Harness the power of fleet management technology to boost productivity and troubleshoot.

Most earthmoving equipment fleet managers are now familiar with how telematics systems aid maintenance planning and execution. But telematics is more than a tool for maintenance managers. Data and reports delivered by the same telematics systems can drive operational improvements, too.  

Typically, telematics systems track and wirelessly report machine hours, which drive preventive maintenance schedules. Such systems also report machine fault codes that indicate repair needs and event codes that could indicate operator abuse. Machine location reporting feeds maintenance planning on large jobsites and in large fleets and can serve a security function through geofencing.

Many managers of large fleets are taking full advantage of the benefits that telematics offers for maintenance planning and machine tracking. Increasingly, savvy operations managers are seeing the advantages of telematics systems: gathering and assessing metrics such as idle time, fuel burn and machine utilization.

Efficiency at the Construction Jobsite

This data can help organizations improve operational efficiencies at each construction jobsite and throughout the company.

One such example is idle time for trucks. When combined with location information, the idle time data could indicate an over-trucked situation if each truck is waiting an excessive time near the loading point. Conversely, if the loading machine is idling for a significant period between trucks, additional trucks may be needed. If an earthmoving machine is idling or turned off during the majority of the working shift, it probably should be moved to another location on the site or to another site altogether.

Another example is fuel-burn volume for a machine. When compared to similar models of machines working on the same site or historical performance, fuel burn can indicate a problem with the machine or a problem with the operation of the machine. Maintenance, operator training or a different job layout may be in order.

Telematics systems generate production and productivity numbers. Truck idle time and location can be used to extrapolate the number of loads hauled, cycle times and cycle distances.

The power of telematics comes from its ability to generate summary reports, which simplify the process of assessing machine and operator performance on the jobsite. The system generates reports daily, or more frequently if needed, so a problem can be identified quickly and the appropriate remedies put into effect quickly.

Better Data for Front Office Operations

Moving away from the jobsite and toward front office operations, some companies are using machine operating hours, as reported by telematics systems, to verify personnel hours for payroll. Additionally, telematics reports provide accurate data for bidding similar jobs. Good information seems to find good uses. 

Telematics Aids Ohio Mega-Project

Last year, Nick Savko & Sons, Inc., a Columbus, Ohio site-development company, completed the earthmoving contract for the CSX Railroad's $175-million trans-shipping terminal. Telematics helped boost productivity throughout the project.

"We've been using Trimble GPS to guide our dozers on large earthmoving projects for about five years, and we knew we had just scratched the surface of the capabilities this kind of technology could provide for us," says Marty Savko, Jr., who represents the third generation to enter the family business. "The CSX Railroad's trans-shipping terminal in North Baltimore, Ohio, just south of Toledo, was about 100 miles from our corporate offices in Columbus. We wanted a way to track our production, idle times and status from Columbus, so our first step was to start researching remote monitoring options."

Nick Savko & Sons, Inc. acquired 36 global-locator devices and asset-management software for remote monitoring of most of the machines working on the site. The GPS devices monitor information such as idle time, cycle times, productivity and more.

"The local dealer showed us how to install the enabling hardware on a scraper and on an articulated dump truck," says Savko. "We then installed the other 34 units ourselves and we handled all of the maintenance, too."


Savko initiated the CSX Railroad's trans-shipping terminal in April 2009 with the monitoring hardware installed on most of equipment at the jobsite. As the company's personnel began moving dirt for the seven-mile long, 800-acre, trans-shipping terminal, both Marty and his father were able to monitor the status of the job in real-time on their laptop computers at the corporate offices.

"We had a lot of work to do in a short period of time, so our highest priority was staying on top of our production," says Savko. "We looked at the yardage we moved per hour and per day, as well as by category of machine and each individual machine."

Each day, Martin Savko Sr. and Martin Jr. would discuss the reports and status and would share any concerns with the project superintendent, project manager and estimator at the jobsite. The reports were used to help make better decisions on-site, such as whether a particular machine or operator was under-performing, or if the equipment needed to be moved to a different jobsite location.

"Because we were able to maintain such close contact and supervision on our progress, we were able to complete the earthwork phase a month ahead of schedule," he says. "The telematics system helped us move over three million cubic yards of dirt in five months! Equally important, the system helped us identify a major concern before it became a real problem."

According to Savko, the telematics technology not only improves the productivity of current jobs, but also helps the company more accurately bid future projects.


"This technology provides us with our true costs, so we know how to bid and track jobs down to the minute," he says. "We've been able to lower our overall cost, which make us more competitive and gives our clients a more cost-efficient project."


Construction Business Owner, November 2010