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Issues Archives: Volume 3 Issue 6

Integrating Dispatch and Fleet Management Software

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Dispatch is essential to your business. It is also frequently cited as one of the biggest headaches in towing. But technology advances have made it possible to integrate dispatch and fleet management – and finally streamline the repetitive business processes and potential for mistakes that can plague even the most organized tow managers.

Obviously, there are many things to consider when undertaking a search for new technology. There are the hard factors – how many trucks, how many calls a day, how many dispatchers, etc. And there are the business factors – are drivers based out of an office, do schedules change throughout the day, how do you determine who to dispatch where?

Another important factor to consider are your current business practices – how do you receive jobs, dispatch them, get the driver to the right location, record the job, and bill for the job?
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TomTom Telematics provides many businesses with the tools to operate more efficiently – including live traffic updates and vehicle tracking. WEBFLEET also provides operators with an accurate arrival time to the customer site, as it takes into account expected traffic on the route to reach the customer for each vehicle in your fleet.

In many cases, getting all of this done requires manual processes that are repeated in different systems, raising the probability of errors. Like virtually everything related to electronics, technology has changed. Processes have become more efficient, more accurate, and have provided a safer driving environment for the operator.

Perhaps the most important thing to focus on is implementing technology that works together. For instance, the last thing a dispatcher wants to do is create an order in dispatch software and replicate the info into an application to get to an operator. This process can be extremely time consuming, and take up valuable time that could be dedicated to dispatching additional jobs.

By using TomTom Telematics’ fleet management solution, WEBFLEET, your dispatching process can transform into a seamless one that resembles the following:

  1. Determine best/closest/appropriate operator to send job to
  2. Operator electronically receives job info and navigates to the site
  3. Operator one-touch updates for the status of jobs
  4. Operator confirms completion and closes out job
  5. Operator available the next job

Let’s Talk About Driver Safety
In addition, driver safety is a bigger concern than ever before. Here are some numbers* to consider:

  • 13 – the number of states that have banned all handheld cell usage while driving
  • 23.2 – the number of times more likely you are to be involved in a safety-critical event if you’re texting while driving
  • 44 – the number of states that have banned text messaging while driving
  • $11,000 – the average fine for an employer of a driver who causes an accident while using a mobile device

If you’re using phones to dispatch and communicate with your drivers, you could be held liable for incidents that occur. TomTom Telematics has proven to provide towers with a safe and legal alternative to dispatching jobs to operate in the field. So, not only is a tower able to dispatch more jobs in the same amount of time with the same resources, but they’re able to do this without the same liability.

For this reason, and many other reasons, the best towers have implemented an integrated dispatch, routing and fleet management solution. TomTom Telematics can integrate with your software and can deliver all of the dispatch and driving information a driver needs to the truck, can be voice-enabled, and allow one-touch and hands-free calling if the driver does need to call the office.

*Source: http://www.ncsl.org/research/transportation/cellular-phone-use-and-texting-while-driving-laws.aspx

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WEBFLEET from TomTom Telematics Helps Zores Towing & Metal Recycling Increase Efficiency and Accurate Record Keeping

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Company Background
44 trucks providing service across the Indianapolis Metro Area and surrounding states

Zores has been providing towing, metals recycling, auto parts and auto body services for more than 87 years. Based in Indianapolis, Indiana, the company has five offices and more than 80 vehicles in their fleet, 44 of which are used for towing and metals recycling, and are equipped with the TomTom Telematics solution. The company provides local and long-distance services, covering both the metro Indianapolis area, as well as out-of-state locations.

The Challenge
New city contract significantly increases call volume

In 2011, Zores’ towing operations won a contract with City of Indianapolis Police Department (IPD), significantly increasing call volume. As part of the agreement, Zores was required to respond to any calls from the IPD within 20 minutes, or incur fines and a contract review. With this requirement in place, along with the increase in call volume, IT manager David Schroeder knew that he would have to improve the company’s GPS and telematics capabilities – and quickly!

