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Nobody likes the idea of having Big Brother looking over their shoulder, and you are not going to win any popularity contests by implementing a GPS tracking system into your company’s field operations. But the bottom line is that a lot of people will behave differently in an unsupervised work environment than they will when they know that the boss is (or could be) watching, and while changing a business culture can be painful, the overall benefit it brings often makes it more than worthwhile.
Take the example of a demo we did for a West Texas municipality recently. They took us up on our offer to borrow one of our battery operated GPS devices and put it into an employee’s vehicle that had been turning in overtime hours on every timesheet for months. They told the employee that he was participating in a pilot program, and that there was now a monitoring device on his vehicle that would be used for a variety of things, including timesheet verification. The employee was not very happy about this new arrangement, but was told that this was not a voluntary program and he had to live with it.
After about six weeks we got a call back from the supervisor. “You are not going to believe this”, he said, “but every timesheet that has come in from this guy since we started the demo has had no overtime reported whatsoever.” In fact, they were able to show an overtime reduction of over $400/month for this one employee’s payroll alone, and that was the easy thing to measure. There was also a decrease in mileage and engine hour usage on his vehicle, leading to measurable savings there as well.
And what did the supervisor do to make this happen? Other than tell the employee that the device was in the vehicle, the supervisor did practically nothing. Sure, he looked at the monitoring history occasionally, but he soon realized he did not have to. “As soon as the device was in the vehicle”, he says, “the guy’s behavior changed. It was that simple.” The reality is that quite often, very little effort has to be put into the service to get a good return on the investment, because the simple act of putting the device into the vehicle will make an employee think twice before padding a timesheet or using the company vehicle for their personal errands.
Of course, there are a lot of opportunities to get even more out of a fleet monitoring system. Our services range from basic, self-service tracking to a full service option where one of our staff experts can serve as your outsourced fleet management supervisor, keeping an eye on all of the incoming data and distilling the information into comprehensive reports that you can use to better manage your operations. Any of our fleet monitoring solutions can be deployed on as few as 2 vehicles, and can be scaled up to cover literally thousands of mobile assets in the field. With no equipment to buy and no software to maintain, this service allows organizations to implement the very latest fleet monitoring service without the risk of purchasing hardware which may quickly be out of date.
Sound interesting? Give us a call and we will be happy to tell you more about this exciting program.
One of the key topics that we discuss with business customers early on is the potential productivity gains and costs savings surrounding improved timesheet verification of their employees out in the field. For some organizations, this topic can be very uncomfortable. Not only are you bringing into question the trustworthiness of your employees, but perhaps even the integrity and loyalty of supervisors and payroll staff.
If human emotion was not a consideration, the cold, hard numbers would make any effort to improve timesheet verification a favorite topic for business owners. Saving just a couple hours a month per employee can have a significant impact on the bottom line, representing an opportunity to delay the hiring of additional staff, improve profit margins, and market competitiveness.
But rarely is the question of timesheet validity a simple clerical issue. Aside from the potential criminal implications (many states consider timesheet fraud a form of larceny) and civil repercussions (ie. having an employee sue in civil court), any attempt to implement an improved verification system runs the risk of disrupting the status quo in the organization. If employees are accustomed to padding their timesheets with a few extra hours of overtime every paycheck, or taking time off during the day to run personal errands, it may be that they consider the extra pay an entitlement that they deserve. After all, they may have been doing this for years with no consequence whatsoever. And supervisors may have grown accustomed to looking the other way as well, seeing it as an opportunity to reward their staff and keep them happy.
It is important to remember though that the morale issue cuts both ways. For those employees that do not pad their timesheet, this behavior among their coworkers can be perceived as an unfair, even immoral activity leading to resentment towards both the coworkers who are taking advantage of the situation as well as of the employer who allows the behavior to continue. Left unchecked, even the most honest and loyal employee will eventually begin to question why they should not take advantage of the “fringe benefit” of padding their timesheet, or perhaps even leave the company in an effort to find a work environment that meets their higher sense of work ethic.
