Sigit Automation: Telematics vs. the Taxman
Today’s advanced tracking technology is helping this fleet owner in ways he never thought possible.
When John O’Rourke, President & CEO of Sigit Automation equipped his fleet of trucks with telematics almost a decade ago, he had no idea how beneficial the technology would prove to be. In retrospect, it was certainly a wise investment.
Initially, it was all about safety and cutting costs. “You’ve got a $50,000 truck driven by a 22-year-old,” O’Rourke explains. “You have to wonder, ‘Where is my asset, and how are they driving it?’”
Like most fleet owners, O’Rourke had to deal with his fair share of headaches. “I saw a lot of accidents, dents, repairs, and fuel bills,” he says, “and at first, you don’t really believe when the [telematics] sales guys tell you they can cut it all down, but it works.”
Simple yet effective technology
The telematics solution O’Rourke is currently running on his vehicles is GEOTrac by TELUS. Although it’s available with a number of bells and whistles, O’Rourke has opted to keep things simple.
“My system is set up to work with text messages,” he says. “Someone signs out a vehicle, we assign that vehicle to that individual and his cell phone, and then he gets a text message if he’s driving too fast, braking too harshly, accelerating aggressively or using the vehicle after hours.”
A copy of the text message is also sent to O’Rourke, which means he knows where his vehicles are, who is driving them, and more importantly how those vehicles are being driven.
“When I worked for a firm back in the 1990s,” he adds, “I asked the foreman what the rules were when using their vehicles. He simply told me, ‘Don’t drive it anywhere you can’t explain.’ With GEOTrac I tell my guys the same thing – take it anywhere you want, but don’t drive any place you can’t explain. Remember everything is mapped, and I’m receiving text messages.”
O’Rourke has found that as soon as he puts the onus on the driver, after-hours usage drops, as does fuel consumption. “They’re not taking the vehicle to the corner store or to run personal errands,” he says. “All those miscellaneous trips have dropped right off.”
In addition, because drivers know their speed is being monitored, they slow down. “This has resulted in lower fuel costs and a reduction in damage to the vehicles,” O’Rourke adds. “In the fall, you’ve got a lot of wildlife on the roads, and we used to probably hit one or two deer a year. Now, with our guys slowing down our deer strikes have dropped as well.”
Surprisingly, telematics technology has also helped O’Rourke deal with his customers, and the taxman. “Clients may call and question the amount of kilometres we’re billing them for, but we can show them exactly how far the vehicles went and what they did.
“We also had a GST audit, and the government wanted to see the record books for the trucks. When the auditors were in our office, I just brought them the GEOTrac data and said, ‘What period to what period? Here’s every trip.’ You don’t think of a GST audit when you’re installing this technology in your vehicles, but it certainly helped us out.”
The only downside, says O’Rourke is that your employees might complain that “big brother” is watching them. “All you have to point out is that it’s not their vehicle. It’s a company vehicle. Your employees represent your company, and you also want to make sure they get home safe at night. It’s a win-win.”