Synovia Solutions Blog

Five Things to Bear in Mind When Considering Fleet Tracking Software

Posted by Bill Westerman on Fri, Sep 02, 2016 @ 10:00 AM

As technology progresses and makes its way further and further into our daily lives, advancements that at one time might have been considered a “nice-to-have” business advantage have now become a “muSYN-Fleet-Management-Benefits-290x226.jpgst-have” to remain efficient and competitive.

For many companies, fleet tracking software has crossed that threshold. In order to stay competitive with other contenders in their field, or to simply protect themselves from a legal perspective, many firms have realized that by allocating a certain percentage of their budget to fleet tracking they find the service pays for itself – sometimes within a matter of months.

But is fleet tracking right for your company? Before you decide, here are five things you might want to consider. While this isn’t a complete list of considerations (what list ever is?), it should give you a better idea of whether fleet tracking for your company is more of a nice-to-have bonus or a day-to-day necessity.

#1 If you suspect you need tracking software, you probably do.

Every fleet manager has a pretty good idea as to whether his or her drivers are operating their vehicles in a manner that reflects positively on the company. So if you’re wondering whether your drivers might require greater supervision when it comes to their job, then you’ve probably already answered that question.

That said, with fleet tracking software managers can now know for sure, and adjust accordingly. If drivers are driving too fast through neighborhoods, part of the problem may be that the company isn’t giving them enough time to get the job done safely and correctly. It’s not always the drivers who need re-education.

#2 Does your industry deal with regulatory compliance?

For example, in the construction industry there are numerous rules about how many hours a worker can be on site, as well as when working hours need to come to an end (so as to not bother residents when they’re home from work, or getting ready for bed). 

The transportation industry is finding itself with newfound regulation with the electronic logging device (ELD) rule that will come into effect in December of 2017, requiring companies currently using paper log books for maintaining hours-of-service records to adopt ELDs within two years. It is anticipated that approximately three million drivers will be impacted. 

So if your industry is one where compliance hangs heavy on your fleet of vehicles, fleet management software is an easy fix to know just which of your drivers are where, and when; as well a valuable tool for maintaining a history of their driving behavior – and managing it. 

#3 “What’s it going to cost?”

Of course, this is probably the first thing most managers are going to want to know. It’s only natural. Like all companies, you’ve got a budget that only allows for so much. But have you ever considered turning the question upon yourself and asked how much it’s going to cost you to NOT have a tracking system?

On two different occasions a school system in Florida petitioned their board to pay for a tracking system for their school buses. Both times the petition was denied, and then one day that school system had three different buses collide with each other while out on the road. While thankfully no children were seriously injured, later on it was determined that speeding was a significant factor in the cause of the crash. The crash could have been avoided all together if the school system had simply been tracking their drivers’ behavior a little more closely. The liability alone of what could have happened if just one of those students was seriously injured is scary, not to mention the real toll of such an incident to parents and students. Fleet tracking software can actually let you know in real time (as it’s happening) if your drivers are exceeding the set speed limit, and by how much, to help prevent things like this from happening.

In addition, you might want to ask yourself how much it is costing you in fuel to not have a tracking system in place. There have been reports of larger trucking companies saving upwards of $500,000 a year on fuel by simply being able to keep better track of truck idling and speeding on the road. 

In the end it’s a decision that the company will have to make, but before the answer is no, you might want to ask a potential supplier if they offer a free demonstration. If they do you’ll be able to see for yourself, for free, if there’s money to be saved that you never even knew about. Most tracking plans actually end up paying for themselves.

#4 How much does your company depend on its vehicles for profit and customer satisfaction?

Does your business model require a lot of repeat customers? If so, you should ask yourself just what would happen if any of your vehicles were stolen or out-of-service thanks to maintenance issues. National Insurance Crime Bureau figures show that 77% of equipment stolen never gets recovered.

Sure you’ve probably got insurance to cover the loss, but there’s the deductible as well as the downtime to consider when factoring any lost revenue. Would all of your customers understand, or would any of them be forced to look into working with your competition?

Also, with fleet tracking software you can keep a close eye on the health of your vehicles and with routine maintenance avoid costly repairs and extended downtime. Should the vehicle throw any fault codes you can be instantly notified, and the number of hours or miles in between routine oil changes can also be closely kept in check.

#5 What kind of timecard or payroll system do you have?

Enough about tracking vehicles. Let’s talk about tracking hours. Does the day begin for your drivers the minute they get to work and clock in? Or does the day begin the minute they get in their vehicles and actually start to do work for you? With the ability to have drivers check in when they enter their vehicles you could be saving up to 15 minutes per day per driver. That may not sound like much, until you figure five drivers per day working five days per week, at 50 weeks a year (we’ll be nice and give two weeks off for vacation) and you’re talking over 310 hours in saved time. If you pay $35 per hour that’s almost $11,000. Per year.

Must-Have or Nice-to-Have?

In the end it will finally come down to whether you really do consider fleet tracking to be a must-have or a nice-to-have business capability. Some businesses do just fine with their current fleet management. It’s only when they progress beyond the “mom and pop” stage that they really need to take a serious look at their fleet tracking system.

 But even businesses like those may one day discover that as the options out there for fleet management increase, even they might benefit from some kind of basic fleet management package – if only for peace of mind, or to get a break on their insurance rates.

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What is Commercial Fleet Tracking?

Posted by Bill Westerman on Thu, Aug 25, 2016 @ 09:35 AM

 

 While fleet managing has been around practically since the invention of the automobile, it’s only been since the invention of modern technologies like the cell phone and global positioning satellite that fleet managers have been able to take fleet tracking to the next level.

Modern Fleet Tracking

SYN-Fleet-Management-Benefits-290x226.jpgModern fleet tracking is so much more than just managing the time a vehicle is supposed to leave a loading dock or parking lot and knowing what time it’s expected to arrive on the other end of its route. With modern fleet tracking software systems, fleet managers are now able to amass and manage a whole host of information about their fleet vehicles as well as driver behavior.