As tough as this problem can be to tackle, it is imperative for any organization with employees in the field to insure that the hours being paid to each individual accurately represents their contribution. While the traditional “honor system” or “supervisor verified system” can insure that the majority of the timesheets submitted are accurate, the addition of a tool like GPS fleet monitoring can significantly reduce the potential abuses in both systems. Fleet monitoring provides an exact record of where each vehicle was in over the course of the week, making it very risky for an employee to claim they were working when there is a record showing the vehicle was at home or at the mall, and supervisors will no longer have to choose between ignoring an extra hour or two on a timesheet vs. a confrontation with a coworker/friend.
If you have been considering the implementation of a fleet monitoring solution, be sure and ask us how GPS tracking can be used to improve the productivity of your field staff and level the playing field for your honest employees.
Sageplan is an international technology consulting company providing services in GPS tracking, fleet management, and general technology consulting. Our fleet management services help organizations cut fleet operating costs and increase employee productivity through the application of environmentally sound and field proven technologies. Our free, no obligation consultation can show you how to reduce fuel consumption, lower insurance rates, and reduce wasted employee hours on the job. For more information about the company and their services, visit www.sageplan.com or www.worldtrackingsolutions.com.
First things first. If you are running a business and are thinking about tracking an employee without their knowledge or permission, be careful. The rules on what is and is not legal will not only vary from state to state, but may even vary from city to city. It’s a good idea to check in with the local police or an attorney before deciding whether or not you want to go the covert tracking route.
If you do decide that a covert, battery operated unit is the right choice for you application, here are 5 features to consider when picking your tracker:
1. Device Sensitivity: The ability of the device to pick up a weak GPS signal can be extremely important depending upon the application. In some cases the device can be placed in plain sight, such as on the vehicle dashboard, but in other cases it needs to be concealed underneath the dash or under a seat. We’ve heard from quite a few people who have complained being sold a device that does not work well unless they are placed in a location where they have direct visibility to the open sky. If the application requires that the unit be concealed, you will need to consider a professional grade device, which generally works well even when concealed underneath a dashboard or passenger seat.
2. Coverage: Most GPS tracking devices send their data into the tracking server using a cell phone network, so it’s vital to understand which network provider is being used. Some tracking systems will cut costs by using a single provider’s network, which can lead to reporting gaps when the device roams outside of their coverage area. You also want to find out what happens to the data that is generated when the device is outside of its network coverage. Our tracking system will hold any tracking data that is generated until the unit is back in coverage and forward the data along as soon as possible, but a lot of providers simply drop the data in this situation in an effort to cut costs. Be sure to ask about this feature when considering any tracking system.
3. Battery Life: How long do the batteries last? This is one of the most important questions for a covert GPS device. The answer will depend upon several factors including the amount of time spent in motion, how often the device is updating its location, and how strong the GPS signal is. It can be difficult to sort out exactly how long the battery life will be, and it’s not uncommon for a retailer to be vague, or even misleading about this important parameter. We have seen more than one example of vendors using deceptive terms about their battery life to make a sale. One common trick is to highlight the device’s “standby time”, which defines how long the batteries will last as long as the device is not actively tracking!
4. Customer Service: What’s the point in purchasing a highly technical device if you can’t get help to learn how to use it? GPS tracking needs a complex mix of hardware, software, wireless, and mapping services to function, which means that the likelihood of needing professional help is higher than with a typical consumer electronics application. Sageplan prides itself in having the best customer service in the industry. If someone claims to offer service, test them on it! We talk to people all the time that have been stuck with a gadget that the sales guy said was awesome, but when it did not work there was nowhere to turn to for help.
5. Cost: Assuming all the other features are equal, the logical choice for the buyer is to go with the retailer offering the lowest cost. We know everyone is looking for the least expensive option, and we work very hard to provide exactly that. We are not the cheapest option out there! If you are surprised by that admission, then you have not had the same chance we have had to listen to the stories from people who got suckered into buying a cheap gadget because it was, well, cheap, only to find out after the fact that the device simply was not up to the job at hand. Make the effort to understand the full value of the service being offered by each provider.
If you have a need for a single GPS tracking device, or are thinking about deploying a fleet monitoring system across an entire business organization, be sure to talk to a reputable company before choosing your provider. If you choose to talk to us, we will take the time to go through the list of options with you to find the solution that is best for you. We know we are not always going to be the right service provider for every application, but we will always work hard to make sure that you get the very best value possible for your investment if you choose us as your GPS tracking solution partner.
