How HVAC Contractors Benefit from GPS Tracking and Video
HVAC contractors, like other field service businesses, use fleet tracking to improve business results.
Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning companies rely on GPS tracking to better manage their mobile workforce and vehicles, especially during the summer months that bring peak activity. Vehicle tracking enhances service for businesses whose lifeblood depends on happy customers.
Here is the multitude of ways HVAC companies improve their business results from telematics systems:
- Improving customer service with accurate ETAs
- Enhancing productivity with technicians that stay on task
- Verifying technician performance at job sites
- Reducing operating costs and waste (including fuel)
- Implementing a preventive maintenance schedule
- Improving safe driving
While HVAC companies have been using these approaches over at least the past decade, these field service businesses have more recently more rapidly adopted video telematics to better manage risky driving and protect themselves from so-called “nuclear” jury verdicts against them.
Video telematics systems add an additional layer of defense to your risk management plan because they provide context around risky driving and help provide bulletproof evidence of who’s at fault during a collision. Studies have shown that passenger vehicles are at fault about 80% of the time during truck accidents.
The Importance of Gathering HVAC Fleet Data
Telematics systems provide a tremendous amount of operational data, so it’s important to gain clarity around what you’ll collect and how you’ll manage it. Telematics devices typically collect three kinds of data – vehicle location, diagnostics such as engine idling or maintenance alerts, and driver behavior such as speeding via sensors or video cameras.
Pro tip: Set KPI metrics so you can track improvement around specific goals.
Data that provides locational awareness keeps technicians on route to their job sites and reduces inappropriate use such as taking vehicles to out-of-policy locations, moonlighting for ride-hailing, running personal errands, or parking in dangerous neighborhoods.
Diagnostic and other engine data helps fleet managers set up and follow a preventive maintenance schedule, and deal with maintenance issues before a catastrophic system failure. This data can also be used to reduce excessive idling and other fuel-wasting behaviors.
Lastly, driver management data helps reduce risky and aggressive driving that could result in a collision and costly legal judgment from an at-fault crash. Video systems can provide extra context to driving data by providing enhanced driver scoring and clips that can be used in a coaching workflow.
Of course, gathering data can be overwhelming if it’s pointed toward you like a firehose. Every telematics provider can give streams of data. Make sure you can thin-slice the data reporting so it results in action steps.
Choosing a GPS Tracking System for your HVAC Service Trucks
HVAC contractors should answer the following questions when considering which GPS tracking service to implement, so they choose the right tool for the job.
- Should I purchase the OEM’s telematics system?
- What type of tracking or driver information do I need?
- How many vehicles do I need to track?
- Are the fleet dashboard and reporting user-friendly?
- What kind of customer support can I expect?
- What’s my budget, and how does the tracking service provider(TSP) handle pricing?
Field service businesses usually acquire their trucks and vans from the dealerships of Ford, General Motors, Stellantis (Ram), and other manufacturers. Purchasing the vehicle also involves configuring it to meet the needs of the business through a process known as upfitting, which can include choosing an array of auxiliary equipment such as bodies, shelving, ladder racks, and even factory-installed telematics systems. It’s important to field-test the OEM’s telematics system because oftentimes it won’t be as robust as an aftermarket system.
HVAC businesses need to determine which data is needed – so the fleet administrator doesn’t get lost in the weeds. Are we trying to reduce speeding? Are we trying to eliminate unauthorized use of the vehicle for moonlighting or personal errands? Are we trying to enforce a ban on cellphone use by drivers? Pick a goal and address one data point at a time.
Pro Tip: Installing an OEM telematics system may be convenient, but make sure you know what insights it provides.
Know your vehicle count. Larger HVAC contracting businesses with more vehicles and drivers may have different needs than the majority of smaller businesses with five or fewer vehicles. Maybe you have a few lower-utilized supervisor vehicles that don’t need tracking units. If you’re implementing video telematics, perhaps you’d like to do a head-to-head trial of several vendors in a few vehicles before making your final determination.
Be sure to ask your potential telematics service provider how their dashboard and reporting work. Ask for a demo so you can see how you’ll sort the data to best meet your needs. It’s always important to consider how you’ll manage data overload. Ask about the event triggers and alerts. Will you be notified when risky driving occurs, or are you OK with a weekly email report?
Ask the TSP how you can get in touch with someone when you need support. A good TSP supports its products.
Lastly, it’s important to calculate what you’re willing to spend for fleet tracking. Many TSPs now sell hardware – the “black box” tracker and video cameras – in a bundle with monthly service. It’s important to clarify what’s included in the price, and what you’ll spend if you need to expand at a later date. If you roll out video cameras to one-third of your fleet, how much will it cost to add cameras later?
