Airgas NCN (Northern California and Nevada), a division of Airgas Corp.
Hazardous-materials private carrier transporting compressed gases for use in industrial, medical and biochemical applications
Sacramento-based Airgas NCN is a regional hauler with a fleet of about 192 power units, including everything from light-duty through heavy-duty trucks and tractors, plus 92 trailers. About six years ago, the company, a subsidiary of Airgas Corp., decided it wanted to reduce out-of-service violations, improve efficiency, document compliance, and become more proactive in its vehicle maintenance program.
“We had had a few out-of-service violations,” recalls fleet manager Dale Harris. “Some things that should have been caught during pretrip inspections were not, and our paper inspection reports were not very helpful when it came to showing us what was actually happening. We wanted to keep our trucks operating more efficiently by fixing problems before they were broken instead of at the scales.
“We also wanted to do a better job of documenting regulatory compliance,” says Harris. “Someone mentioned to us that there was an electronic vehicle inspection system available from Zonar Systems, so we contacted them to see what it could do.”
Airgas NCN began by testing the electronic vehicle inspection report (EVIR) system from Zonar in a pilot at two of its branches. Today, the system is in use fleetwide. The EVIR system has made vehicle maintenance management easier and more effective, according to Harris. It has even simplified the California Highway Patrol (CHP) biannual terminal inspection program. “In the past, CHP would pull a whole lot of paper vehicle inspection reports and then pull a whole lot of repair orders from the files. The process would take hours,” he says. “Now, in a couple of seconds with a couple of clicks of the mouse, they can see whatever they want. It is all organized and it is all there.
“CHP is very fair and makes sure we know exactly what we have to do to comply, but they can shut you down if you get an unsatisfactory rating and don't remedy the problems,” he says. “And if you get your haz-mat revoked in California, you can't get it renewed for a year.”
As new services have become available from Zonar, Airgas NCN has grown with them. “We were not looking for GPS when we implemented Zonar's EVIR system,” Harris says. “But as Zonar evolved into a web-based service with GPS built in, we added that as well — and it has multiplied the benefits we are seeing. We began using GPS data for route optimization and to reduce costs. Now that Zonar can also tie into the truck's computer, we can integrate GPS information with data on engine idling, engine fault codes, over-speeding or hard-braking and whether a lift gate is up or down, for example. “
Airgas NCN is also working with Zonar to reduce backing accidents. “Backing accidents represent about 90% of our problems,” Harris explains. “Now drivers can walk around the truck and ‘ping’ two new tags to document that they got out and walked behind the truck before backing.
“All these capabilities are hugely important, especially in the new world of emissions regulations and CSA 2010,” he notes. “We are an innovative company — always looking to the future. If we aren't planning ahead, particularly here in California, then we could find ourselves caught off-guard and unprepared. One of the reasons we've stayed with Zonar is that they are so responsive to our changing needs.”