Everybody knows that the smart phones we carry around today can do a lot of amazing things. From keeping a calendar to checking email to helping us find the hippest restaurant in town, the designers continue to find ways to pack more and more capability into this handy little devices.
One of the questions we hear a lot is whether or not a business could simply use their employee’s cell phones to keep track of them over the course of the day. On the surface, this seems like a good way to avoid buying a bunch of products and services to keep an eye on everyone, and save a little bit of money.
And in some cases, it may work just fine. Every major cellular service provider offers some version of cell phone tracking for a relatively small fee, which could provide an “off the shelf” solution for the business owner that just needs to occasionally locate their employees. And we are really impressed with the work Google is putting in to their mobile applications. Under the right set of circumstance, their combination of mobile chat, location services, and navigation can go a long way towards keeping everyone connected over the course of the work day.
But of course, as with most technology, there are trade-offs that need to be considered before picking a solution for your business. If you are in the market for a GPS tracking solution, here are a few questions to ask yourself before you settle on a smart phone solution.
- Privacy: This is always an area that needs to be addressed when employees are being tracked, especially if the tracker information is available during the employee’s time off.
- Reliability: Smartphones have off buttons, tracking applications can usually be disabled, which means that someone who
is doing something that they should not be doing during work hours can defeat a smart phone tracking system with the push of a button.
- Battery Life: Enabling the GPS chipset on a smartphone will dramatically decrease battery life, and can reduce the standby time on the device less than one day in some cases.
- Bandwidth: Be sure you understand how much data is being used by your application, especially if the device is sending in a constant stream of tracking information or web based navigation.
- Asset Tracking: Oftentimes a business is more interested in tracking a vehicle or piece of equipment than the operator.
Clearly, location services is one of the capabilities that a smart phone offers to a business owner. Just be sure that you understand the trade-offs and limitations of this approach, or you could end up with a solution that falls far short of the return on investment that can be generated by a purpose built solution.
If you are thinking about implementing a GPS Tracking solution as part of your overall fleet management strategy, you may have been a little overwhelmed by the array of equipment options out in the marketplace. Choosing the right option is usually driven by what it is you need to get out of the system. Let’s review the 3 main categories of GPS tracking systems:
Real Time Tracking: These units transmit a continuous stream of information from each vehicle in your fleet to a central data center, where the information is processed and then provided to you in real time over the internet (usually on a web page). It’s important to note that the phrase “real time” generally refers to how quickly the data is made available to the user, and not necesarily how rapidly each vehicle’s location is being updated. While it is technically possible to update each vehicle in your fleet every 5 or 10 seconds, many applications will update at a slower rate to reduce server overhead and therefore service costs.
Exception Tracking: These devices allow you to locate the unit being tracked at any time. Think of it as flipping on the lightswitch in a room just for an instant. In that moment you can see exactly where an individual was in the room, and these units work essentially the same way. When you locate, or “ping”, the tracker, it will tell you where it is in that moment of time, but you will not have any information on where the device was before the ping or after. Many applications that allow you to ping a cell phone work exactly this way.
Passive Tracking: Passive tracking systems, also known as dataloggers, store a history of the device’s location in onboard memory. The data is normally retreived by downloading the information onto a computer, where the tracking history can be displayed. Data loggers have the important advantage of not requiring any sort of wireless service to operate, which means they have no monthly service fees.
Of course, there are many other ways to segment the GPS tracking market. Here are a few other questions you will want to answer before settling on a particular solution:
- Do I want battery powered devices, or something that will be hard-wired into the vehicle?
- Do I need professional grade equipment, or will a quality, consumer grade devices suit my needs?
- Will cellular service be adequate for transmission of my incoming tracking data, or do I need a pure satellite based solution?
- If the GPS signal is obstructed for some reason, will the device triangulate using cell towers? Do I need/want to pay for this feature?
The customer service reps at our sister-site World Tracking Solutions can help you navigate the list of options if you are thinking about implementing a GPS Tracking solution for your business.
The recession that began in 2008 was deep and profound, impacting almost every business. While most of us had very little to do with creating the recession, we all suffered through the consequences together. Slowly but surely the economy is getting better, and it is time for businesses to start thinking strategically about their next growth cycle.