Beginnings In Space

The history of modern commercial fleet tracking dates back to the birth of GPS (Global Positioning System) when two American physicists, while tracking the Soviet Union’s Sputnik 1 satellite back in 1957, realized that by monitoring the Doppler effect on the satellite’s radio transmissions they could precisely pinpoint where the satellite was going to be in its orbit.

From that discovery evolved today’s much more sophisticated system (we’ll spare you the technological details). GPS tracking remained the property of the U.S. military until 1996, when the U.S. government realized the potential for civilian applications and President Bill Clinton issued a directive to develop a dual-use system – one for military use and one for civilians.

Historical note: It was actually President Ronald Reagan who announced in 1983 that GPS would be made available for civilian use after it was completed. This was done after the tragedy of civilian airliner KAL 007, which was shot down by a Soviet fighter jet after it had strayed into prohibited airspace because of navigational errors. President Reagan said the reason for his decision was to avoid similar navigational errors in the future.

Skipping ahead to today, you’ll find that current commercial GPS fleet tracking systems are about as similar to tracking systems of the past as current smartphones are to the bulky cellular flip phones of the past.

Modern commercial fleet tracking can use either satellites or cellphone towers to collect information about the location of a vehicle or other asset. That information is then used by fleet managers to reduce costs, improve safety, increase customer satisfaction and more. This information is drawn from a tracking device, which is attached to the company’s asset. These devices can be powered by the battery of the vehicle they are attached to, or if the item has no battery (such as a trailer) the device can be powered with batteries lasting approximately five to seven years.

The Information That Can Be Gathered

Once the tracking device is attached it’s really up to the fleet manger to decide just how much information he or she wants to collect, which makes today’s fleet management software a great asset no matter the size of your fleet. Examples of the kind of information fleet maintenance software provides today’s fleet managers include:

  • Real-time location of the vehicle or asset.
  • Speed of the vehicle vs. speed limit of the road the vehicle is traveling on.
  • Hard accelerating and hard stopping.
  • Whether a particular asset has left a pre-set geo-fenced area.
  • The route a vehicle took to arrive at a particular location.
  • The amount of idling time the vehicle experienced.
  • Whether a vehicle is displaying any maintenance or fault codes.

In addition, many GPS fleet maintenance systems also allow drivers to clock in and out while they’re in their vehicle. The information collected allows fleet managers to review timesheets and timesheet exceptions, compare planned and actual schedules, pay accurate wages, and avoid any unnecessary overtime. 

Recent Government Ruling

Along those same lines, a recent development in GPS tracking for commercial fleets was announced in December 2015, when the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) adopted a Final Rule that they believe will “improve roadway safety by employing technology to strengthen commercial truck and bus drivers’ compliance with hours-of-service regulations that prevent fatigue.”

This new ruling requires ALL commercial vehicles to maintain electronic logging devices (ELDs) instead of paper logs by December 18, 2017. It’s estimated that the Final Rule will result in an annual net benefit of more than $1 billion – largely by reducing the amount of required industry paperwork. It will also increase the efficiency of roadside law enforcement when it comes to reviewing driver records. On a more important note, it’s also estimated that the new rule will save an average of 26 lives per year and prevent an additional 562 annual injuries.

The Future of GPS Tracking

But what about the future of commercial GPS tracking? It’s come so far so fast. So what’s to be expected next? That’s a bit like asking what the future holds for cell phones. Every year there seems to be faster, quicker, more powerful versions hitting the street. Just take one look at the modern smartphone and compare it with the enormous military-like behemoths of the past and it’s clear that the sky’s the limit. Information will only become more detailed and accurate, and systems are likely to become easier to use for both the driver and fleet manager, giving tomorrow’s fleet managers ever greater opportunities to streamline and improve their fleets’ overall performance.

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Fleet Tracking and the Construction Industry

Posted by Bill Westerman on Thu, Aug 18, 2016 @ 09:07 AM

As technology makes its way further and further into everyday life via the Internet of Things (IoT), SYN-Fleet-Management-Benefits-290x226.jpgthe construction industry has seen innovations and improvements that make the buildings, roads, and other projects they’re responsible for become stronger, more energy efficient, safer and “smarter.” And if that’s true of the creations they’re responsible for, why shouldn’t that also be true for the construction industry itself?

Things are Changing

One of the simplest, most cost-effective ways that the construction industry can bring itself into the modern era – and see significant financial gains because of it – is by using the power of GPS (Global Positioning System) tracking. By using GPS, construction companies can not only monitor the vast number of expensive vehicles they employ to get the job done, but also the construction workers who operate that machinery.

Protect Your Vehicles and Equipment

Since the fleet of equipment a construction firm operates is so critical when it comes to the success of a project, why wouldn’t you want to make sure that equipment is always working at its best? With GPS technology you can help prolong the life of your equipment by keeping a close eye on usage hours, the driving habits of your employees, and more. By monitoring your equipment you have a better idea of when maintenance is needed, as opposed to waiting for things to go wrong and then suffering through prolonged downtime, as well as job delays and upset customers. Monitoring also helps you more effectively manage the lifecycle of your equipment by determining how long to keep a particular piece of equipment, and when the right time is to let it go and achieve the greatest return on your investment.

Increase Worker Safety

It’s not just the individual working your equipment who can put his own life at risk on a job site. How he or she behaves behind the wheel also affects all the other individuals around them. And while human life is of paramount importance, damage done to materials and other equipment can also be costly. With GPS tracking, however, workers know that their behavior behind the wheel is being monitored. Workers who drive appropriately can be rewarded, and unsafe operation can be dealt with. As an added safety precaution, some GPS systems offer emergency buttons which operators can use to instantly inform management of troubles on the site.

Reduce Fuel Usage

One of the biggest costs a fleet manager is responsible for is fuel. It’s also one of the more difficult costs to manage. Every driver operates their vehicle differently and the variable cost of fuel can wreak havoc on the most thoroughly planned budget. Vehicle tracking is one way to try and bring a little order to a chaotic environment. It allows you to see the various habits of all your drivers. You get a better understanding of which ones are accelerating or braking harshly, letting their vehicles idle for long periods of time, or “taking the long way” out in the field.

