Magazine Article | March 27, 2012

Fleet Management Cuts Fuel Costs, Vehicle Losses

Source: Field Technologies Magazine

By Brian Albright, Field Technologies magazine

With vehicle recovery enabled by a new fleet management solution, this environmental services company has saved half a million dollars in averted costs.

As the largest hazardous waste disposal company in North America, Norwell, MA-based Clean Harbors operates more than 50 waste management facilities, has more than 200 service locations, and provides services ranging from waste recycling to emergency chemical and oil spill cleanups. Employees often operate in remote and dangerous locations, which can put them and their vehicles and equipment at risk.

In order to address these safety concerns, the company has deployed a GPS-based fleet management solution for its light-duty vehicle fleet of 1,600 vehicles. Since deployment in early 2011, the company has already saved thousands of dollars by being able to recover stolen vehicles and, in the process, reduced operating expenses through decreased idling and fuel consumption.

“With the harsh environments our vehicles operate in, we knew a tracking solution was needed for safety purposes,” says Sharon Catino, director of energy and industrial initiatives at Clean Harbors. “With a growing fleet, we also knew that real-time visibility fleet management could help us better manage our assets by optimizing the jobs they are scheduled to and enabling preventive maintenance.” The company needed a GPS fleet-tracking system that could manage its vehicles and employees and allow them to respond quickly to safety incidents. Fleet tracking could also help decrease idle time and save fuel, in addition to providing automated event reporting.

Clean Harbors’ experience with GPS began in 2007 when it deployed a workforce management solution to some of its fleet, using Motorola MC90 and MC95 mobile computers. While this provided the company visibility into the whereabouts of its larger trucks, it could not monitor smaller pickup trucks.

In 2009 Clean Harbors acquired the Canadian industrial services company Eveready, Inc. One of Eveready’s divisions, River Valley Energy Services, was already using a solution called Fleet Complete from Complete Innovations to track its vehicles. After evaluating the system, the company decided to deploy the solution for its light-duty vehicles. “Complete Innovations has reasonable pricing for the solutions they offer, and customers don’t have to buy the full suite, which is what we found many competitors were selling,” Catino says. “Their system is also very intuitive and already had many report and alert features we knew we wanted out of the box.”

It took just 16 weeks to install the Fleet Complete software and MGS200/MGS500 hardware modems on the first 1,200 vehicles in the United States and Canada. The biggest challenge was simply pinning down the vehicles so the hardware could be installed. “Because of our unique business, trucks can be outside of their normal operation range on projects,” Catino says. “Several hundred trucks were on large projects and spills and were continually moving, so we had to work with different installers, some in remote locations, to get these vehicles outfitted.”

Fleet Management Improves Driver Safety
The Fleet Complete system allows the company to track its light-duty fleet for theft-recovery purposes, provides live odometer and hours of operation data to help drive maintenance efforts, and monitors driver behavior so that the company can reduce speeding and other unsafe driver behaviors. To help increase safe driving, the company’s Transportation Compliance Department can cite problems and intervene when they see improper behavior and then work with drivers to improve and reduce liability. They strive to implement behavioral changes in drivers without intervention from other agencies.

“Local operations have full access to view vehicles under their daily control,” says William McKim, Fleet Utilization Manager at Clean Harbors. “This gives them real-time visibility into tracking the trucks at customer locations. The Fleet Department also has oversight to monitor the outliers — high idle, harsh breaking, etc. — and intervene when necessary, in an effort to reduce fuel costs and gain efficiencies. We utilize weekly reports of high-risk vehicles to change behaviors and manage fuel and maintenance initiatives.”

So far the company has managed to both improve safety and reduce operating costs. Fuel costs have been reduced by 5% to 10% through reduced idling, for example. Prior to the GPS system, drivers were idling two to four hours per day, per vehicle. Using data from Fleet Complete, the company implemented new policies around speeding and idling that reduced idle times to one to two hours per day. “Always knowing where our drivers are located is invaluable,” McKim says. “We recently installed the panic-button feature that we’re now piloting, which will allow a driver to notify our Health and Safety Department of issues when they’re in trouble and need immediate help. This will be very valuable, with so many people in remote locations working in hazardous conditions.”

Nightly reports on odometer and hours of service feed Clean Harbors’ preventive maintenance system. By knowing exactly how long the vehicles are operating and how many miles they have driven, the company can perform regular maintenance in a more effective manner.

GPS Thwarts Theft
The company can also immediately locate any vehicles that go missing. To date, the company has recovered 13 stolen vehicles since deploying the solution. At roughly $45,000 per vehicle, the company has saved more than half a million dollars in new vehicle purchases.

Clean Harbors is piloting the new Complete Innovations MGS500 hardware on part of its fleet. The hardware also acts as a Wi-Fi hotspot for mobile devices used around the vehicle. “This may be used in the future with iPads for various mobile applications,” Catino says. “One application specifically will give us details to our rental business and managing specific equipment inspections and requirements.”

The company also plans to upgrade to the next version of Fleet Complete, which will include functionality that will help provide better visibility of the fleet in accordance with Clean Harbors’ own internal branching structure. “The new version will allow us to very easily manage our data by specific customer locations and filter data by drivers,” Catino says. “Also, as mobile technology is changing, it’s preferred to have a hotspot in the trucks. We can use that connection with any device in the future and still get the fleet management data with only one Wi-Fi connection fee.”