Fleetmatics: Fuel-saving GPS Tech for SMB Vehicle Fleets

By Pedro Hernandez | Posted November 12, 2013

Idling the engine for long stretches of time, crisscrossing town due to inefficient routes and "borrowing" company vehicles for non-work purposes costs small business big bucks. Fleetmatics, whose world headquarters are in Ireland, uses automotive sensors, GPS trackers and cloud computing to help businesses not only to manage their fleets, but also to slash costs and to improve customer service.

Cloud-based GPS Tracking Helps Contain Costs

Fleetmatic's software-as-a-service (SaaS) offering provides fleet managers and operations supervisors with location data and other vehicle metrics. A "black box" device directly wired to the ignition records and transmits the data, and it's easy to set up by any of the several thousand technicians in the company's installation network. The company charges on a per vehicle per month basis, with subscription prices that vary depending on the services used.

Dispelling concerns that Fleetmatics helps bosses act like Big Brother and monitor their employees' every move, Todd Ewing, director of product marketing for Fleetmatics, assures that by and large, companies use the technology to improve operational efficiency and save big on fuel costs.

Drivers, whether setting out to deliver goods or repair appliances, typically gas up using company-issued fuel cards. Since the gas money doesn't come out of their pockets, they don't feel the sting of that having a lead-foot or idling for prolonged periods can inflict. "They're not feeling the burn, no pun intended," said Ewing.

Fleetmatics and its Web- and mobile-friendly reporting and monitoring capabilities help business owners institute efficiency and safety programs that focus on a few key metrics, upon which drivers are scored. Generally speaking, "there are not a lot of good reasons to let the engine idle for an hour," argued Ewing. Companies can set policies to limit that behavior and perhaps incentivize workers that follow the rules and save the company in fuel costs.

Similarly, Fleetmatics' proprietary safety score lets companies both save fuel and prevent road mishaps. Based, in part, on data from the accelerometer attached to the Fleetmatic vehicle GPS and sensor module, the company can attach a safety rating to drivers, which businesses can again use as a method of rewarding good driving.

Companies also use Fleetmatics to optimize routes and improve dispatching thanks to the platform's combination of GPS telemetry, the company's cloud-based data-processing capabilities and easy-to-read Google Maps-based monitoring.  Fleetmatics is "Google Maps' largest commercial customer," noted Ewing. As a result, businesses can "service customers better and more easily," he added. "We take the 'E' out of ETA."

Technology Drives Big Savings for Small Business

One family-owned company, Windsor Fuel Co. of Mineola, New York, has realized major improvements to the bottom line thanks to Fleetmatics' tech, which it uses on thirteen vehicles.

In the first year, the company saved more than $20,000 in fuel costs. Each month, the company used about 700 gallons less than before it outfitted its trucks with Fleetmatics.

"We have brought in an additional $360,000 a year in revenue through increased productivity. At the same time, we have been able to cut costs by taking one driver off the road without affecting the quality of our services," said Mark Holm, service manager for Windsor Fuel, in a testimonial. In total, the company saved a half million dollars in one year.

"The impact of Fleetmatics had a domino effect on all our operations—everything gets more efficient," added Holm. Fleetmatics is a step up from paper-based systems that are prone to problems like "sending the wrong people on new jobs."

"We don't do that anymore," reported Holm.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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