Companies are getting ahead of Vehicle and Tool Theft, and Maintenance Concerns
Construction theft has been a significant industry issue for years. However, with the recent COVID-19 pandemic, opportunistic thieves have been burglarizing construction sites at an even more astonishing rate.
The National Equipment Register and National Insurance Crime Bureau estimate losses to construction companies are somewhere between $300 million and $1 billion annually. Those figures don’t even account for the steep cost of stolen tools or building materials, which can add another billion dollars worth of losses on their own.
As a result, fleets are increasingly looking to real-time tracking and monitoring technologies. Hot Line Construction is one company that has used these technologies to save nearly half a million.
Hot Line Construction is primarily focused on voltage utility services work. They have a mixed fleet of 800 specialized vehicles (including pickups, cars, cranes, powered trailers, and Class 4, 5 and 6 trucks) that travel across widespread, remote locations at various construction sites. As a result, their fleet managers needed to adopt modern, mobile telematics-enabled technology to help track and monitor vehicles’ locations and get real-time updates on the maintenance status of each truck.
Like many construction organizations, Hot Line Construction fleet managers are in the field more than at their desks, so mobile technology solutions are critical to managing and monitoring their fleet. For example, when thieves stole three company trucks from three different job sites, the team set up a roadblock to catch the thieves. Then, using a mobile GPS mapping and vehicle tracking technology, they could locate each of their missing trucks while monitoring the rest of their fleet.
Lessons Learned to Reduce Theft on Construction Sites
The recovery of these vehicles saved Hot Line Construction thousands as just one vehicle had a value of $300,000 and had over $100,000 worth of equipment on board.
As Hot Line Construction experienced, equipment thieves, strike fast. Sometimes, it can take only minutes to get a bulldozer, excavator or backhoe onto a trailer connected to their trucks and off the construction site for a quick sale. Often, this happens overnight, so the equipment and vehicles are long gone before law enforcement can track them down.
To combat thefts, more construction fleets are adopting telematics-enabled GPS devices to track each vehicle in the fleet at all times and alert when a vehicle/asset is moved without authorization, providing the specific location information of the asset. Furthermore, as the job is highly active, fleet managers are using mobile-friendly live map view on units so they can track their fleet in real-time at a desktop or on a mobile device.
This technology not only helps to prevent/respond to potential theft attempts, but it also helps organizations like Hot Line Construction encourage safe driving habits of all their drivers. GPS devices with alert functionality can proactively help drivers operate safely by alerting fleet managers of unsafe behaviour. For example, fleet managers receive alerts when a driver speeds outside a defined, acceptable threshold. Fleet managers can then choose to coach drivers after, or if there is a more immediate need for coaching, they can almost instantly contact that driver to address the safety concern.
Securing Fleet Vehicles During Natural Disaster
In the case of Hot Line Construction, their GPS tracking technology has a two-fold impact. Not only does it help fleet managers monitor all vehicles, but it also has helped protect drivers and their vehicles during natural disasters, from mudslides and wildfires to earthquakes, floods, and storms.
Hot Line Construction crews are often working during times of natural disaster to protect and restore services, and they often send crews to other states to provide assistance, such as during Hurricane Sandy. This just makes a reliable GPS tracking and online mapping technology all the more critical to locate vehicles and their drivers during these dangerous conditions.
Saving Time and Money with Predictive Maintenance
In addition to theft, construction companies’ productivity and monetary concerns are often around vehicle maintenance needs. “Time is money” so vehicle breakdowns are simply not an option. Whether for construction, commercial trucking, or even last-mile delivery, fleet vehicles on the highway today need predictive maintenance technologies to better monitor vehicle health to get ahead of maintenance needs.
These telematics-enabled platforms should be able to collect diagnostics data from the brakes, engine and transmission of every vehicle in the fleet so that fleet managers, shop technicians and mechanics can easily access vehicle maintenance information. Fleet managers can quickly recognize the status of every tool outside and inside the truck – sometimes before the driver is even aware, saving fleets from further repairs and progressive damages down the line. Predictive maintenance has saved Hot Line Construction tens of thousands of dollars. For example, one simple insight spared them a $40,000 engine replacement.
With an escalating fault code system, components that may have started to wear but do not need to be repaired or replaced immediately can be scheduled for another time. In addition, when a fault is triggered, fleet managers can review the problem for actionable insights into what needs to be done now and whether the driver can safely keep operating their vehicle or should pull over at the next truck stop.
In addition to capturing diagnostic trouble codes, managers can analyse and determine trends, like which make/model has specific failures and how those makes/models compare to others. As a result, telematics can improve preventive maintenance plans and affect purchasing decisions regarding parts or when to invest in new vehicles.
Planning Ahead to Prevent Theft and Reduce Maintenance Needs
While we cannot predict when thieves might try to take advantage of unattended construction sites to steal expensive tools and vehicles, we can put tracking technology in place to quickly respond and stop the criminals in their tracks.
Companies like Hot Line Construction are making necessary upgrades to protect their equipment from bad actors, the daily wear and tear on the roads – and importantly – keep drivers safe with safety compliant vehicles. It is crucial that construction, utility and other trucking fleets continue to work closely with technology providers to track, manage, and maintain safety of their full fleet.
Article by Nick Grandy, General Manager of Vocational and Industrial Services at Zonar.