Retrieve Stolen Equipment

It’s a costly problem that almost every construction company on the planet has had to deal with at one time or another: the theft of equipment. With work spread out among numerous sites it’s always tempting for thieves to think a company might not miss just one or two pieces of equipment. With asset tracking you’ll know exactly where each and every piece of equipment you own is located. It even allows you to set up geo-fencing, so if you want one piece of equipment to stay on one site, then just draw a line around the area where you want it to stay. Should something happen and the equipment leaves that “safe zone,” you’ll be instantly notified that something is wrong.

Revolutionize Your Payroll

Is your company one of the many construction companies out there that has employees clock in at the office, even though they won’t actually begin working until they reach the job site? With time and attendance solutions, you can have them log in electronically right in their vehicle. This way when they track their hours you have an exact cost associated with the job. Electronic filing also means you can do away with all the clutter that comes with traditional paper timesheets.

Ensure Compliance

There’s a reason your employees aren’t legally allowed to spend more than a set number of hours on the job: it’s for safety purposes. By not abiding by these rules you’re not only putting employees in harm’s way, you’re doing the same for your company. But by tracking your assets, you can also track the number of hours your equipment has been at work on a particular job, and thereby know the number of hours your employee has worked. You’ll also be able to track when employees may be operating equipment past local working hours, even if they’re miles and miles away from your home office.

Win New Business

Yes, the work you’ve done before and the price you bid a job at are key indicators for whether you’ll be able to land new business. But if you’re the bidder who can also say you use an asset tracking system, you’re letting potential clients know that you can not only effectively bid a project (with minimal waste) – you’re also serious about the safety of your workers, and of the overall project.

The digital age, complete with the Internet of Things, is here. Can the same be said for your construction company? Asset tracking is a quick and easy way to put technology to work for you and run a more efficient, safer, and more profitable organization than ever before.

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The Benefits of Fleet Management Software

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Aug 09, 2016 @ 02:27 PM

Fleet management is a difficult proposition. You are being asked to manage people and ve
SYN-Leading-The-Way-290x226-1.jpghicles, both of which are out of your sight for most of the day. Most factory managers will tell you supervising employees can be difficult enough with them right there in the building, but trying to manage employees out in the field makes things even more difficult, and at times frustrating.

Improved Fuel EconomyWhich is where the many benefits of fleet management software come into play. With fleet management software, companies gain the ability to virtually ride right alongside with their drivers. Which leads to numerous benefits.

Quite possibly the most impactful, when it comes to positively influencing the bottom line, there’s improved fuel economy. With fleet vehicle management, companies can keep track of the speeds at which their drivers are traveling. A lead-footed driver will burn much more fuel than one who obeys the posted speed limits.

They can also keep track of idle times. When a driver arrives at his or her destination do they turn off their vehicle or do they just allow it to idle? On top of all this, fleet managers can see exactly what routes their drivers are taking. Are they going directly to the intended destination or are they running by the local coffee shop to get another cup of coffee for the day. Day in and day out this all adds up over time.

Decrease Fleet Expenses

While your driver’s own personal vehicles may be meticulously maintained, that’s because it’s their own vehicles. When it comes to your fleet vehicles, their attention to maintenance may not be quite as acute. Besides, they might not even be driving the same vehicle from one day to the next. So as a fleet manager it falls on you to make sure your vehicles are being properly maintained and looked after. With fleet tracking software you can automate your maintenance and be alerted of any fault codes. This will keep your vehicles on the road longer and spend less time in the shop repairing what could have been prevented in the first place.

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Increased Safety and Security

Fleet tracking systems allow you to know exactly where your vehicles are at any time. You can also set boundaries and be informed of when they have either left or entered those boundaries. This allows you to reduce your exposure by reducing unauthorized use. It also allows you to track down any vehicles, should they be stolen. And more importantly you can see just how your vehicles are being driven. Are there hard starts and stops? Do any of your drivers require further training on ways to more safely operate their vehicles? And at the same time, you can protect your drivers from any unfair complaints about speeding through residential neighborhoods. With fleet tracking you’ll know for sure (and can prove) if it was your company’s vehicle, or if the person complaining has confused your vehicle with another.

Improve Your Customer Service

By tracking your vehicles more closely you’ll have a better idea of just where and when they will be able to arrive for their delivery or appointment. You can call customers ahead and give them more accurate arrival times. And if vehicles need to be rerouted to take care of a customer’s needs you’ll know which of your vehicles is closest to that customer’s location.

Reduce Labor Costs

Or more appropriately, with fleet management systems you can track what the true cost is on certain delivery runs or appointments. Fleet tracking systems also allow you to get a better handle on just which one of your drivers are getting close to going into overtime.

Driver Satisfaction

While some drivers may complain that fleet management systems remind them of “big brother”, many more know that with fleet management their bosses will have a better idea of which drivers deserve more positive recognition. Most drivers would like their supervisors to know that they’re respectfully representing the company when they’re out in their vehicles.

In all, the benefits that come from fleet management systems are many. Add them all up together, and multiply that by the number of vehicles you have to manage, and you get a better idea of your overall savings. Not to mention, that as managers you now can also effectively manage your employees with facts, and not rely on hearsay or what limited time you actually spend with them before or after they’ve been on the road.

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THREE SCHOOL BUS SAFETY TRENDS WE’RE SEEING IN THE 2015-16 SCHOOL YEAR

Posted by Liz James on Fri, Dec 11, 2015 @ 10:07 AM

School bus safety is always top of mind for parents, bus drivers, and administrators alike. It’s thschool bus safetye same way for us at Synovia Solutions as well. We’ve identified three trends in school bus safety that have dominated the first half of the 2015-16 school year. Let’s take a look at what’s happening – and how your school district could be affected.