How Fleet Management Solutions Improve HVAC Customer Service
Pro Tip: Providing ETAs to customers eliminates friction in your business.
Field service businesses rely heavily on satisfied customers, who recommend them to friends or post positive reviews on social media platforms. At the same time, these customers are also quick to move on to a new company if they have an unsatisfactory experience.
A lot of the strife revolves around when the technician arrives at the job site. Telematics systems can provide a real-time location of the technician, which the business can then relay to the customer.
The Great Pacific Elbow Company, an HVAC supplier based in Chino, Calif., has been sharing ETAs with customers from its 15 trucks.
“Our customer service has improved,” said Elizabeth Maldonado, a customer service rep. “We have been able to give our customers a call before they call us angry.”
Enhancing Productivity – Routing, Time Theft & Service Verification
In addition to improving communication with customers, locational data helps dispatchers design the best routes for HVAC technicians for their work day. Under a less effective system, dispatchers routinely call technicians to find out their location and status.
With real-time vehicle location from the telematics system, dispatchers can quickly and efficiently message technicians with updates. This can be especially important when you need to pull a technician from a job site to deal with an emergency call.
Vehicle awareness also helps reduce time theft and waste. It cuts down on “windshield time” – the amount of driving needed between job sites – because a more efficient route has been chosen.
With geofencing, drivers will no longer be able to wander off to unauthorized locations such as bars or adult clubs. Geofencing allows fleet administrators to set parameters for certain locations that create an alert when the vehicle enters or leaves a pre-set area.
Lastly, telematics systems help with service verification. Customers have been known to question a bill and claim they never received service. Having detailed records helps the business receive earned income.
Reducing Waste by Lowering Fuel Spend
Every 5 mph over 50 mph adds 17 cents per gallon to your costs.
Fuel is typically the top operating expense for businesses with vehicle fleets, so it’s important to focus on lowering spend.
One of the biggest ways drivers waste fuel is by speeding. Reducing your speed by 5 to 10 mph can improve fuel economy by 7% to 14%, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And fuel economy decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph. In economic terms, every 5 mph you drive over 50 mph is like paying 17 cents more per gallon of gas.
Following the speed limit, using gentle acceleration and braking, and reading the road ahead can improve fuel economy by as much as 30% at highway speeds and up to 40% in stop-and-go traffic.
Van and truck loading can also improve fuel economy. Removing excess cargo or parts that are rarely used can also save fuel.
Fleet managers should ensure their vehicle tires are inflated to the proper level. When a tire is under-inflated at 5 psi below the manufacturer recommendation, fuel consumption increases 10% and reduces tread life by 15% over time, according to Automotive Fleet.
Then there’s idling. Truck engine idling can cost up to $12,000 per year in wasted fuel, increased maintenance costs, and shortened vehicle lifespan, according to Engines Off, a Colorado-based government initiative.
How to Set Up and Follow a Preventive Maintenance Schedule
Telematics systems are very adept at helping companies improve the maintenance of their vehicles via scheduling and maintenance reminders.
HVAC companies often rely on office staff to keep manual records on oil drains, filter changes, brake-pad replacements, and other routine items. But this process can be error-prone.
Tracking systems have built-in modules – with an associated dashboard – that allows fleet administrators to follow a schedule based on mileage or a set date. Most preventive maintenance schedules are laid out in a vehicle’s owner’s manual and can easily be added to the tracking software.
When a vehicle reaches the recommended mileage number, the tracking system sends an email or text alert to the fleet administrator.
Following a proper preventive maintenance schedule keeps vehicles in service and helps the company avoid costly repairs and extended downtime in the future.
Video Telematics Systems Help You Make Safer Drivers
With any field service business, the “human element” creates the highest risk. Because you can’t ride shotgun with your drivers, adding a video camera to monitor driving behavior is the next best thing.
Video cameras can record the road ahead and the driver’s face, and send alerts for speeding, distracted driving, and drowsiness. While the higher-end systems use artificial intelligence to detect risky driving, even an entry-level system can use G-force sensors to document higher-risk driving.
These systems also capture video from collisions to accurately assess fault.
The video clips can be used to exonerate drivers or provide supporting evidence to insurers or attorneys. They can also be used to coach drivers to improve their driving.
HVAC and other field service companies have begun to rapidly adopt telematics systems, especially video cameras, because of the many benefits they provide.
If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.
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