzonesafety.org.