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GPS Fleet Management Solution Helps Lighting Contractor Go ‘Green’ and Eliminate Idling Time

Lighting contractors often see green when companies announce corporate sustainability initiatives. These lighting-solutions providers are benefiting from a trend toward more environmentally friendly facilities that incorporate energy-efficient lighting. Advanced Power Technologies (APT) in Pompano Beach, Fla., provides lighting, signage and electrical solutions to customers throughout the Southeast, including Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

While APT has prospered from this green movement, the company’s leaders decided they could do more to establish APT as a leader in eco-conscious solutions. In 2011, the company took the first step toward its own green initiative. “We’re a lighting company, and we completely understand the need for saving electricity and going to LED products,” says Scott Ade, APT’s director of fleet and safety operations. “If we’re going to talk the talk, then internally we need to walk the walk.”

APT managers wanted to back the company’s green message by reducing fuel consumption and emissions. To do this, the company needed to dramatically cut its fleet’s idling time and improve fuel efficiency. APT began its green initiative by installing SageQuest, a GPS fleet-management solution from the Fleetmatics Group. The GPS tool was essential because the company needed a way to measure key efficiency metrics, such as idling time.

“If there’s a company out there that wants to measure anything (related to fuel consumption) or truly wants to know what they’re budgeting for each year, you have to have a very good GPS solution in place to help gather that information and separate it into alerts and reports, so you can truly get an idea of what you are spending and why,” Ade says.

A Solution for Growing Enterprises

APT was already using a GPS-tracking solution prior to SageQuest, yet they knew they needed a fleet management solution that was more appropriate and scalable for its projected growth. SageQuest delivered, Ade says, as it also allows users to tailor the solution to meet the needs of the various roles in the company.  For instance, a dispatcher’s needs are different than that of a technician supervisor or a payroll administrator. SageQuest’s “roles and permissions” feature allows users to create customized views for each type of user in the organization.

In addition, employee administrators can set permissions for the different areas of Mobile Control that users can have access to and monitor.  A growing, midsized fleet can use this to keep data simple and straightforward so team members can focus on their core tasks.

Putting a Stop to Idling

APT switched its fleet to SageQuest in January 2011. Ade can now set parameters in SageQuest for how much idling time is acceptable for his fleet.  He can then track idling time by monitoring alerts delivered by SageQuest to his computer or smartphone. Technicians also receive the alerts on their phones, so they know when there’s a potential issue.    “Now, I don’t even have to make a phone call,” Ade says.  “They’ll call me and explain what’s going on and whether there’s a malfunction somewhere.”

The potential malfunction Ade referenced has proven to be less likely an issue with the company’s electric hybrid boom trucks, which it began deploying in November 2012 as part of its green initiative. The company has replaced 22 of its 88 trucks with the hybrid electric vehicles. In these trucks, an auxiliary electric motor powers the boom and bucket rather than truck’s diesel engine. APT reports it has nearly eliminated engine idling through the combined benefits of leveraging hybrid technology and SageQuest’s solution. The only exception now should be on extraordinarily hot days, Ade says, when employees run the engine for air conditioning.

Employees now know idling should be minimal and that with SageQuest the company has a tool to track when and where they’re exceeding the set limits.

Staying on Budget

Each day SageQuest generates a scorecard for Ade that provides him with a snapshot of the day’s activities, including idling and speeding alerts. “SageQuest has been able to help take all this information and put it into one, simple application,” Ade says.

This data helps the company with its budgeting process. For instance, APT can monitor mileage on each truck. If one truck logged substantially more miles than another vehicle, Ade can use this information to add another technician to a particular region to cut down on driving. The feature also helps Ade track mileage for International Fuel Tax Agreement, or IFTA, reports. “I’m able to know how much my fleet costs me on a percentage basis—how much a truck is costing me every mile,” Ade says. “Without that information from SageQuest, you’re shooting in the dark.”

Most of APT’s trucks average 10 to 11 miles per gallon, which is slightly less than some other large, commercial trucks because of the equipment on the vehicle. But through SageQuest, Ade can capture weight data that gives him a better idea of how much inventory each truck carries and make future decisions regarding equipment. “It helps us understand which material we’re using the most and which material we’re not using as much so we can significantly decrease some of that weight and in turn save some fuel as well,” he says.

En-Route to Fuel Efficiency

Another potential fuel-saving feature within SageQuest is the ability dispatch drivers using the most efficient routes. Ade can send routing information to Garmin GPS units on each truck. This is critical when a truck has an emergency maintenance need or a technician needs to pick up a part. “If I have a technician whose truck is broken down on the road or the check engine light is on, I can find a service location nearest to him so he can get it taken care of as quickly as possible,” Ade says.

The technician can view the route by tapping a blue flag on his Garmin screen that then displays the route to the mechanic’s shop. Ade has also preloaded vendor locations into SageQuest with contact information and addresses. Ade uses this data to direct technicians to the closest vendor.

All of these green initiatives have culminated into major fuel savings for the company. Ade estimates APT has saved at least $3,500 a month in fuel since deploying SageQuest. Looking ahead, the company expects further savings. It plans to deploy its first flex-fuel vehicle that will operate on diesel and compressed natural gas. SageQuest’s role in the company’s green initiatives will continue to grow.  At some point, Ade plans to add harsh-driving alerts to the system so he can monitor driver safety.

“We want to see how our drivers are driving our vehicles so we can try to alter any bad driving habits,” Ade says.

“If there’s a company out there that wants to measure anything (related to fuel consumption) or truly wants to know what they’re budgeting for each year, you have to have a very good GPS system in place to help gather that information and separate it into alerts and reports, so you can truly get an idea of what you are spending and why.”

Scott Ade, APT’s Director of Fleet and Safety Operations

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