Route planning is nothing new in the trash hauling business. Good refuse fleet managers can sketch out solid, workable routes using nothing more than a dog-eared street map, calculator, paper and pencils about as quickly as software can — and often far more cheaply, too.
However, there’s a wealth of information that can’t be generated by using the tried-and-true, pencil-and-paper. “The modern components of routing systems — GPS [global positioning system] vehicle location data, onboard computers, and software programs — all combine to give today’s refuse fleet manager a far more detailed look into their daily business operation than ever before,” says Steven Kaufman, senior vice president and founder of Beaverton, Ore.-based Routeware. “And it’s those details that can help the fleet save money, make more money or both, as well as provide competitive advantages in areas previously overlooked.”
GPS tracking can help fleets decrease costs by reducing fuel consumption, as accurate location data helps fleet managers ensure trucks use the most direct routes to job sites, eliminate unauthorized journeys and reduce idle times. The Aberdeen Group, a global consulting firm based in Boston, found that companies using GPS tracking for their fleets see, on average, a 13.2 percent reduction in fuel costs and a 13.4 percent reduction in overtime expenses.
The key to such savings is getting detailed data about truck operations, says John Goggin, global vice president of sales for Boston-based FleetMatics. Today’s GPS-based routing systems can analyze a truck’s idling time, mileage, speed and engine on-time, for example.
With their ability to provide comprehensive fleet data, advanced routing systems can help haulers competing for city and county contracts during this era of limited local government budgets. “Municipalities as a group are taking a harder look at costs, especially in terms of refuse contracts, asking companies to justify their rates with hard numbers,” Kaufman says.
Data that demonstrates efficient routing — and thus reduced fuel consumption and engine emissions — also can bee a boon when competing for such contracts. “The extra twist is that many municipalities these days are also focused on improving the ‘sustainability’ of their communities, such as lowering greenhouse gas emissions,” Kaufman adds. “This, then, becomes another competitive factor for trash hauling contracts.”
Routeware has added an algorithm to its VehiclePort data collection system that calculates the amount of greenhouse gas produced per truck per route, giving fleets concrete information they can provide to municipalities.
Put into Practice
Laura Weber, solid waste project manager for the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe in upstate New York, looked to generate cost savings from more accurate routing information when her hauling operations installed a GPS vehicle tracking system from FleetMatics several years ago.
The refuse fleet moved away from filling out mandatory mileage sheets for each truck and completely automated the process through the data gathered by the GPS technology, which both improved accuracy and allowed driver work hours to be spent on more productive tasks, Weber says.
Weber also uses the system to improve refuse truck routing and service times, as the system provides the exact location of every vehicle in her fleet in real time, which enables Weber to ensure drivers are taking the most direct routes and completing the day’s work in a timely manner. Pre-set “speed alerts” also allow Weber to ensure St. Regis’ refuse drivers obey the posted speed limits, which helps reduce fuel consumption.
In her case, Weber accesses the data generated by GPS via a Web-based interface, so she can use any computer with Internet access to keep tabs on the fleet’s metrics. “I work from a remote location, and my operation supervisor is on the road all the time,” she says. “This system allows us to monitor exactly where our trucks are.”
Today’s advanced routing systems don’t just plot where trucks need to go; they also are designed to gather all manner of truck data to help reduce the administrative workload that fleet managers face. Take fuel tax reporting, for example. Fuel tax reports are required under the International Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA), an agreement among the lower 48 states and Canada that is intended to simplify the reporting of fuel use by motor carriers operating in more than one jurisdiction.
Under IFTA, fleets must file quarterly fuel tax reports, which require them to document dates of travel and total miles traveled in each state or province. So, those refuse fleets with operations that cross state and/or provincial lines face a lot of tedious work tracking and then breaking down the mileage accumulated for each of their vehicles.
That’s where GPS and routing software can come into play. For instance, San Diego-based Networkfleet offers a GPS system that automatically generates reports showing the number of miles traveled by a vehicle in each state or province.
Paper and pencils can certainly provide serviceable routes, but, when it comes to increased efficiencies, more advanced systems can get where you want to go.
Sean Kilcarr is a senior editor for Fleet Owner, a sister publication of Waste Age.