THREE POINTS FOR SAFETY

In November, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) officially endorsed and recommended three-point safety belts for all school buses. In the past, the NHTSA has maintained that belt-less buses were safe, and acknowledged that retrofitting buses with belts would be costly. Their stance has now changed.

"The position of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is that seat belts save lives," said NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind. "That is true whether in a passenger car or in a big yellow bus. And saving lives is what we are about. So NHTSA's policy is that every child on every school bus should have a three-point seat belt."

Any rulemaking effort from the NHTSA will face opposition, though. Adding seat belts to buses is an expensive endeavor. It can cost around $500 per seat on a full-size bus, meaning a total cost between $7,000 and $15,000 per bus in many cases. When school districts around the country are already strapped for cash, that investment simply may not be feasible.

The fact remains that seat belts save lives, though, and some states and school districts are moving forward despite the cost. The Rhode Island general assembly will consider a bill in its next session that would require all new bus purchases to include seat belts. The Houston Independent School District has already implemented the same requirement. In both cases the rule applies only to new buses, meaning that older buses will not be retrofitted with belts. This will increase the cost of new buses, but the burden on districts will be lighter than if older buses were also required to have belts. This is likely the safest, easiest, and most cost-effective way forward.

SHOWING NEW DRIVERS THE ROPES

School districts nationwide are having issues finding, hiring, and keeping good bus drivers. Only six percent of contracting companies this year reported that they had enough drivers (down from 15 percent just last year). This is partly because the economy is stronger than in recent years, so fewer people are seeking part-time work. This shortage is also due to heavy regulation of drivers.

The strict requirements to become a driver are necessary to keep students, as well as everyone else on the road, safe; however, these stipulations can deter people from pursuing a bus driver position. As a result, many districts are desperate for new drivers. From Minnesota to Colorado to Virginia, school districts are creatively recruiting new drivers to minimize the shortage.

It’s critical, though, that standards and training are not sacrificed in an effort to fill out a driver roster. In fact, the desperation to find drivers makes training even more important, and it’s something no district can skimp on. When a new driver isn’t properly trained, it can cause major problems.

Due to this, districts are using newer and more modern training methods to give drivers experience in a variety of situations. Advanced simulators give drivers hands-on experience in maneuvers that they may not typically encounter. They also provide a safe situation for practicing more complex training exercises, without having to worry about damage to a bus or equipment. This way an inexperienced driver can safely and quickly become proficient before he picks up a single child.

Part of that training is learning routes, and that can’t be done in a simulator. It’s important for managers to be able to monitor routes to make sure drivers are hitting their stops and driving efficiently. A tool like Synovia’s Comparative Analysis compares planned routes to actual routes using GPS tracking data. This information can be used to show new drivers where they’re going wrong, and how they can improve. If someone’s routinely missing a turn or taking the long way, they may not even know – and information is key.

KEEPING WATCH

Internal cameras have been popular for years as a way to help with discipline, both for riders and drivers. Any incident that happens on a bus is recorded and can be dealt with in an objective manner. Many districts are also adding external cameras to deal with a growing issue – other drivers ignoring bus stop arms.

According to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, 70,000 vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses each day. When it happens, the bus driver’s first priority is to make sure students are safe. That means they’re not typically able to identify a license plate. As such, cameras which automatically activate when a bus’ stop arm is engaged are becoming more popular.

It’s not entirely clear whether they have much of an effect, though. One example is the Laramie County School District in Wyoming, where state law requires cameras to be installed on all buses by 2016. Although the law is well-publicized, drivers are still passing stopped buses. According to transportation director Merle Smith, the district is still seeing double digit violations on a daily basis. In other districts, though, a deterrent effect has been reported. When a district can afford them and the law permits it, external cameras are more likely than not to be a good idea.

GIVE PARENTS PEACE OF MIND

Parents can’t control what happens to their children once they get on the bus. That responsibility belongs to bus drivers and transportation administrators. As a parent, putting a child’s safety in someone else’s hands can be frightening. One way you can ease their concern is with Here Comes the Bus®.

With Here Comes the Bus, parents know exactly when their child’s bus is near, and can send them to the bus stop at just the right time. No more long waits at the bus stop, and no more missed buses. For parents, such a simple thing can mean a lot. Combined with Synovia GPS and Comparative Analysis, Here Comes the Bus is a powerful tool to keep students safe.

You’re always thinking about student safety. Keep an eye on these bus safety trends while you’re readying for the second semester. With the right knowledge and the right tools in place, you and your parents will be able to rest at ease.

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Tags: transportation directors, safety, k-12, here comes the bus, school bus

WINTER CONSTRUCTION DEMANDS VIGILANCE FOR SAFETY AND QUALITY

Posted by Bill Westerman on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 @ 09:01 AM

SYN Winter Construction Demands 290x226It’s nearly wintertime in the United States, and across much of the country that means a seasonal shift in approach for construction companies. Cold weather sets in as the seasons change, and plummeting temperatures change the game for everyone who works outdoors. As you might expect – and U.S. Census Bureau data backs up this statement – business tends to drop for construction companies. However, with changes in the economy and construction technology in the past couple decades, there is no off-season.

Your business is expected to remain active even after the first snow. Here’s how you can accomplish that, maintain quality standards – and keep your crews safe. 

EVERY DETAIL IS CRITICAL 

You’re always careful about making sure every part of every job is done right, but in cold winter weather the margins are slimmer. Any minor mistake can snowball into a major problem, and the normal ways of doing things may not cut it when the temperature dips below freezing. Because of that, it’s critical to get all the details right when you’re building in winter.

Cold weather causes many typical construction materials to act differently than they do when it’s warm out. Water in concrete will freeze, resulting in crystals forming in the mix and the dried concrete failing to reach its full strength. Masonry has the same issues, as water expands while freezing which can cause strength issues in a finished masonry project. Digging foundations is made more difficult by frost in the ground – once the frost level goes below 8-12 inches, special machinery may be needed to penetrate it. When snow or freezing rain covers building frames, it becomes impossible to apply sealants. These are just a few of the problems that winter construction can bring, and any one of them can deal a heavy blow to your efforts. 

