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COMPANY: James Brown Contracting OPERATION: Lavonia, GA-based regional TL carrier; 2,500 trailers and 170 company-owned tandem tractors, plus 110 owner-operators under contract. Problem: When James Brown Contracting decided to purchase a satellite-based tracking/communication system for its tractors, it was well aware of the benefits of this technology since it already had a trailer-tracking system

COMPANY:

James Brown Contracting

OPERATION:

Lavonia, GA-based regional TL carrier; 2,500 trailers and 170 company-owned tandem tractors, plus 110 owner-operators under contract.

Problem:

When James Brown Contracting decided to purchase a satellite-based tracking/communication system for its tractors, it was well aware of the benefits of this technology since it already had a trailer-tracking system in place.

“Our company drivers and owner-operators were all using cellphones, [which] worked for us when we had 30 trucks,” said vp Kevin Slaughter. But when the number hit 100, it became clear that a more sophisticated communication/tracking system was necessary.

“In addition to providing customers with more shipment information — real-time status and location, for example — we wanted to relieve our drivers of paperwork and call-in requirements, automating those functions to allow them more time to focus on driving,” Slaughter explained.

Choosing the PeopleNet system was a relatively easy decision, said Slaughter. The challenge was figuring out how to install 380 units in vehicles scattered up and down the Eastern seaboard without incurring excessive vehicle downtime or monopolizing the time and resources of the fleet's in-house maintenance staff.

Solution:

To handle this task, the James Brown hired Velociti, a Kansas City-based company specializing in installation of mobile communications equipment for transportation, retail and warehousing firms. But when and where installation would take place still had to be determined.

“Monday through Friday it's hard to get onto one of our trucks because we are out hauling freight,” explained Slaughter.

The most efficient way to handle the task was to send installation crews to work on the vehicles during the weekend — wherever they happened to be located.

This meant a minimum amount of downtown for the carrier and its drivers as well.

Although outsourcing the installation was more expensive up front, Slaughter noted that the carrier saved money over the long run because they were able to get the entire system up and running relatively quickly.

By working 15 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays, the outsourcing company was able to install PeopleNet devices on 365 of the trucks within 65 days. “We couldn't afford to drag this out for six months; the time factor was a huge deal for us,” he said.

“On top of that, Velociti gave us total control over their crews so we could arrange the work so it would best fit our schedule,” Slaughter pointed out.

Training drivers to use the PeopleNet system remained an in-house function, however. “We have a crew of our own people that followed along behind the install crews to help get our drivers up to speed on how to use the new system,” said Slaughter. “[That part of the] process is a lot easier to manage than the physical installation of the technology.”

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