Got an inkling your drivers are taking liberties with fuel but not sure how to prove it?
That was the situation Cary Burwood, one of the partners at construction company the Mulberry Group, found herself in at the end of last year.
“I was suspicious because our monthly fuel bill was increasing, but our work activity revenue wasn’t increasing,” explains Cary, who looks after the company’s fleet of eight vehicles.
“We went from £1,000-a- month fuel spend to an average of £1,400.”
Just before Christmas the company decided to fit trackers, supplied by Remote Asset Management, to its six vans.
The drivers assumed they had been fitted as a security measure, in case the vans were stolen, and carried on as normal.
But the trackers revealed that 2,000 private miles had been driven over the Christmas break.
“Clearly our vans were being abused,” Cary says. “The drivers must have been jumping into them to visit friends and family instead of their own vehicles.”
In January, Cary announced a new policy to the drivers.
“We showed them what information we could get from the trackers and we set out a new policy.
"Previously their contracts stated that the vehicles were purely for business use. We amended it to say that any future private mileage would be charged at 50 pence per mile,” Cary says.
How did the drivers react?
“I thought there would be a hoo-ha and they would be complaining about an invasion of their privacy. But they were very good about it.
They took it on the chin.
“We pointed out that we pay for them to get to and from work, whereas other companies might make them leave their vehicle at work and make their own way home.
"But we have to draw the line somewhere on private use or we’ll lose money.”
After the new policy was put in place a few of the engineers continued to use the company vans for private journeys, but this time they had to pay for it.
“It cost them £50 to £100 from their salary,” Cary says. “From then on, no-one did any private miles.”
By mid-February the company fuel bill was back to the £1,000 figure.
The trackers cut fuel costs by £400 a month.
“We’ve knocked private mileage on the head,” she says.
“Our bill continues to be around £1,000. Last month it was £980.”
But how much do the trackers cost?
“It’s £250 a month for all the trackers,” says Cary.
“But if you stop two or three vans doing private mileage then it pays for itself.”
And there are plenty of other benefits.
“We do a lot of reactive repair work and I need a handle on where the guys are.
“If a client rings because they’ve got a leak, I can put the postcode into the system and it will find the nearest van.
"Then I can ring the engineer and see if he’s able to pop in at the end of his current job.
"Requests like that can be handled there and then, rather than waiting until the next day.”
The system has an electronic map of the UK showing exactly where the vehicles are and it’s easy to use, according to Cary.
“I can click on one of the vans shown on the map and ask the system for a detailed report.
"It gives me the driver’s name and vehicle registration, and shows me every time the van was stationary.
"For example, I know that at 5.50pm it was outside their house and the van was not started again until 6am.
“And if a customer rings up asking where an engineer is, I can look on the map and give a precise location, rather than just saying ‘they’re on their way’.”
Productivity has also increased as the tracking reports are used as an electronic timesheet, using site arrival and departure times as payable hours.
Engineers are now on site at 8am rather than still being on the road at 8.30am. And Cary says she knows the engineers aren’t packing up at 4.30pm.
The tracking reports are popular with customers too as they can be used to verify the hours the engineers were on site, and can help solve billing enquiries.
Making sure the engineers drive the most economical route is also important to Cary, given the current price of fuel.
“We don’t have sat-nav in the vans and all the engineers plan their own routes, but the trackers allow me to stop them from making silly journeys,” she says.
“One engineer was driving from Exeter to Brixham and he was worried about getting stuck in traffic so he went along the coast. It took him 20 miles out of the way.
Two other engineers took a direct route and were on site an hour before.”
So, thanks to the trackers, the Mulberry Group’s engineers won’t be taking the scenic route any more.