Winter is especially taxing for vehicles and equipment, making maintenance more an issue than ever. First of all, you must prepare your own equipment for cold weather. Preventative maintenance and checks of heat and defrosting systems are a good start. It’s also important to continually monitor your equipment all season long – don’t just give each vehicle a once-over and assume it’s good to go. This is one place where Synovia can help. Our Silverlining™ suite includes real-time engine diagnostics that give fleet managers the ability to know when repairs are needed before a breakdown. Unexpected repairs are a thing of the past, and the maintenance that’s done is far cheaper.

Fuel economy also becomes a bigger issue than normal during winter. Cold weather affects efficiency in a number of ways – cold engine oil increases friction, icy roads decrease grip and waste energy, even heaters waste energy. Synovia engine diagnostics allow fleet managers to monitor efficiency and take necessary steps to save fuel. Location tracking also helps, by giving insight into whether drivers are operating vehicles efficiently and whether they’re driving optimal routes.

Additional equipment is required past your usual arsenal as well. Heavy-duty equipment may be needed to properly dig through the frost layer to lay a foundation. If inclement weather strikes at the wrong time, the frame needs to be covered for sealant application. Masonry and concrete must be kept warm throughout the whole process, and anything from heating the components to simply heating the whole work site could be called for. If wind chill is a factor, wind breaks may need to be built as well. 

PROTECTING YOUR TEAM 

Job site safety is top of mind for every project, but again, the unique conditions of winter mean extra effort must be exerted to make your team safe. Ice, snow, and cold all make the job site a bit more dangerous than it would be in the pleasant weather of spring or fall, or even the heat of summer.

Driving in winter is an issue, whether it’s a truck going from site to site or a piece of equipment moving around on an individual site. Ensuring drivers are properly trained and licensed to operate the vehicles they drive in winter weather is critical. Simply reminding workers of the dangers of icy roads and frozen job sites is important as well. 

Workers being struck by vehicles on site is a major concern, since it’s far easier to skid or lose control of a vehicle in the ice or snow. Because of this, traffic controls are just as important on a work site as they are on the road. Signs, cones, barrels, and barriers can all be used to protect drivers and pedestrian workers alike. It’s also advisable to have workers wear reflective vests when on a site with active vehicles and other equipment. Every little bit you can do to keep workers visible and protected from the equipment they work around will help

Getting stranded in a vehicle is not only more likely in icy and snowy conditions, but the cold makes it more dangerous than it would be in more pleasant weather. It’s important to train your drivers to know what to do in such situations. It’s instinct to want to seek out help, but that’s one of the worst things you can do. Drivers need to know how to stay warm, signal for help, and prevent maladies like frostbite and carbon monoxide poisoning. This way a stranded vehicle will be a temporary inconvenience, rather than something much more frightening. 

It’s also a good idea to track vehicles as closely as possible, so you know where vehicles are and can direct help to the right location without delay. A Synovia GPS tracking system gives fleet managers constant visibility into vehicle locations in real time, 24/7. Not only does this allow a manager to locate vehicles, but alerts and reports monitoring driver behavior can also help crack down on unsafe driving. This data is useful for route-building and other reporting year-round, but in winter when safety is at a premium it’s absolutely critical. 

Slick surfaces are dangerous for workers on foot as well as ones operating vehicles. Whether on the ground or on the framework of a building or on a scaffold, slips and falls are an issue in the cold. Again, training for your workers is important. Walking more carefully and wearing the proper footwear will protect against a lot of issues. Make it clear to your team that rushing will do more harm than good, and that safety is a priority over speed. It’s also important to clear snow and ice from walkways as much as possible.

PREPARATION WILL MAKE WINTER WONDERFUL

No matter what, careful planning is important before any winter construction job starts. You can’t get caught off-guard by a blizzard, with no contingencies in place. Your needs will differ based on the unique project you’re working on, but the principle – preparation – is universal.

Your business can’t afford to take the winter off. You also can’t afford to sacrifice safety or quality. With this advice and a telematics partner like Synovia, your construction company will thrive in the cold.

 

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Tags: safety, fleet maintenance, route efficiency, construction, fleet managers, GPS, fuel efficiency

School districts: As daylight fades, shed some light on bus arrival

Posted by Liz James on Mon, Nov 16, 2015 @ 05:00 PM

November brings plenty of changes to American school districts. Leaves are falling, temperatuSYN School Districts Daylight Fades 290x226res
drop and Daylight Saving Time ends. Even though shifting our clocks back initially brings more daylight to the bus stop, it’s short-lived as we lose up to a couple of minutes of daylight each day until winter’s first day at the end of December.

Sending a child out to the bus stop can be stressful, especially over the next few months. Is the child late, or will they be waiting out in inclement weather? Are cars driving past the bus stop able to see children as clearly? Without question, getting to the bus stop too early this time of year isn’t ideal.

With these concerns in mind, let’s examine the high cost of students frequently missing the bus. Then we’ll consider how your district can help parents know exactly when their child’s bus will arrive.

Missing the bus can be costly

No parent wants their child to get to school late. However, even the best-laid plans can go awry, and before they know it the bus is here and gone, and their child is still at home. While that’s a frustrating way to start a morning, missing the bus can have far greater consequences.

The school bus is not just the safest way to get students to and from school; it’s also a school’s greatest tool to help prevent tardiness and absence. About 480,000 school buses nationwide transport more than 25 million students safely and on time every school day. A missed school bus often leads to a tardy arrival, or a missed day altogether. That can really add up.

Missing just two days a month will negatively affect a child’s academic performance. That’s chronic absence, and by sixth grade those absences become a good indicator that a student won’t finish high school. It starts off early in some cases. One in 10 students in kindergarten and first grade are chronically absent, and poor attendance can be the difference between reading proficiently and being held back by third grade.

Know exactly when the bus arrives

Fortunately, parents don’t have to choose between early and late. All they need is a tool like Here Comes the Bus® – the only app available in the U.S. that alerts parents when their child’s bus is near.

