How Construction Companies Can Meet Eco Goals and Optimize Workflows

Vehicle tracking via RFID and other technologies can significantly improve a company's fleet in several critical areas.
Published: September 18, 2019

For construction companies, moving materials and workers between locations can be costly in several key areas. Firstly, the amount of time it takes for journeys to be completed is significant. Secondly, the fuel costs associated with these journeys are substantial. And thirdly, the amount of carbon dioxide produced from these journeys contributes to global warming and can harm a company’s eco goal.

One way all of these areas can be improved is by employing business vehicle tracking technology across a commercial fleet. This is done by installing telematics devices inside commercial vehicles and having a central system process all the data produced from these devices. The data can then be analyzed by fleet managers, while improvements to the fleet can be made in the three areas noted above. Vehicle tracking can also be combined with RFID to improve the overall efficiency of a construction company.

Tackling the issue of lengthy journey times may seem particularly challenging because of the factors outside a commercial fleet’s control, most notably traffic caused by other road users. There are, however, ways in which vehicle tracking can improve on journey times. The primary way this is accomplished is through analyzing the historical data produced by telematics devices to identify trends and patterns which can then be avoided.

Traffic congestion in specific areas is a major cause of long journey times. By identifying where congestion builds up on particular days and at specific times, fleet managers can plan more efficient routes for their drivers to purposely avoid these areas. In some cases, these routes may be longer in the distance covered and use smaller roads, but they have less traffic and construction. Fleet vehicles can, therefore, reach their destination quicker and more efficiently. This is not only a benefit to the customer who does not have to wait as long for materials or workers to arrive on site, but also for the construction company that may be able to reach more locations in a day by using more efficient routes. Optimizing the workflow of a commercial fleet can have a significant benefit over time, with productivity increasing, which leads to higher revenue for the company.

The second area that is often extremely pricey for construction companies is the cost of fuel for commercial vehicles. Vehicle-tracking technologies offer multiple ways in which this can be improved. As mentioned above, by taking more efficient routes the time required to reach sites can be reduced; however, the amount of fuel used to reach these sites can also be reduced due to less time spent sitting in traffic with the engine idling.

The other way in which vehicle tracking can improve fuel use is through the installation of in-cab coaching devices that alert the driver to behaviors which contribute to high fuel usage. Alerts are triggered by speeding, engine idling, harsh braking and harsh acceleration. By allowing drivers to self-correct their own behavior, construction companies can significantly reduce fuel usage, and this can decrease the associated costs.

Finally, it is common for most companies that operate commercial vehicles to now have eco goals, or sustainability plans, for their fleet. These are targets set for areas such as fuel usage, which are monitored for individual vehicles and the fleet as a whole. Installing vehicle tracking technology allows for the collection and analysis of highly accurate data on such factors as fuel usage. By measuring the fuel usage of a fleet over a period of time, goals can be set for a fleet to work toward.

There are other factors which can contribute to this as well, such as fleet maintenance. With vehicle tracking, the maintenance needs of the fleet can be closely monitored, and if a vehicle needs to be taken off the road for repair work, it can be scheduled or planned in advance. By doing this, unexpected breakdowns, while impossible to totally avoid, can be reduced and this can improve vehicle productivity as more vehicles are on the road at one time.

Companies have also used sustainability plans as a way of transitioning their fleet from petrol or diesel to electric with the help of vehicle tracking. By identifying specific vehicles which have reached their peak regarding efficiency, companies can plan in a switch to electric to improve their environmental footprint. The sustainability plan will show targets that a vehicle will need to reach in order to stay in the fleet.

Incorporating vehicle tracking with RFID technology could also significantly improve the accuracy of a construction company’s database and tracking system. By not only having data which shows the location of vehicles, through telematics, but utilizing RFID at material-collection sites, a company can closely monitor the locations of building materials. This can further improve the efficiency of a construction company’s commercial fleet, as analyzing the RFID data alongside the data produced by vehicle tracking could highlight areas for improvement.

One example of this could be the impact of collecting a large amount of materials for multiple construction jobs first thing in the morning, in comparison to making multiple trips to the collection point throughout the day. By analyzing the impact of larger amounts of material on the fuel usage of the vehicle, a firm can identify the most efficient way of delivering all the materials to various sites. Fleet managers may find that making multiple trips to a collection point is more fuel- and time-efficient, depending on that day’s routes. The RFID data can show exactly how much and which materials were collected and when; this, combined with telematics data, will give fleet managers a total picture of their commercial fleet’s activity throughout the day.

RFID data can also be useful in locating lost items, such as construction tools. Identifying when and where tools were checked out of a main site, and then looking at the route that the driver took using the data produced from vehicle tracking, companies may be able to locate missing tools. This could save a construction company money that would otherwise be spent replacing the tools—and, depending on the tools, this could be a significant expense.

Overall, vehicle tracking can significantly improve a construction company’s fleet of vehicles in several critical areas. The improvements can lead not only to improved customer service through better operational efficiency, but also a reduction in costs and environmental impact for the company itself.

Thomas Goodall has a keen interest in technology, specifically impacting the automotive industry. As a recent graduate of Newcastle University, Thomas has written pieces for a number of online publications.