For any business with mobile assets, one inevitable part of increasing business is increasing fleet expenditures. As business picks up, your fleet gets busier. All of your vehicles will almost certainly add mileage to their monthly averages, which is a good thing as it means that they are usually out adding to your company’s top line revenue. But how much will increasing fuel costs add to the overall expenses?
Diesel oil and gasoline prices have already shot up to their highest levels in two years, and most analysts are predicting a steady increase over the course of 2011 as the global economy picks up steam. The 2011 predictions from most analysts, including the U.S. Energy Information Administration are running in a fairly narrow range centered around a 10% increase over last year’s pricing. Given the global fuel markets, it is a fairly safe bet at this stage to put those figures into the forecast this year. While nobody likes to pay more in fuel costs, this sort of increase as the economy improves is relatively easy to swallow for most businesses as we all ride the wave of an improving economy.
Projections for 2012 Vary Widely
The more important question to answer for fleet managers is whether or not we will see a fuel cost increase in 2012 that mirrors the 30% plus increase we saw in 2008, and whether or not that increase will be permanent this time. While experts disagree on the timing, everyone agrees on the simple fact that supplies continue to dwindle as demand rises. Most of the increased demand in 2008 came from emerging markets such as China and India, and forecasts show that these markets will be increasing their demand again soon as they work their way through the latest downturn. While the timing is still murky, the inevitability of increasing fuel costs make it prudent to start planning for this eventuality.
Four Ways to Decrease Fuel Costs
Here are four ways that a fleet owner can work to reduce his or her fuel consumption over the long haul.
- Smaller, More Efficient Vehicles: This one is obvious and most businesses are looking at overall cost of ownership on their new vehicles as they are added to the fleet. When you look at your cost of ownership projections, be sure to calculate them at several different fuel cost estimates.
- Route Monitoring: Having the ability to monitor your vehicle locations allows you to insure that they are running their routes efficiently and that your corporate vehicles are not burning fuel for an employee’s personal benefit rather than your own. Personal side trip expenses in the work truck can really add up.
- Reduce Speeding: Everyone knows that the faster a vehicle goes, the more fuel it consumes. Not only is this an operational cost issue, but it also greatly increases your risk liability for everything from speeding tickets to accidents .
- Control Engine Idling: Studies have indicated that a typical work truck can consume anywhere from 0.7 to 1.2 gallons of fuel for every hour that the engine is left running idle. While this is sometimes necessary in extremely hot or cold environments, most often it is a cost that is easily avoidable when the proper monitoring measures are put into place.
So, What About That $5/Gallon Fuel?
My guess is that 2012 is not the year that we will see it. Only the most pessimistic of forecasters see it coming sooner rather than later. But I do believe that it will be here soon, certainly within the next five years, so it is time to start putting that eventuality into the strategic planning for your fleet. If you don’t, you could end up with a bunch of vehicles that cost you much more to operate and depreciate much more rapidly than your competition’s fleet.
5 Reasons Why Extending Vehicle Life Cycles Can Be a Bad Idea
Every business owner faces the daily challenge of controlling operational costs, and more than one decision maker has chosen to cut costs by extending the lifetime of each vehicle in the fleet by a year and/or an extra 25,000 miles. But does this choice really save the business money? The not-so-surprising answer is maybe, and maybe not.
While the immediate impact of delaying the capital purchase is easy to see on the cost side of the balance sheet, there are several potential downsides that can quickly offset any savings that might come from extending the vehicle cycle:
1. Increased Maintenance Costs:This is the one everyone probably thinks about first, and with good reason. It’s not surprising to most folks that maintenance costs increase as vehicles age. Initially this increase is somewhat offset by the diminishing depreciation costs of an older vehicle, but there is a critical point in time when the risk of an unexpected maintenance event, which can lead to thousands of dollars in repair and employee productivity costs begin to overwhelm any possible gain.
2. Decreased Fleet Sales Incentives: How frustrated would you be if you learned that the savings you had anticipated from extending your current fleet were sucked up by your local truck dealership? Fleet sales discount levels are often driven by volume, and if you push out your buying cycle you may find yourself receiving anywhere from $500 to $1,000 less in volume purchase discounts from your fleet dealer.