“The contract with the police department significantly increased our volume, and came with a requirement that we be on the scene in 20 minutes or we’d be fined,” said Schroeder. “We knew that drivers weren’t always taking the best routes, and wanted to make sure that they would meet this requirement. We also needed a way to certify to the IPD that we were meeting the time requirement, should there be any questions.”

The Solution
Increased efficiency and accurate record-keeping

According to Schroeder, the decision to move to TomTom Telematics has significantly improved efficiencies, and made it easy to communicate with the IPD.

He said, “In the beginning, the police department was telling us three or four times a week that we didn’t make the 20-minute window. With TomTom WEBFLEET we were able to show them that we did – and saved ourselves quite a bit of money by not having to pay fines.”

The system also helps them meet the 20-minute requirement, even when the police don’t necessarily give them an exact location.

“Oftentimes, we can show that the original call didn’t provide the correct location, so that resets the clock for us,” said Schroeder. “We also find TomTom’s maps – which include mile markers – extremely helpful when we get a call for a vehicle that is between two exits on the highway. We can pinpoint where they are on the map and get there more quickly.”

TomTom Telematics’ WEBFLEET has also improved operations significantly, because WEBFLEET is integrated with Zores’ dispatch system job information and directions are sent directly to the driver in the vehicle.

According to Schroeder, “TomTom makes it simple for us to map where our drivers are going. They didn’t always use the best routes, but now, because we are sending directions directly to them, they are getting where they need to be faster and more efficiently. The savings have been significant.”

TomTom WEBFLEET has also helped Zores uncover fraud within their organization – and help drivers when they have been victims of crimes. On more than one occasion, drivers have been held up by thieves and were able to contact dispatch to let them know they were in trouble. Because they could track exactly where the vehicles were, office staff could send police to the location to stop the crime.

The Zores staff was also able to uncover a scheme where one of their drivers was using company vehicles to buy and sell vehicles after-hours. By tracking the vehicle, the Zores staff was able to uncover the crime and provide proof.

Across the company’s tow and recycling operations, TomTom Telematics has made a significant impact.

“Now that we have this system, even things like the hiring process have become easier. We no longer have to worry about whether candidates are familiar with every part of the city, as we know they will get accurate, detailed directions to every job,” said Schroeder. “And the benefits in terms of efficiency and reporting have improved our bottom line. We’re able to provide the service levels necessary for our IPD contract, and manage the increased volume and opportunity that comes along with that. The system provides unbelievable Return on Investment for us. I’d recommend it to anyone.”

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Steck’s 4th Wheel Loader

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Calls for quickly moving vehicles with broken ball joints continue to grow. While many use skates or Go-Jacks, many towers find that their ability to safely load and secure a vehicle these vehicles, especially aluminum beds, on their roll back wreckers that they need a studier device.

Steck’s 4th Wheel Loader is a tough 24” x 14” hardened aluminum fabricated platform with two 4” x 10” Polypropylene roller wheels, six 5/8” holes for mini-J hooks for loading assistance and 1” axles which provides a safe platform to easily hold and secure up to 5 tons while loading a vehicle. The 4th Wheel Loader also includes two shims that allow the driver to raise the vehicle with busted ball joints, lost wheels and severely bent axles and place it at a desired height for secure loading on the roll back. The Loader is 4” high (without shim blocks) with a built in 6” X 1 ¼” handle which will allow you to store the 25 lb. Loader behind your seat or tool box. Quicker loading and unloading while preventing further damage to vehicles by allowing the driver to center, pull and properly secure the vehicle on the roll back bed as well as preventing bed damage to the roll back.

We have also found that the shops where the towers drop the damaged vehicle has a similar problem because Go-Jacks do not work well outdoors, which result in many damaged floor jacks trying to move the vehicle into the shop. The 4th Wheel Loader with its two Polypropylene wheels works well in gravel and dirt to move the vehicle directly into the repair bays and frame racks.

Steck Manufacturing Co.

