Dedicated regional auto parts hauler
About 80% of Western Dedicated's loads are auto parts, which the El Paso, TX-based company moves with 50 power units and about 120 trailers from Mexico to Michigan and throughout the Midwest, using almost all team drivers.
Last March, the fleet decided that automating some functions that were being handled largely via cell phone and paper and pencil could reduce costs, make life better for drivers and fleet managers, and improve customer service at the same time.
“We had trailer tracking, which we still do, but that was it,” recalls dispatcher Robert Harris. “The system reported on trailer locations every six hours, but if customers wanted that information at other times, we had to request an additional trailer ping, which typically took about half an hour. Then we had to call the customer back.
“It was not so much that we had specific problems to solve, but we felt that automating some things could help us to provide better service, better utilize our assets, and save us money besides,” Harris added.
Western Dedicated selected Zonar Systems to help it automate parts of its operation and, according to Harris, things improved almost immediately. “As soon as we got the Zonar systems installed, we began using them right away,” he says. “Here in the office, it took us about a week to learn the system. Drivers took to it quickly as well. Maintenance supervisors gave them about 30 minutes or so of individualized training and they were ready to go. Now we are kind of spoiled by Zonar.
“The live tracking is extremely useful,” Harris says. “Before we got Zonar, we had to call drivers on their cell phones to ask where they were. Since we run almost all teams, that often meant waking someone up. Now we can actually see all our assets on a map at any time.
“Our safety director uses the system to help monitor the speed of all our drivers, and maintenance uses it to see engine fault codes that pop up while drivers are on the road,” he continues. “Once we know a fault code, we can look it up and call a repair shop to advise them of a problem and its probable cause. We do our own maintenance here in El Paso, but if a truck is on the road we have to rely on outside services. This gives us more upfront visibility into what is going on [and helps us know better what to expect in the way of downtime and costs.]”
Harris says drivers and maintenance personnel are also fans of Zonar's Electronic Vehicle Inspection Report system (EVIR). The system forces drivers to walk around the truck and do pre- and post-trip inspections, he says, and then automatically sends the report. “Drivers love Zonar,” he says. “They don't have to call in as often, and they love having discrepancies reported right away.
“We don't use GPS to route our trucks since we have dedicated lanes we like to run, but we do use it for things like detours,” he says. “I can also send the addresses for additional stops to drivers, for instance. A little flag pops up on their unit and then they can click over to My Stops to automatically get routing to that address. And fuel tax reporting also just takes a couple of clicks now; it is that simple.”
Customers can also see a difference since the company implemented the Zonar system, according to Harris. “It is just so much more professional now when customers call,” he says. “We would never want to go back to the old way again.”