GPS / Telematics

GPS Cuts Washington County Vehicle Misuse & Boosts Productivity

The Tennessee county uses GPS tracking devices to make big improvements, monitor employee behavior and productivity, and reduce unauthorized vehicle use.

September 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

With more than 800 miles of sprawling rural highways to maintain and 24 pickup trucks on the road, Washington County, Tenn., Highway Department driver locations can be difficult to pinpoint at any given time.

With such a vast territory to cover, John Deakins Jr., the County's highway superintendent, found it difficult to manage employees in the field. At times, he needed to locate and deploy the nearest worker to a critical job. At others, Deakins was concerned about speeding or personal use of county vehicles. And sometimes, a worker was off route or simply taking a long lunch. With reports of vehicle misuse and a desire for better access to his drivers, Deakins sought a solution: GPS tracking units.

"We saw a lot of abuse and reports of county vehicle misuse. I went online one day and researched GPS tracking devices," he said. "When you've got that much territory, it helps to have these devices." 

Small Device Yields Great Data

In 2008, the County purchased 24 Web-based GPS tracking units, essentially equipping all fleet pickup trucks with GPS tracking. The small devices were easily installed to record a vehicle's location, idle time, speed, and ignition start and stop.

Deakins then monitors activity, whether live or historical, via the Web, and generates reports based on his chosen metrics. Data is updated every five minutes. These reports help continually track fleet activity without dedicating a full-time resource to the job.

"We generate reports because we don't have someone sitting in front of the computer watching all the time," he said. "If I'm in Nashville, I can get on my laptop and can see where folks are." Collecting this data helped Deakins resolve several fleet issues, such as reducing vehicle misuse, boosting employee productivity, and improving emergency vehicle response time.

Reducing Misuse

Before employing GPS, Deakins heard several accounts of county vehicle misuse, motivating him to research and purchase the telematics units. Once installed, vehicle misuse was visible even though employees were aware of the devices.

Deakins recalled one driver who was allowed to drive his company truck only to and from work each day. He was using the vehicle before and after work for personal trips, totaling roughly 12 miles per day of misuse. "These trucks average about 11-12 miles per gallon. The cost in fuel alone adds up quickly," Deakins said.

In addition to personal use outside work hours, Deakins said there were instances of typical issues many fleets deal with, such as long lunch breaks and unauthorized time off during work hours.

Deakins can now monitor a driver's exact location within roughly 10-15 feet. He also set speed limits for fleet trucks and receives alerts each time a driver exceeds that limit. Doing so not only promotes safer driving, but reduces fuel consumption as well.

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