Wireless, easy-access telematics solutions are increasingly becoming an essential tool for those with any number of vehicles to manage, such as heating, ventilation and air conditioning businesses. A telematics solution provides visibility into the day-to-day financials, improves customer service with real-time fleet activity updates, and allows a small business manager to focus on the growth of the business rather than mundane reconciliation tasks. The right telematics solution for HVAC business managers, who typically keep track of a smaller fleet of vehicles and juggle multiple responsibilities, is an easy-to-use, single-source solution to better track drivers’ work activity and save precious time and money.

To implement the telematics monitor equipment, small HVAC businesses’ individual drivers can easily install the tracking equipment themselves without the added cost of a large integration. Once installed, the equipment sends wireless reports to the fleet manager to track fuel consumption, drivers’ locations, after-hour use and customer payments. With centralized reporting, many small business fleet managers spend only 15 minutes per week to reconcile paper reports, track each driver's fuel costs, ensure on-time deliveries, and monitor for any fraud.

After-hour vehicle use or deliveries outside of a driver's schedule can signal potential fraud, and by keeping track of a driver's activities, small business fleet managers often see fuel consumption decrease and customer service improve as drivers understand that their activities are monitored. Additionally, telematics give small business fleet managers the ability to cross-check productivity on daily deliveries and appointments, which improves service profitability and customer satisfaction.

Here is an example of how one HVAC company achieved significant cost savings and easily applied the telematics solution for its fleet business.

One of the Northeast region’s largest and most preferred home services company offering heating, air conditioning, geothermal, plumbing, drain cleaning and sewer and water line replacement and repair understood that a telematics solution would benefit the company; however, its leadership did not immediately have the confidence that it would find the proper solution and vendor. Most customers in the region rely on this HVAC company for their crucial HVAC needs; therefore, it needed to find an easy reporting, tracking and management solution for its fleet to deliver reliable, on-time service. The HVAC company’s business goals for a telematics solution focused on four results:

·         Reduce fuel consumption with more insight and visibility into the accessed fuel stations;

·         Identify unused fleets to improve fleet utilization;

·         Reduce side jobs and after-hour use; and

·         Improve service profitability.

 

Like many small businesses, the HVAC company also wanted to choose a vendor that would be cost-effective, and perhaps most importantly, one that would be compatible with its current, tight-knit culture focused on delivering superior customer service.

In 2011, the HVAC company implemented WexSmart, Wex Inc.’s telematics solution, and since then it has achieved immediate savings and accomplished all four of its pre-determined business goals. It had a pre-existing relationship with Wex, a leading global provider of value-based business payment processing and information management solutions, for its fuel management business.

For the HVAC company’s first goal, WexSmart’s reporting capabilities helped it reduce fuel consumption by tracking vehicle idling and speeding. Since February 2010, vehicle idling has been reduced to 26 percent from 29 percent. The monthly savings was a total of $10.60 per vehicle and per month, with an annual savings of over $20,000. Additionally, the maximum highway speed for its vehicles reduced from 70 mph to 64 mph, which produced an annual savings of over $14,000.

For its second goal, it reached 74 percent fleet utilization with each fleet vehicle making seven vehicle trips a day on average with WexSmart reporting. The average company using WexSmart has a fleet utilization of 64 percent.

Thirdly, through the company’s reporting and tracking, the HVAC company was able to reduce activity by some employees who were using fleet vehicles to do work outside of their employment agreement, or “side jobs.” It also created 63 additional jobs by identifying needs in the fleet, and increased annual revenue by $19,000.

Finally, its fourth goal was to increase profitability in order to expand and grow its regional business. With WexSmart, the operational efficiency of the fleet business added $4,400 per month, or almost $53,000 in annual profits. In the end, the HVAC company’s choice in a telematics solution reached, and in some cases exceeded, its four business goals to cut costs and improve the business: reduce fuel consumption; improve fleet utilization; reduce side jobs and after-hour use; and improve service profitability.

HVAC businesses vary in size and in the way they service customers and, accordingly, there is not a one-size-fits-all telematics solution for each company’s needs. However, there are several assessments an HVAC company should make to ensure that a telematics solution is the perfect fit.

The first step to choose the best telematics solution is to check the basic features included. The basic features necessary in a telematics solution are as follows:

·         Vehicle and driver tracking,

·         Browser-based solution,

·         Automatic reporting,

·         No additional charges – one-time fee for custom reports, and

·         Real-time alerts.

 

If the basics are not included, the solution is likely not a full suite and will cost extra, not only for any customized features, but also for the additional basics required.

Once the basic features are established, a business must decide which additional unique features are needed to succeed, and whether the provider offers them. The most frequent additions for a telematics solution are as follows:

·         Engine diagnostics, odometer capture, and maintenance scheduling for vehicles;

·         Integration with a fuel card program;

·         Integration with other fleet management systems outside the network;

·         Custom reporting with organizational hierarchy to support multiple business divisions; and,

·         Compatibility with navigation devices to include in each vehicle.

 

The appropriate mix of additional features is the key to finding the right solution for a business, and so is the relationship and familiarity of the people who help recommend and implement the features.

In addition to HVAC companies needing to establish a solid business relationship with their telematics solution provider, it is important that the working relationship fits because implementation is an ongoing process that can be leveraged in various ways. Companies will be speaking with their telematics solution provider on a day-to-day basis, and it is essential that they have compatible cultures and matching overall business expectations.

Each company will ultimately decide which characteristics are most important in searching for the right vendor; however, some key provider attributes that HVAC businesses should look for are as follows:

·         Experience: with fleet tracking and the customer’s industry

·         Customizable solutions: they expect a company to grow with them

·         Reliable customer service: ability to reach a “live” person and interact comfortably

·         Implementation and service support: the provider should be able to provide written documentation

·         Innovative: without new products, they do not have the ability to change with your industry’s needs