Here Comes the Bus enables parents to track their child’s bus in real-time on a smartphone, tablet or desktop computer. They can set up alerts to tell them when the bus is near – allowing them to choose exactly when to send their child to the bus stop. The Synovia app directly connects to the GPS tracking systems in your bus fleet, meaning it’s powered by our proprietary tracking data.

As the seasons change, parents don’t just lose daylight, or degrees on the thermometer. They lose degrees of safety for their kids once they send them out the door. They also risk tardiness or absenteeism if the timing isn’t right. When it’s something that important, every little bit counts. Protect children from danger and truancy. Make sure they get to the bus stop at just the right time – every time.

 

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Don't Wait Until Winter to Prepare for the First Snow

Posted by Bill Westerman on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 @ 01:59 PM

It’s October, which means fall is here. In much of the country there’s a chill in the air, the leavesconstruction snow plow are starting to turn, and football season is getting into gear. But for fleet managers, the beginning of fall means more than anything else that it’s time to start preparing for what’s next – winter. There’s a lot to do. Vehicles used year-round have to be prepared for the change in weather. Equipment that’s only used in winter need to be retrieved from storage and prepared for a return to action.

You can’t wait until roads are already covered in ice and snow to change over. The process has to start now.

VEHICLE UPKEEP MEANS EVERYTHING

Winter means dangerous road conditions, which means that your fleet – no matter whether you’re managing for public works, sanitation, landscaping, or any other purpose – needs to be prepared for a struggle. Ice and snow mean more wear and tear on equipment inside and out, and without the proper care, that can lead to breakdowns. A vehicle out of commission takes an even greater importance when it means a neighborhood doesn’t get plowed, or a driver is stranded in freezing conditions.

When the weather turns, that means vehicles that haven’t been used in months are making a return to service. Snow plows, salt trucks, and other equipment all come out of storage, and it all needs to function perfectly. Proper pre-storage maintenance is critical, as is the proper storage procedure, but in October, it’s too late for that if you didn’t do it right last spring. So the work has to be done now.

The most obvious things are ensuring good traction and reliable use. Check the tread depth and wear on tires that have seen some use. Cold weather deflates a tire, so check tire pressure and make sure they’re properly inflated. Make sure the four-wheel drive is functioning, if applicable. And if necessary, change to snow tires or put on chains. Do a full engine check, and replace fluids like oil and antifreeze if needed. Check the charge on all batteries, and make sure fuel tanks remain at least half-full as it helps prevent residue from freezing in fuel lines.

The exterior is also critical to maintain. Check the windshield for any minor chips or cracks, as temperature changes can turn them into major problems. Visibility is an issue in bad weather, and slushy and salty conditions wreak havoc on a windshield – so check and replace windshield wipers if necessary, and always keep washer fluid well-stocked. Also, make sure front and rear defrosters are functioning, as well as mirror defrosters if you have them. A coat of wax will help prevent damage to the vehicle’s body from snow and salt, as will regular cleanings – especially of the undercarriage, where much of the contact between the elements and equipment happens.

This can’t be a one-time thing, either. It’s critical to keep track of how your fleet is handling harsh winter conditions on a regular basis, with frequent and detailed maintenance. Fault code monitoring and engine diagnostic tools give you a constant view into what is and isn’t working, and will help prevent your drivers from ending up stranded in the ice and snow.

PUT SAFETY FIRST

Even the best planning can go awry, though. Smart maintenance and the information you get from engine diagnostics will minimize problems, but a battery can fail at any time, and even a good driver can hit a patch of dark ice and end up on an accidental off-road adventure. And that’s not to mention what the other drivers on the road can do. In winter, anything can happen, and that can leave a driver or a team stranded and in need of help. Preparation is key.

Have a plan in place in case a vehicle is wrecked or otherwise stranded. Your fleet should have towing capacity, or if that’s not feasible, build a relationship with a towing company that you know is reliable, able to handle the types of equipment you use, and able to handle the elements. Additionally, it’s important to have a way to locate your vehicles. Detailed route information is one way – knowing where your individual vehicles might be is a great start to finding them. An even better way, though, is precise and granular GPS tracking of each and every piece of equipment in your fleet. With GPS, as soon as you get a call about an incident, it’s easy to know exactly where your people are, and what’s the fastest way to get there.

It’s cold, it’s icy, it’s dangerous. Don’t leave your drivers stranded through lack of planning.

KNOW YOUR ROUTES DOWN TO THE INCH

No matter what your vehicles are doing once they get to the site, fleets of all kinds benefit from having better routes to follow. That’s true in all weather, but particularly when ice and snow enter the equation. With the elements already making every mile a little more taxing on engines and transmissions and more. Because of that, efficiency is key. The less your vehicles are on the road, the less likely it is that they’ll be damaged. Additionally, for plowing speed matters. The longer it takes, the more time citizens and community residents have to drive on dangerous roads, and the greater the chances that an accident can happen.

It’s also important to conserve resources as much as possible. Fuel and time are always at a premium, and that’s amplified when the weather gets rough. But when you’re salting roads as well, you also have to make sure that you’re not wasting an expensive – and very limited – resource. Ensure that vehicles are taking the most efficient routes, and that you don’t have roads getting salted more than once unnecessarily due to route mixups. GPS tracking tools give you the ability to make sure the routes you plan are the most efficient ones possible, and that your drivers are actually following them.

It’s especially important to assess planned routes if there have been major changes to local roads since last winter. Perhaps a new neighborhood means increased traffic in a previously-empty area, or road expansion and construction means getting from one place to another takes a totally different approach. Planning now means not only that the first snow can be dealt with, but also that if more and larger roads require more vehicles and more supplies, they can be acquired now rather than rushed into service at the last minute.