1115 S Broadway

Dayton, Ohio 45417

937-222-0062

www.steckmfg.com

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History of the Self-Loading Dolly — 42 Years of the Collins Hi-Speed®Dolly Changing the Tow Professional’s industry”

With nearly 14 years into the next millennium, we continue to measure our progress by our past. Over 40 years ago, Collins forever changed dolly towing for the towing and recovery industry worldwide. Since its very inception early 100 years ago, dolly towing, shown below left, required time, space, and maneuvering to get the job done. As vehicles changed, so did the dollies that carried them. The Holmes D9 pan dolly, shown below right, was a staple to the towing industry for decades. Back then, it was an awkward, unpleasant task when vehicles were dollied. It started by the vehicle first having to be raised off the ground with whatever was available to the driver. Then the bulky steel and iron dollies had to be pulled off the truck and assembled underneath the vehicle. The vehicle was then lowered onto the dolly. At the destination point, the vehicle then had to be raised up again, the heavy dollies pulled out from underneath, disassembled and stowed, and the vehicle lowered back to the ground. Seasoned veterans will tell you the process was back-breaking and time-consuming.

All that changed in the summer of 1972. Collins’ articulating, self-loading dolly, which allowed tow operators to retrieve vehicles and be gone in as little as 60 seconds, was unheard of prior to their invention of the Self-Loading Hi-Speed®Dolly. The present-day configuration started out very simple in the mid-70s with only four moving parts per dolly side. Simple but not entirely safe. Tow operators eventually pointed out the danger and liability of the “crack bar” coming back and striking someone in the head — hence the nickname. Collins immediately responded in May 1977 with the invention of the Safety Ratchet System (SRS). This arrested the free motion of the pry bar, preventing people from getting hurt. With thousands of pounds bearing down on the dolly, the Collins Safety Ratchet System continues to protect businesses from damages and liability, and personnel from injury.

At present, the Collins Hi-Speed®Dolly continues as the safest, lightest, most advanced dolly in the world — and the most imitated. Collins has been setting the gold standard of safety, quality, ease, and style of dollies for over four decades.

With other original patented features that Collins invented like 8-inch aluminum wheels, greasable aluminum hubs, replaceable and serviceable parts, the Hi-Speed®Dolly is indeed unique and original. Additional features introduced by Collins to the towing industry like aluminum axles in 1995 and the aluminum square pry bar in 2010, help make the tow operator’s job safer with less worker comp claims. Collins uses more aluminum than any of the imitators’ dollies making them the lightest, and easiest to use. Although these features make the coveted Hi-Speed®Dolly a target for copy-cats in the US, China, and Singapore, their imitations are no match for the Original.

Today, dolly towing is also available to car carriers with Collins’ patent-pending Carrier Dolly System. With all-wheel drive, electric, and hybrid vehicles, or cars with low ground clearance or no hook points, the Carrier Dolly System solves all these problems. After being lifted by the mini-dollies, the tow bar is hooked to the dollies and the tow hook to the tow bar. Nothing touches the vehicle. The vehicle simply rides the dollies up the bed. The system also doubles as a motorcycle dolly. For vehicles without wheels, the patented Tow Cradle works for both carrier and highway dollies

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Electronic Communications to the Trucks – A Blessing and a Curse!

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By Thomas Bray

In this day and age, there are many communications devices that allow you to instantly contact your drivers. However, some of these devices can lead to an unsafe situation if used improperly. In some cases, it can also lead to a ticket.

The issues with electronic communication systems in vehicles have been well studied and the dangers well documented. The problems are “glances” and “attention to task.” When the driver is interacting with the communications device, the driver is not “watching traffic” (called a visual distraction), is not listening to what is going on around him/her (called an auditory distraction), is attempting to manually manipulate the device (called a manual distraction) and is not thinking about driving (referred to as a cognitive distraction).

The more types of distraction a device causes, the greater the risk is when using it while driving. Texting, which involves all four types of distraction, has long been recognized as the most dangerous of the electronic distractions. In one study, texting was found to increase the odds of the driver being involved in a safety-related event or crash by 23 times. There are many activities that carry the same level of risk for the same reason — they involve multiple types of distraction at the same time — such as dialing a cell phone when driving or using a computer terminal while driving.

