Andy Felix, President

Tree-care company cuts fuel costs by $2,000 a month with GPS fleet tracking

Not many businesses would allow their receptionist to watch a television during work hours. But at Tree Tech Inc. in Foxboro, Massachusetts, a 42-inch flat-screen monitor in the office is helping the company save fuel and improve routing efficiency.

“Our secretary can sit in front of her desk and see where every vehicle is, so if any call comes in for a proposal, she can see which salesman is close by,” says Tree Tech President, Andy Felix. “When storms hit, she can also see where tree damage is widespread so we can see where the crews are and who can respond the quickest. That’s invaluable.”

Feeding the information displayed on the screen is a GPS fleet tracking solution from Verizon Connect. In addition to truck location, the solution allows Felix to monitor vehicle speed, idling time and provide routing information. Access to the data has helped Tree Tech to more efficiently manage fuel usage, saving the company approximately $2,000 a month in gas, Felix says.

Felix looked into the solution in 2008 based on a suggestion from another landscaping company in the Boston area. Initially he hesitated to implement the solution because he was worried his staff would perceive it as intrusive. But keeping tabs on Tree Tech’s 57 trucks that service all of Massachusetts and Rhode Island became too challenging. Felix knew he needed a solution that provided him with more oversight. “I explained that because of the price of fuel and the number of people working here and efficiency issues getting from place to place it made sense to embrace this technology,” he says.

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Keeping Pace With Growth

Felix already had some experience with fleet tracking. The company had been using GPS-enabled phones, but the system wasn’t working the way Felix had hoped. “It didn’t give us the information we needed,” he recalls. “We do a lot of idling because many of our trucks use PTOs for cranes, bucket trucks, log trucks, and we couldn’t get information on the idling time or any of the speed limit information,” he says.

Knowing that Verizon Connect provided him with this level of detail, Felix deployed the solution to 25 of the company’s busiest vehicles in September 2008. Verizon Connect gives Felix a minute-by-minute account of idling time. He uses this information to check for excessive idling. If a truck doesn’t have a reason to idle for extensive periods of time, Felix addresses the situation with the driver.

The solution also helps Tree Tech minimize travel time by providing more efficient routes. That’s especially critical in the congested roads in the Boston area. “The solution shows us where traffic is heavy in the morning, so we can avoid certain routes that look really bogged down on the Verizon Connect screen,” Felix says.

In addition, the aolution empowers Felix to eliminate vehicle misuse. Excessive speeding has declined since Tree Tech deployed Verizon Connect, Felix says. He can also use the location tracking features to see if an employee may have used the truck for personal reasons, such as errands. “I think it’s made them think twice about those decisions, and that alone is big,” Felix says. In one instance, Verizon Connect helped Felix identify an employee who wasn’t following company procedures. “I told him you’re being tracked; you might want to be careful of how you’re handling things,” Felix recalls. “Verizon Connect helped me document that behavior.”

More Reliable, More Competitive

Verizon Connect helps Felix keep tabs on client issues as well. For instance, if a customer questions whether a Tree Tech employee actually sprayed trees for insect control, Felix can document that a crew performed the service. He can also provide more accurate estimated arrival times by identifying where trucks are in relation to the client’s property.
“It’s been really nice to be able to tell a client how far away a crew is from arriving,” Felix says. “When they call, we can look right on the screen and see the distance. That’s impressive. Also, when we do time and material jobs it helps to define the arrival and departure.”

In addition to client issues, Verizon Connect can help resolve complaints from other motorists. For instance, if another driver reports a Tree Tech truck was speeding but doesn’t know the license plate, Felix can usually identify the technician by matching the motorist’s location description to the information in Verizon Connect, he says.

Another benefit is Tree Tech’s ability to more quickly respond to vehicle or equipment breakdowns without wasting too much of the technician’s time. The company employs a full-time mechanic who can pinpoint the repair location without speaking to the crew. “So if the crew is broken down at a job site, they’re still able to work and not worry about communicating with the mechanics,” Felix says.

These fleet tracking capabilities ultimately strengthen Tree Tech’s reputation as a reliable company. The system also provides a potential competitive advantage with a glimpse into local market trends. “We can visually see where we’re heavy market wise,” Felix explains. “It’s interesting to see where we’re concentrated and what other markets we can move into.”

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