Where possible, all routes should also be inspected ahead of time, and whatever steps are available to prepare the route for plowing and salting should be made. This will likely be easier for corporate campuses and neighborhoods and other private areas where government money doesn’t need to be obtained, as it can be done more quickly. Fix potholes. Level raised manhole covers. Make note of any obstructions like speed bumps that need to be avoided. Find and mark all utilities and emergency equipment and anything else that has to be reachable. Look at where plowed snow is going to end up, and plan routes that prevent blockages in crucial places.

PUBLIC AND PRIVATE

All of this applies to any fleet that operates in winter weather, no matter what the circumstance. Many are municipal fleets, but private fleets also have winter work to do. If you’re a landscaping company, for example, you may need to be able to get out to neighborhoods and businesses to help clear trees felled by ice, or to do plowing on streets that aren’t under governmental purview. No matter who’s paying the bills, things like route efficiency, safety, and maintenance are critical when the weather turns. Take steps now to prepare, and don’t get left out in the cold.

 

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Sources: 

http://trucks.about.com/cs/winterizing/a/winterize_truck.htm

http://www.truckinginfo.com/article/story/2012/11/getting-your-work-truck-ready-for-winter.aspx

https://www.meyerproducts.com/header-nav/news-blog/october-2013/how-to-prepare-your-snow-plow-crew-and-have-the-be

http://landscapesolutionsllc.com/blog/winter-is-coming/

http://www.tyrepress.com/2014/10/ats-gears-up-for-winter-switchover-for-fleets/



Tags: fleet maintenance, equipment repairs, fleet managers, GPS

LEADING THE WAY: Jon King takes Synovia Solutions forward

Posted by Bill Westerman on Wed, Oct 07, 2015 @ 11:25 AM

Jon King doesn’t stop. You wouldn’t know it to talk to him – the CEO of Synovia Solutions is aSYN Leading The Way 290x226 calm and considered man, speaking only after taking a beat to think and choose just the right thing to say. But in his work, King is constantly moving, and that’s just the way he likes it.

“If I’m going to work, I want to do something where you can impact change quickly,” King said. “I’m an action-oriented person, I like to look at things and analyze things, make a decision and get on with it.” 

That active style is something that he’s brought to Synovia since his arrival in 2011. He’s the kind of executive who’s not only participating in the actual business of his company, but who you’re excited to see involved in new projects. That’s not just because of his years of experience. It’s because the things Jon King gets involved in tend to be successful. 

ACTIVE LEADERSHIP, INSIDE AND OUT

King’s somewhat of an expert in management, both of a business as a whole and of people who work there. Part of that comes from a career that’s spanned a number of industries, businesses from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies, and a tour of military service. He’s experienced all kinds of different styles, and he’s worked in management at all levels since early in his career with Xerox. 

“The first management job I had, I was no more ready to lead ten people than I was to land a man on the moon,” King said. “I learned lessons that have stayed with me throughout my whole career, and I’m thankful every day for the time I spent there.” It’s easy to see why. Today in addition to his work at Synovia, King is a guest lecturer at Butler University, IUPUI, and the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University.

King also learned about the importance of direct involvement in a team or a company you run, and along with his natural tendency toward action, it leads not only to an active internal role, but also to hands-on interactions with customers. “If you buy a piece of software and you don’t know how to use it, it’s worthless, a waste of money,” King says. And that’s why training users is a critical part of Synovia’s sales and service process. “It’s pretty obvious, but it’s not as widespread in its application as you might think. At the end of the day, if we don’t make it happen, they won’t get all the value that they’re paying for.” 

That training isn’t something that gets handed off to an outside firm, or an online walkthrough. Synovia senior management – including Jon King himself – meet with top clients face-to-face twice yearly to review in-house training, software usage, and any other training and functionality issues a client may have. Clients know that Synovia buys into their success because the executive team buys into them. 

GROWTH THROUGH INNOVATION

That emphasis on openness means that Synovia has an ability to change and a flexibility that you just don’t often see in a corporate setting. King has the experience to know what works, know what doesn’t work, and build on that. In just a few years under King’s guidance, the pricing model Synovia Solutions – and now the industry as a whole – offers to school districts has been totally revolutionized. King has also helped to build partnerships with companies to get software to market faster, and he shepherded the debut of the game-changing Here Comes the BusTM website and app for parents, students, and schools. All major changes, and all have fueled the growth that Synovia has seen in recent years. 

The major source of that growth has been in school bus fleet management, in large part because of those innovative changes. The now-abandoned previous pricing model put a significant burden on the client, with large up-front charges that increased with the size of the fleet. Schools simply couldn’t afford it. Business wasn’t growing. So a change, spearheaded by King, was made. “You’re buying a service from us,” King said. “At the end of the day you’re buying information from us. We’re not a hardware provider, we’re an information provider.” So having clients pay for hardware didn’t really make sense.

Now rather than a large up-front fee, there’s no up-front costs at all. Schools pay only a monthly subscription per vehicle. Synovia changed how the product went to market, and also added partnerships with Verizon for data transmission and Blue Bird Corporation, who wanted to associate their new GPS accessory with a trusted brand. “It was a perfect marriage,” King said. “That model was embraced by the market, and it changed the whole paradigm.” 

Synovia’s growth in the K-12 market has been powered not only by those changes, but also by purely new innovation. The Here Comes the Bus app is part of the crest of that wave. “It’s another differentiator for us in that space,” King said.

Here Comes the Bus is a totally different thing from what other competitors are offering to schools, and that makes it a massive difference-maker for Synovia. But it’s not just the app itself that is making a difference – it’s the app’s audience.

NEW MARKETS, NEW CUSTOMERS

Until Here Comes the Bus, all of Synovia’s services have been aimed at businesses, not at individual consumers. But since Here Comes the Bus is an app for parents, rather than for school administrators, it’s a new audience for Synovia’s products. “It’s educational, we’re learning, but at end of the day we think it’s going to be a game changer on several fronts,” King said. It’s just another reason for schools to want to work with Synovia, and for the schools that work with us to continue to do so for years and years. “In the world we live in today, where security and safety are even more important to parents, it’s big,” King says, as it acts as part of a holistic set of tools for schools and parents to make sure kids get to and from school safely every day. 