Due to the dangers involved in electronic distraction, the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA) and many states have placed rules on the books limiting the use of cell phones and prohibiting texting while driving. By the way, “while driving” includes while stopped at a stop light or stop sign, and being stuck in traffic. To be “not driving,” the driver needs to be stopped and safely parked in a legal parking place.

Cell phones
The FMCSA and state cell phone regulations are such that a driver can use a cell phone while driving provided certain conditions are met. First, the phone cannot be held in the driver’s hand. It must be “hands free.” The hands-free requirement applies to everything from dialing to hanging up. Dialing andhanging up must be able to be accomplished with “one touch.”

Second, the driver must be able to answer or initiate calls while seated normally in the driver’s seat. If the driver has to reach in such a way that he/she has to “leave the driving position” to initiate or answer a call, the driver is in violation of the regulations.

The driver does have the option to get off of the roadway (park somewhere where it is legal and safe to park) and use the cell phone, if hands-free is not an option.

The only exception to the rules is if the driver needs to contact emergency services to report an emergency.

Basically, what is prohibited by the FMCSA (and most states and municipalities that have cell phone rules) is the driver holding the phone, dialing the phone, or having to leave the driving position to initiate or answer a call. If the driver has a hands-free headset or a “smart” vehicle that can link to the phone, then the driver can make and answer cell phone calls.

As a company, if you want to have “instant access” to your drivers using cell phones, you will need tomake sure that the drivers understand the rules and are equipped with hands-free technology. Otherwise, the drivers need to be told to let the call go to voicemail, and stop as soon as safely possible to check the voicemail.

Texting
The FMCSA regulations (as well as most state and municipal rules that restrict texting) prohibit “manual entering of alpha-numeric characters into a communication device or reading of alpha-numeric information on a communication device” while driving. This is the technical definition of “texting.” Unlike the cell phone regulation, the regulations do not provide an alternate means of texting that would be legal. The only way texting when driving can be done legally is if it can be done hands-free (such as using a smart vehicle system that has “voice to text”).

If the driver receives a text when driving, the driver needs to know to find a safe place to park to read and reply to the text. As a company, if you use a text-based system to communicate with your drivers, you need to understand that there will be a delay in the driver’s reply. This is due to the driver needing to find a safe place to read and reply. Anytime a driver that is supposed to be driving replies immediately, you should be concerned that the driver is texting while driving. This suspicion should at least warrant a conversation with the driver to verify that he/she understands and is following the rules.

These regulations (like the cell phone regulations) include an exception for contacting emergency services to report an emergency.

Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should!
There are circumstances in which the driver really should not be using a cell phone, even if it is hands-free.The issue is that cell phones, even hands-free cell phones, create cognitive distraction. This cognitive distraction may lead to the driver seeing something in front of him/her, but not reacting to it.The driver will be especially prone to these phenomena when there are multiple driving activities thatwill require his/her attention.

An example would be a driver approaching an accident scene. Approaching an accident scene requires covering the brake, checking traffic in the area, checking mirrors to see what traffic coming to the sceneis doing, following the directions of emergency responders, being prepared to stop on a moment’s notice, and actively deciding when and where to stop. A driver that is on the phone may not realize what is going on around him/her, much less be mentally prepared and able to make sound decisions.

Other situations, such as heavy traffic, bad road conditions, and bad weather conditions, can lead to similar problems. If the driver is in a driving situation that involves taking in a lot of driving data and making sound decisions, the driver should not be using even a hands-free cell phone.

The bottom line is that when the driver is in a difficult driving situation, the distraction of talking on even a hands-free cell phone may be enough to get the driver in trouble. Therefore, work with your drivers on when they should and shouldn’t be using a hands-free cell phone. And remember that there are no circumstances where texting while driving is allowed.

Thomas Bray is Sr. Editor – Transportation Management for J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. Contact him at transporteditors@jjkeller.com. Also be sure to check out J. J. Keller’s website at www.jjkeller.com.

