No matter what climate a commercial fleet may operate in, turbulent weather is always a risk. Costly weather delays can significantly disrupt a business’ fleet, from construction and landscaping to waste and recycling industries.
Specifically for the waste industry, the work is rarely ever done. When waste and recycling collection is canceled during storms by local governments, sanitation vehicles will hit the road as soon as possible to keep the streets clean of litter and obstructions. Or when snowstorms slam the country, icy roads and blocked streets can knock a waste collection schedule off track, leaving consumers without service.
When these weather events close roads and halt operations, they cause an avalanche of disruptions to a fleet’s operations. In fact, commercial fleets lose an estimated 32.6 billion vehicle hours from weather-related congestion, generating between $2.2 billion and $3.5 billion in losses each year. That is a staggering number for something many deem a minor delay.
In Bellevue, Washington, trash pickup was suspended from late December through mid-January due to a violent snowstorm, and customers had to drop off trash themselves at designated locations. While these seem like small inconveniences, they also can mean workers going without work and pay and lead to a domino effect of negative impacts on the industry itself.
Another factor, and potentially the most important one, to consider is worker safety. Many drivers have concerns about being on the road in hazardous conditions, as shifting weather occurrences can lead to deserted fleet vehicles, fatal accidents, and risky scenarios. Whether a blizzard or a cloudy morning, fleets must always be cognizant of any sort of restrictive weather. According to the Federal Highway Administration, 21% of yearly crashes result from weather conditions like rain, fog, and wind or slick pavement.
To keep drivers safe during these scenarios, waste and recycling departments can use fleet management solutions to monitor weather patterns in real time and gain context of conditions on the ground. Based on the data these solutions provide, fleet managers can decide several hours in advance when to change a driver’s schedule or choose a different route to maintain productivity when collecting waste and recyclables. Some fleet managers may decide to evacuate their vehicles from a particular area in advance of adverse conditions.
Weather Overlays Help Track Poor Conditions
Service providers can use map features such as predictive weather overlays to notify drivers of bad weather and potential traffic or worksite delays that will require rerouting or rescheduling. Dispatchers may not be familiar with an area where the waste and recycling department serves, so coordinating fleet management software with weather overlays on a map can help keep sanitation workers on-route and free from any weather disruptions. Although these types of predictive weather tools are not as flashy as new telematics technology, they are just as important as they can save companies time and enhance the customer’s experience.
Predictive weather overlays contextualize maps by adding another layer to the determination of a fleet’s route. With the ability to place active forecasts and weather data on top of traffic patterns, fleet managers can better understand the conditions a driver is experiencing on the road. Offering up to 12 hours of forecasting ability, this data is important to keep business operations afloat, especially during the inclement weather of the winter months.
Fleet managers who have drivers in danger of getting stuck due to weather concerns can use the interactive maps to gain insight into where workers are located and how to reconfigure their routes to keep them out of unsafe conditions and able to complete scheduled services. Or, if the driver is already compromised by inclement weather, a fleet manager can see the next job they were scheduled for and either decide how to reorder pickups in the queue based on weather conditions, postpone jobs for another day, or see other drivers who might be available to go in their stead.
Along with staying out of harsh weather, overlay tools improve route efficiency and allow waste and recycling fleets to save money on fuel and reduce wear and tear on vehicles. Research firm Frost & Sullivan reported that weather-driven telematics systems could reduce the idle time for fleets by 30% and lower fuel costs by as low as 25%. These savings are important for not only the longevity of the fleet, but of the business as well.
Communicate With Customers
During weather events, it’s not only essential to maintain operations and keep employees safe but also to keep in touch with customers and communicate delays and updates to ensure realistic expectations of service. When roads become slick with ice or flooded with water, fleet vehicles can become damaged and unable to reach their destination, leaving customers in need of assistance.
Predictive weather tools can boost a waste and recycling fleet’s customer service by keeping customers in the loop regarding potential delays. Weather overlays allow dispatchers to notify customers well in-advance of rescheduled deliveries. In addition, weather overlays can allow fleet managers to personalize waste and recycle pickup routes for specific customers.
Fleet managers must stay prepared and create an action plan in the case of weather events so drivers can navigate routes they’re not familiar with. Businesses can use predictive overlays and other fleet management tools to view historical and real-time documentation on when waste and recycling trucks were on-site at a customer’s location, how long they were there, and when they left. This data will give managers better insight into job details and the delays affecting service to a certain location.
Predictive weather overlays boost the safety and efficiency of fleets by providing context on where drivers are and which vehicles need help in navigating closed roads with trees down, flooding, or snowed-in streets. That extra layer of fleet intelligence provides more context and visibility to waste and recycling teams and helps them manage their operations more efficiently and improve productivity. With these tools, waste and recycling teams will be prepared to avoid costly delays and accidents while prioritizing diver safety, smart dispatching and efficient customer service to the community.
Lacey Preach is Product Owner for GPS Insight. For more information about GPS tracking and predictive weather solutions, call (866) 922-2285 or visit gpsinsight.com.