3. Lower Resale Value: Every additional month and mile you put on a vehicle will decrease the resale value, and in some cases the decrease can be dramatic. When looking at the potential cost savings of delaying the next purchase, be sure and factor in the lower resale value of the vehicle you have kept for an additional year.
4. Employee Morale: Do your employees like driving a new vehicle? They may even see it as part of their compensation, so if you plan on making them stay in that old vehicle longer, be sure you are not piling on another reason for your employees to start reading the help wanted ads.
5. Corporate Image: How do you want your company to be viewed in the marketplace? Premium service companies drive newer, better maintained vehicles than budget companies. You may find yourself having to stave off more requests for discounts if your vehiclesmake you look like a business that is cheap (rather than good).
This blog could have easily been titled “10 Reasons Why Extending Vehicle Life Cycles Can Be a Bad Idea”, as there are a long list of factors that need to be considered before making a decision. Still, it is certainly true that as vehicle quality improves the overall industry trend is toward longer vehicle replacement cycles.
Just be sure to do your homework before making the decision to keep those aging vehicles around another year.
I recently went to visit a customer, and when I got there it was clear he was having a bad day.
“We just got a call from the local news, they are asking for a company representative to appear on the ten o’clock news.”
At this point, I was having trouble seeing where the problem was. So far it sounded like an opportunity to get the business name out to everyone in the city. Then he finished his statement.
“One of our company trucks was just in an accident. Apparently he drove the truck right into the side of a house.”
The good news was that nobody was hurt, and the company had all the insurance and legal help it needed to keep the incident from causing any immediate financial damage beyond the repair bill for the house and the truck.
Of course, for the business owner, the issue was not so much about the accident as it was about his company’s reputation. How was this going to look in the press? How many customers were going to see it? How was this incident going to impact his bottom line?
Companies can spend significant resources on building up a brand image, and with good reason. If your business name is well respected in the community, then you may have a big step up on your competition.
But there are so many ways that an irresponsible moment by an employee can tarnish the company’s image. Speeding, an accident, even a lunchtime stop at an innapropriate business establishment can change the perception of your brand, giving your competition an advantage that they did not have to work for.
If you are a faithful reader of my blog, you know that I often talk about how one of the most important benefits of implementing a fleet monitoring solution is the “behavior modification” effect the system has on employees. They may not like having a tracker in the vehicle, but most employees will slow down and stop doing things they are not supposed to be doing when they know that the boss could be watching.
Limited beta testing has begun as a small group of customers shake down our newest tracking feature; Live Track.
LiveTrack is a game changer for web-based tracking, making it much easier to view all of your vehicle statuses in real time from any computer connected to the internet.
Testing is scheduled to run for a few weeks and a full release is soon to follow. Stay tuned for details!
Austin, TX- August 3, 2010 – Sageplan Inc., the parent company of World Tracking Solutions and SageFleet, is proud to announce important updates to its flagship business class service. SageFleet Business Class Service helps companies with employees and vehicles in the field reduce operational costs and improve productivity through the use of state of the art GPS monitoring technologies. Our professional-grade GPS tracking solutions save your organization money and increase profitabiltiy in many areas including:
• Decrease Fuel Consumption and Personal Use of Work Vehicles
• Cut Out Falsified Timesheet Hours Including Unworked Overtime
• Reduce Insurance Costs & Safety Risks Such as Speeding and Vehicle Theft
A typical result is to generate a net savings for the business of at least $1,000 per vehicle annually, which falls directly to your bottom line!
Too Busy to Monitor Your Fleet? Hire a Virtual Fleet Monitoring Director!
Many small businesses face a similar problem when it comes to technology, they know that they could benefit from it, but they don’t have anyone on staff that has the time and/or expertise to implement it.
Our Virtual Fleet Monitoring Director program is the perfect solution for any sized enterprise that is ready to make their fleet and field staff more efficient, but would prefer to outsource the task of managing a system. Our fleet monitoring solution is very easy to administer and most of our clients prefer to develop an in house expert, but if you would rather outsource this task we will be happy to assign one of our Fleet Monitoring Experts to your account.
Whether you are a concerned parent with a young, inexperienced driver in the family, or a fleet manager with assets around the globe, we can help you better monitor and manage the things that are most important to you.
Please contact Don Sesler in Fleet Sales for more information.