Copyright 2014 J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc.®
PO Box 368, 3003 Breezewood Lane
Neenah, WI 54957-0368

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Surviving the Slow Periods

By Dan Messina DJ Harrington and Dan Messina

I was golfing with a friend of mine, and I asked the big question, “How is your business?” There was a pause and a change of tone in his voice, and he said it was his slow period and business was slow. I hear this a lot when I talk to towers. If things aren’t going well, they decide it’s their
slow period.

As the owner of a tow company, you should know when tows will slow down and adjust your business to make this time more productive. When I owned my company, I knew from Thanksgiving to Christmas would be slow. My customers did not want to tow doing this period. I had a contract near a university. I lost this business during the summer when school was out.

I knew what my bills were every month, and they did not change doing slow periods. I knew at the 1st of every month, the tow calculator went to zero and I needed x number of tows to pay my bills.

Here are a few ideas that can turn your slow times into your most productive times:

  • Review or Create a Business Plan – The most important thing you can do for your business is to have a business plan. If you have one, let’s modify it; if you don’t have one, let’s create one. This is simply just identifying what you want your business to look like. It’s important to write this down on paper. What type of services do you want to offer and what type of services do you offer today? This would be a good time for improving on the services you offer today.
  • Expand Your Business – Talk to your customers and see if there is anything new they are doing that you can help them with. Review your market and create new services that meet today’s needs.
  • Improve Customer Service – Remember, we are a service business. Let’s look for ways that we can improve our service. Look at your staff and see how they communicate with the customer, and find out if there is anything you can do to help them be a better company.
  • Market – This is something towers are not good at. If you read my article in last month’s magazine, you’ll see times are changing and we have to learn how to market better.
  • Cross Train – Use this time to teach your dispatchers what the driver is faced with when they go for a tow, and teach the drivers what the dispatchers are faced with when the drivers don’t have a good tow ticket.
  • Improve Your Skills – The business is changing and you have to do the same. Go buy a
    suit and go out and network and meet your customers. Djanddan.com offers great
    training for the business owner. It’s time to join.
  • Take a Vacation – A simple vacation gives you a chance to clear out the cobwebs and
    start fresh when you get back. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, just get away.
    (Go Fishing)
  • Get Organized – Clean up your shop or storage yard, clean up your staff and clean up the way you do things that create problems. Define a way to run your business and each job relating to the business.
  • Meet Your Customers – Go visit your best customers and sit down and have a coffee with them. Talk about things in the neighborhood or hobbies they are working on. Just go meet them.
  • Meet Past Customers – Visit the business you lost and see if there is anything you can do to get them back. If they left you for a specific reason and you fixed it, let them know. Ask them what it takes to get your business back.
  • Begin a Referral Program – Go out and thank the people that referred your business and try and have additional people start referring business to you. Come up with some type incentive for them.
  • Learn More About Your Competition – Find out if there are any new players you are competing with or look at your current competition and see what they are doing. Identify their best customers and find out why that customer uses them.
  • Learn More About Your Market – The market is changing; find out why. Identify what you will have to do in the future to compete and what changes will be necessary.
  • Thank Good Customers – When was the last time you talked to your best customers? If your competitor is talking to them more than you are, you will eventually lose them. Send them gifts or some way to say thank you for their business.
  • Modify Website – If you don’t have a website, get one. If you have one, make improvements to let your customers know you are changing with the times.
  • Network – Join organizations or associations in your market. Show them you are interested in the same things they are, such as the local chamber of commerce or other local businesses. Sponsor a little league team or some other school event.
  • Social Media – Start using social media, such as Facebook. This is the fastest way to tell people about your business.
  • Get Involved – Get involved in the community. These are the people you service.

You should never have a slow period in your business ever again. There will just be times when you are doing things other than towing a vehicle. Start implementing or doing things mentioned above and you will be surprised how your business will change. You are going to find that you will have to do things you are not used to doing, but you will be required to do these things if you want to stay in business.

If you want to stay in business, use your slow periods as grow periods. These times can be the most productive times for your business.