That new experience for Synovia is part of what Jon thinks will help the company as it expands its role in other fleet management verticals. “The biggest opportunity [for Synovia] is in the private sector, in the specific verticals that don’t require changes to our technology,” King said.

King envisions identifying the private fleets that can use GPS technology and software to the greatest level of effectiveness and developing game-changing products and services for them to mirror the success of Synovia’s K-12 vertical. 

Sectors like construction fleet management are the next big targets for Synovia Solutions, and specifically King thinks that concrete and cement transportation are specific disciplines where Synovia can do a lot of good. It’s critical for vehicles to be able to make it from the mixing site to the construction site before the material sets, and GPS tracking allows fleet managers to plot the most efficient routes to guarantee that material isn’t lost needlessly. “That’s a big opportunity and we’d like to think we can provide a solution,” King said.

New growth has to be managed intelligently, though. When pushing Synovia forward, scalability was top of mind for King. That’s part of what prompted his search for partnerships in the K-12 sphere. “We were never going to have a sales organization big enough to get to the market quick enough,” King said.

Balancing growth against smart investments in infrastructure, and building partnerships to cover gaps rather than spending big to fill them, all fit together as part of an intentional strategy. “To [manage growth carefully] with a small business is extremely critical because you don’t have an unlimited checkbook,” said King.

When a company enters into a partnership with Synovia, whether as a client or as a service provider, you’re working with a company that reflects its chief. Expect action, expect innovation, and expect success. Expect that, like Jon King, Synovia Solutions will not stop.

 

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Tags: here comes the bus, construction, fleet managers, GPS

The 2015 State of the Beverage Industry Report. One sip at a time.

Posted by Bill Westerman on Mon, Oct 05, 2015 @ 11:36 AM


SYN State Beverage Industry 290x226From alcoholic beverages to energy drinks and even water, the beverage industry is doing quite well these days. Consumer trends such as healthier living, increased taste expectations, and a growing distrust of artificial ingredients are forcing greater innovation in product development across the board, which also blurs category lines.

Non-alcoholic drinks see big spikes 

Water According to the 2015 State of the Beverage Industry Report, national water consumption has increased by over 68 million 8-ounce servings in just a year, due in part to healthier lifestyle trends. Still, bottled waters account for the majority of sales, but sparkling water is fastest-growing segment and will continue to be so.

Juice Again, healthy lifestyles are driving this trend. The refrigerated juice and juice drink smoothies segment grew to more than $842 million, with Naked brand as a top performer. Coconut water is another healthy bright spot, doubling its sales every year since 2004.  Finally, Capri Sun showed a 26% increase in sales over the previous year.

Sports drinks Not just for hard-core athletes any more. In fact, this category’s traditional market is steadily declining, while more casual sports drink consumers is increasing. Nearly 50% of surveyed consumers aged 18-24 choose sports drinks when they are not working out. 

Protein drinks Another category that is seeing the positive impact of changing consumer attitudes, the ready-to-drink protein drinks market grew by newly 24 percent in 2014.

Energy drinks Yes, the overall energy drinks category was up 6.9 percent last year, but that pales in comparison to the double-digit increases experienced in years past. To appeal to health and taste conscious consumers, this category needs to innovate, and it knows it.  One example is developing energy drinks that are made with USDA-certified organic ingredients

Soda Still a leader, carbonated soft drinks face several challenges and decreasing sales show it. To appeal to the health and taste-oriented markets, this category is innovating with smaller portion sizes, using natural sweeteners, and through craft sodas. Much like craft beers, craft sodas give consumers something trendy, with greater variety, including flavors, kosher, gluten free, organic, vegan and variety packs.

Tea Consumer desire for convenient, better-for-you beverage options will continue to drive double-digit growth, especially as canned and bottled teas increase their presence in convenience stores and vending machines.

Dairy alternatives The U.S. drinking milk market is expected to decrease 2% annually, while dairy alternatives are expected to grow 52 percent over the next four years. When you consider the growth of almond milk and coconut milk, and the interest in fiber-based milk, this expectation seems highly realistic.

Alcoholic beverages. Changing of the guards.

Spirits “Brown is back; it’s the whiskey renaissance” declared Danny Brager, senior vice president of alcoholic beverages at New York-based Nielsen. “Over the past four years or so, whiskey has now replaced vodka as the No. 1 sub-category…”

Wine The market preference is changing here as well. While wine sales are up, champagne shows the most significant change. Nearly half of those surveyed, age 25 to 34, reported drinking sparkling wine or champagne at home.

Beer Gone are the days of the cheap 6-pack, as more consumers buy imports and craft beers. Domestic beers are capitalizing on this movement, adding super-premium sub-brands.

Distribution technology trends. GPS helps competitors gain ground.

Throughout the course of a day, a delivery driver will make a multitude of stops while racking up the mileage quickly. So when trying to increase service while cutting costs, wouldn’t having the most information possible make the most sense?

Tracking Delivery Routes

By utilizing GPS tracking services such as Synovia Solutions, delivery routes can be mapped and tracked, then fine-tuned to the smallest details. This offers all sorts of benefits:

  • Pinpoint the safest routes for your drivers

  • Decrease the chances of accidents

  • Limit lost or damaged goods

  • Greater accuracy for delivery time

  • Increase customer satisfaction

  • Increase cost efficiency

Safeguarding Your Fleet—and Time

GPS solutions do more than tracking. Engine diagnostics can lead to greater fuel efficiency, less vehicle downtime, and longer vehicular life. Time and Attendance can eliminate time-consuming, inaccurate paper time sheets and click in devices. 

See For Yourself

We offer a free, no obligation trial. If you decide we’re exactly what your company needs, we’ll get you started with no upfront costs. 

To learn more about Synovia Solutions, visit www.synoviasolutions.com or call 1-877-796-6842.

 

 

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Sources: http://www.bevindustry.com/articles/88556-state-of-the-beverage-industry-report

Tags: Time and Attendance, beverage distribution, GPS