How Fleet Management Can Cut Field Service Costs

White Mountain Oil & Propane has been operating from the same East Coast location for more than 70 years.  Founded by Ben Saunders and his wife, Ethel, the company originally provided oil to houses, farms and businesses until Ben and his co-workers started replacing coal-fired boilers and furnaces with “modern” oil systems, delivering kerosene and range oil by day and installing heating systems at night.

As fuel needs changed, so did the company, entering the propane business when propane was used for home appliances and later as heating fuel. By the mid-2000s, White Mountain Oil & Propane had constructed its own propane storage plant. Today the company’s propane sales exceed its oil sales with homes, condominium complexes, shopping malls and industrial sites serviced by the company’s growing fleet of vans and trucks.

To keep up with the growth, White Mountain needed a fleet management system to meet its increased demands. They chose Fleet Management, a cloud computing solution that offers visibility into daily field service operations so businesses can identify, manage and improve areas such as driver safety, customer service, back office administration, fuel use and vehicle efficiency.

White Mountain conducted an extensive evaluation process. “It was very formal,” says Todd Miller, manager of finance and administration. “We evaluated four to five companies a month before selecting one. Since implementing fleet management, we have seen a real return on our investment.”

“One of the biggest challenges we faced was not being able to view the location of our delivery trucks and service vans,” Miller adds. “Before we installed fleet management, we dispatched by radio, and it was hard to know where the trucks were so we could do an efficient job of scheduling. With fleet management, our dispatchers can see which vehicle is closest to the job and know where to send them.

“Managers can receive off-hours service or emergency calls (when dispatch is closed), log in, and in a minute know exactly where the problem is and send help. It all adds up to delivering more value to our customer.”

As part of its field service solution, White Mountain also purchased an in-truck device called TVG 850, combining GPS and vehicle diagnostic capabilities to provide accurate fuel consumption reporting and information on vehicle condition and performance.

“The company sits on the border of Maine and New Hampshire and trucks are always crossing from one state to the other,” Miller says. “We have to log the mileage, which is an onerous task (each state has its own fuel tax). With fleet management we can record the mileage without having to remind the driver, because it has a built-in trip information report that captures and details the data.”

Another cost-saving feature is Power Take off (PTO), which notifies White Mountain when its fuel trucks engage PTO power. Fleet management can generate reports that detail fuel use based on travel, idle and PTO times. “We pay a hefty tax when we purchase fuel,” Miller says. “If the PTO is on and the engine is idling but the truck is not actually driving we can show that we were burning fuel but not while driving. This can be a sizeable tax credit.”

In addition, the TVG 850 includes Wi-Fi and a wireless router so mobile technicians can securely connect a laptop or any Wi-Fi capable device in an area with limited cell reception.  “Our technicians can be in a basement at 1 a.m. servicing a client and still connect online to search for a part to see if it’s in stock or look at part diagrams,” Miller says.

The TVG 850 also enables White Mountain to receive faster access to field data and to view current work in progress for increased productivity.

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