I know this sounds like a lot, but there are many resources at your fingertips to make it easy. Get all your employees involved to and let them offer suggestions on how to improve the company. They are in the trenches every day, so you will be surprised with the results. Remember, it all
starts with you. If you lead, they will follow.

If you need help, call us or go to www.dananddj.com.

dan messina article photo

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What a Show

DJ Harrington - Fuel for Thought

DJ Harrington – Fuel for Thought

Wow! Amazing! What a wonderful show! It was a “show of shows.” Pictures are included so you can see for yourself what you experienced or missed. Towers came from countries as far away as South Africa and New Zealand and from four other states besides those from Wisconsin to attend the annual convention in Wisconsin Dells for the Wisconsin Towing Convention.
Every tower competes for their share of the business out-on-the road during the year. During convention time, held once a year, it’s a truly different story because they migrate to their Wisconsin event with their families. It’s not just business. This year, the event was held at Chula Vista Resort in Wisconsin Dells. All towers and their families gather together for true brotherhood and camaraderie. They show off their new equipment, new babies, new wives and new husbands and brag about family. One tower, Junior Merten of Merten Service Center does all the towing for the local Nestle Chocolate Plant.

Every year, Junior brings with him 20 to 25 cases of chocolate just to share. One tower, Dave Schultz from Homer’s Towing, located in Milwaukee, brings family a day ahead and starts cooking two gigantic pigs for the Friday Night Pig Roast Picnic. Fellow towers, assisted by older children, help serve the well-attended event. It’s Family Time! And what a time it is!

The hit of the show this year was the 60 ton Rotator, equipped with the JFB Incident Management Body, the Gold Series. Jerr-Dan put on classes with Mathew Sellner, the sharpest 16-year-old son that I have met. Mathew’s mom, Kathy, headed up the children’s program for the convention and provided classes for children of all ages. Sava took part in the demonstration with Jerr-Dan, using their very best rescue-recovery lifting bags.

The light show was held in the parking lot behind this beautiful water park. There were trucks of all kinds, from antiques to trucks in memory of lost loved ones. At midnight, the yearly tradition lead by “mom” Dave Whealon’s mother from Whealon Towing & Service from Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, served every kind of cheese you could think of. And she did so until early morning. The beer was free all weekend.

Saturday morning featured a great breakfast under the tent, and then back to the hotel for what they call “talk-n-towing” and “telling tales.” Bill Tomlinson, who had just retired after almost 60 years of towing, along with Craig Goldbeck of Goldbeck Towing, presented the class in the Sierra Vista room, where they delivered the TRAA Level I & II Driver Testing on Friday. Something that Bill Tomlinson had assisted in writing the TRAA classes many years ago, Bill was one of the trainers for TRAA. It would have been great to have all of this on film because Bill and Craig did a fantastic class. Very informative! It was followed up with Bob Truitt from All Grip. That class was also a good one.

There’s another family tower that deserves mentioning. His name is Jeff Roskopf. Jeff and Geri Roskopf own Roskopf’s Service & Towing located in Menomonee Falls. Their son, Greg, took all the pictures you are seeing in this article. Every year, Greg takes pictures and then during Saturday night’s banquet and award presentation, people can see themselves on the big screen for a warm recap of the weekend’s events. At dinner, Geri
presented narration that was synced to Rock n’ Roll songs. Well done!

Prairieland Towing was very kind to chip in and bring me to the event as your speaker. I sure do hope I’m invited next year because the friendly and loving atmosphere was one I don’t always feel at every event I attend. And I attend lots of them each year. This show had it all: company flags, antique trucks, great families and mounds of great food and a lot of just being kind to each other. It was a reunion that this industry needs. But that’s not all.

What I discovered most of all about this event was lots of “real brotherhood.” Keep it up!

DJ Harrington is an author, journalist, seminar leader, international trainer, and marketing consultant. He works primarily with customer service personnel, and his clients include such world-class companies as General Motors, DuPont, Caterpillar, and Damon Corporation. He can be reached at 800-352-5252 or by e-mail at dj@djsays.com

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