Lauren Fletcher (left to right) was joined by Dave Prusinski of Ford Pro, Del Underwood of HomeTown Services, Mike Hauge of Ecolab, and Alain Fiset of Fize Electrique. - Photo: NTEA

Lauren Fletcher (left to right) was joined by Dave Prusinski of Ford Pro, Del Underwood of HomeTown Services, Mike Hauge of Ecolab, and Alain Fiset of Fize Electrique.

Photo: NTEA

How do diverse organizations use telematics to drive efficiency, productivity, and cost savings in their sales and service fleets? During the 2024 Work Truck Week in Indianapolis, Lauren Fletcher, executive editor of fleet, trucking & transportation at Bobit, sat down with three fleet managers to find out.

The roundtable convened during the Ford Pro press conference on Tuesday, March 5. Fletcher was joined onstage by Del Underwood, vice president of purchasing and fleet, HomeTown Services, Mike Hauge, global electrification manager at Ecolab, and Alain Fiset, director of smart energy for Fize Electrique.

The discussion also included Dave Prusinski, general manager of integrated services at Ford Pro. Prusinski kicked things off by outlining a critical cost component of any service fleet — uptime — and how telematics can automate the maintenance-alert-to-remediation process.

When a vehicle generates a diagnostic trouble code, the vehicle’s modem sends the code to the Ford Pro telematics system’s fleet management platform. From there, the info is sent to Ford’s service networks, which can ensure that a part is at a dealership and ready to meet the driver upon arrival.  

Fleets no longer have to pull into a dealership and wait to get a vehicle diagnosed, and then for the part to come in. “We're talking hours hopefully, as opposed to days,” Prusinski said.

That being just the tip of the iceberg, he turned over the conversation to Fletcher and the fleet managers.

All three fleets are connected through Ford Pro, though each with different circumstances: Underwood runs an HVAC, plumbing, and electrical repair fleet of 1,500 units covering the South-Central U.S. Hauge manages a fleet of 11,000 light-duty sales and service vehicles in the U.S. Fiset’s fleet consists of 12 units — all electric — in Quebec.

True Cost of Downtime

Underwood said he uses his system to schedule preventive maintenance more precisely, with big cost savings coming from identifying issues with transmissions and engines. “We haven't been able to do that in the past, but now we're able to, so it's helped us to reduce ownership costs of our vehicles,” he said.

For Hauge, uptime is a key focus as well. With the system’s ability to offer visibility into diagnostics and vehicle health, “Making sure everybody's doing what they should be doing, like oil changes, allows us to be more proactive and not have major repairs.”

Underwood put an exclamation point on what one day of downtime for a technician and van could cost:

On the service side, a missed day could result in $12,000 in lost revenue. On the installation, HVAC, and plumbing side, that figure could be as much as $20,000 a day.

A next step for Hauge is to get into predictive analytics, to identify potential failures before they happen.

Regarding other benefits of telematics, both Underwood and Hauge cited being able to identify their vehicles’ idle times, to look for ways to increase utilization.

Underwood also collaborated with Ford Pro to understand the dimensions of each of his van models and their equipment. If a van breaks down, this allows technicians to switch equipment more seamlessly into the right spare van to further reduce downtime.  

On the service side, a missed day could result in $12,000 in lost revenue. On the installation, HVAC, and plumbing side, that figure could be as much as $20,000 a day.

Using Data for Electrification

As Fiset’s fleet of 12 is already all-electric, he uses his system to understand metrics like battery state of charge, battery efficiency, and real-world ranges. “Our goal was to be all EV in 2025, and we made it a year and a half sooner,” he said. “Having all this data helped us to get there faster.”

When it comes to Ecolab’s electrification efforts, Hauge is using the Ford Pro telematics system to determine which vehicles and use cases in the company’s sales and service divisions can make the switch to EVs right now.

He also uses the system to benchmark paper assumptions such as range and charging and compare them to real-life usage. “I think we all feel more comfortable when you test it yourself and see how it works with your team,” Hauge said.

“None of that can be done if we don't have the telematics data on our internal combustion vehicles today,” Hauge said, adding that eventually, the analysis should layer in the availability of public infrastructure.

Fiset connected with Ford Pro to translate EV fleet data into CO2 saved compared to using a comparable van with an internal combustion engine (ICE). Ford integrated this functionality into his software.

“This is good information for our customers,” Fiset said, referencing the movement of customers to understand their supplier’s decarbonization efforts.

For HomeTown Services, electrification isn’t immediately on the horizon. Underwood said he’s concerned about installing chargers at technicians’ homes and depots at the regional offices. For the present crop of commercial EVs, range is still an issue, particularly with technicians making multiple stops on 110-degree days in Texas.

Ecolab’s fleet is 95% take-home. “We have to deal with some of those same challenges regarding where to charge and where installing home chargers is possible or not,” Hauge said.

Hauge said the slow rollout of 100 Ford Mach-E models into the Ecolab sales fleet has provided meaningful data to inform the next step — electrifying all of the company’s light-duty vehicles (1,000 units) in California by 2025.

“We’ve got a lot of work ahead,” he said.

The Road Ahead

Regarding the electrification process, both Hauge and Fiset said that telematics is crucial to the process, but only one part of the equation.

For Hauge, the data goes hand in hand with qualitative driver listening sessions on every aspect of operating EVs, including if the new EV has enough cargo space to do their job compared to their old ICE vehicle.

“It's really important for fleet managers to not get ‘analysis paralysis’,” Hauge said. “Don't wait for 100% of the answers in the data, you will never get all you want, and you will never take a step forward.”

“Build a business case. Gain buy-in from leadership,” Hauge said. “And if it's there, move forward, be bold, and figure it out as you go. The faster you jump in and start doing that, the faster you start working toward your company's sustainability goals.”

Fiset agreed: “Don’t worry about the big picture, start with one (unit),” he said. “It's not perfect, but if you start right now, you’re going to learn how to take your next steps.”

Underwood said he’s considering EVs but will jump in when the time is right. “Our first thing is to make sure we can get our guys in and out, and keep them going,” he said.

In the quote of the roundtable, Fiset framed an EV as “a smartphone with four wheels.”

At his company, driver feedback has been positive. “They love (the EVs),” he said. “My employees started using them at work, but now they’re buying EVs for themselves.”

About the author
Chris Brown

Chris Brown

Associate Publisher

As associate publisher of Automotive Fleet, Auto Rental News, and Fleet Forward, Chris Brown covers all aspects of fleets, transportation, and mobility.

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