(Photo: Aaron Marsh / Fleet Owner)
Verizon Telematics' Susan Heystee, right, moderates a panel including (from right) Gerry Burdo of NEHDS Logistics; Derek Piwonka of Balfour Beatty; Brian Goldhardt of Flex Fleet Rental; and Kevin Tovar of Southern California Edison.

Panel: Four unexpected best uses for telematics

Nov. 3, 2017
At Telogis' Latitude business conference, four fleets discussed unexpected ways that telematics helped their businesses.

Truck technologies like telematics can seem like a bygone, presumptive conclusion, like they're simply on all the vehicles out there. But fleets are constantly implementing and finding ways to use that and other technologies best on their own terms, and sometimes in unexpected ways.

In a panel discussion last week at Telogis, A Verizon Company's Latitude business conference, representatives from four fleets talked about their experiences with Telogis' telematics and fleet management platform and how it has benefitted them.

Susan Heystee, senior vice president of OEM at Verizon Telematics, asked the fleet execs for their best stories or unexpected uses of telematics they'd stumbled across. Here's how they answered.

NEHDS Logistics: Insurance claim stopped in its tracks.

NEHDS Logistics has its own network of distribution centers throughout the Northeast and primarily services Internet retailers, aggregating and delivering items over 60 lbs. Between those operations and the rest of its business, the carrier makes about 6,000 deliveries each day, explained CEO Gerry Burdo.

The company has been using Telogis' fleet management products for "a few years," he said, and surprise uses of the platform pop up frequently. The most recent happened as he was heading out to the conference, Burdo noted, and had to do with an insurance claim.

He'd received an email about the claim, which alleged one of NEHDS's trucks had sideswiped a vehicle.

"I forwarded it to our compliance group and went on [the Telogis platform]. We saw that we didn't have a truck anywhere near there" in the tracking app, Burdo noted. "I went back to the client and said, 'I'm not sure this is us,' and they found out it was another carrier."

Just a few years ago, that might've been a claim the company simply would have paid and made go away, he pointed out.

"I tell my team we're in the business of accumulating pennies," Burdo said. "I think technology helps you accumulate dollars."

Balfour Beatty: Productivity boost.

The railroad services business of Balfour Beatty, an international infrastructure company, spans across the United States. The company handles infrastructure construction, maintenance, financing and more.

Balfour Beatty has used Telogis' fleet management technology for about two years, explained Derek Piwonka, division manager of equipment for the rail division. Initially upon implementing the system, there was some pushback from managers and company leadership questioning why it was necessary.

Still, the company tried "switching on" some of its General Motors trucks, which had the technology already built in. Testing out the system let Balfour Beatty explore its functionality and gather some data, Piwonka said.

The helped convince one manager to start using the system's GPS on the trucks at a particular office. The workers realized the trucks were now being tracked much more closely.

"We let it go for a while, and it was interesting. There was an uptick in productivity," Piwonka noted. It was just because workers were more aware of the "eye in the sky" and started being more mindful of their time, location, breaks and so on.

And it wasn't just some little blip. "After six months, that was a $150,000 uptick in productivity," Piwonka said, and today it's "about a $200,000-250,000 increase in productivity a year."

Also unexpectedly, he added, some workers took naturally to driver scorecarding in the Telogis system and got very competitive as drivers tried for the best scores — some even placing bets on who'd come out on top. "It took no effort on my part to get it going. They did it on their own," Piwonka contended.

Flex Fleet Rental: To catch a thief.

Salt Lake City-based Flex Fleet Rental has got a descriptive name: it rents out work trucks like 1/2-ton and 3/4-ton pickups and up to 1.5-ton flatbed pickups. The company is "right there in the middle" of the gap between daily-weekly rental and leasing or owning vehicles, according to Vice President of Sales Brian Goldhardt, and deals with fleets for things like long-term rentals and project-based work.

It's a national company, and its rental trucks are scattered across a lot of distance and often may be "in the middle of nowhere," Goldhardt noted. The company was experiencing problems with the trucks being stolen.

Drivers of the rental trucks weren't helping matters, sometimes leaving keys in the ignition or gas cap or leaving the rented trucks running during a stop of some kind. "The truck would get stolen, and they'd find it one or two months later burned in a field or abandoned somewhere else," he said.

The week before the conference, a customer fueled up a rental truck and had left it running at the gas station while he went inside to get some coffee. As he filled his cup, he saw the truck take off, Goldhardt said. The driver called Flex Fleet to let them know the truck had been stolen.

The Telogis tracking tech turned a bad day around. "We were able to log in, call the local law enforcement and we were on the phone with them, tracking it second by second," Goldhardt recalled. 

"Within 15 minutes, we had the person who stole the vehicle in handcuffs in the back seat of a police officer's car," he added.

When a truck is stolen, there's insurance to cover it, but the driver can lose a lot more than just the truck. "It's also the driver's equipment — their personal equipment and tools," Goldhardt said. "Our vehicles have thousands of dollars attached to them from our customers."

Southern California Edison: Data to do business differently.

In Orange County where the Latitude conference is held and the larger SoCal area, Southern California Edison (SCE) is the local utility company. The company has been a Telogis customer since 2011, and has some 4,500 Telogis telematics systems in the about 6,200 total trucks in its fleet.

"Originally when we went down the telematics road, we justified it by saving fuel," noted Kevin Tovar, manager of fleet planning and strategy. But that began to change as SCE found it was gathering a lot more data to slice up and use in different ways.

"As time went on and we had this wealth of data, it presented a story to be told that impacted not only fleet but how our core business operates," Tovar said. The company began to apply the data to evaluate its core business operations.

"We learned things like, 'Hey, it can take twice as much time to figure out who to dispatch to do the work than to actually do the work,'" said Tovar. "This is way beyond just the fleet operation; it helps pry people out of their comfort zone and look at ways to drive efficiencies based on how our business operates."

About the Author

Aaron Marsh

Before computerization had fully taken hold and automotive work took someone who speaks engine, Aaron grew up in Upstate New York taking cars apart and fixing and rewiring them, keeping more than a few great jalopies (classics) on the road that probably didn't deserve to be. He spent a decade inside the Beltway covering Congress and the intricacies of the health care system before a stint in local New England news, picking up awards for both pen and camera.

He wrote about you-name-it, from transportation and law and the courts to events of all kinds and telecommunications, and landed in trucking when he joined FleetOwner in July 2015. Long an editorial leader, he was a keeper of knowledge at FleetOwner ready to dive in on the technical and the topical inside and all-around trucking—and still turned a wrench or two. Or three. 

Aaron previously wrote for FleetOwner. 

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