Cal-Gas Improves Customer Service, Reduces Costs

Cal-Gas Improves Customer Service, Reduces Costs

By William Atkinson

In early 2011, Cal-Gas Inc. was enduring some management and productivity issues with its vehicles. Cal-Gas is a privately owned propane company, based in Calgary, Alberta, with a large transportation fleet that operates in a network of 20 locations across Canada. Its branches are staffed with gas fitters, delivery drivers, and administrative personnel. "We have third-party carriers, and we get billed for wait times at refineries, because it is lost time," explains Glen Harrison, IT director. "There were some real concerns about the length of wait times, because these ended up being very expensive charges--all loss, and no profit."

Cal-Gas elected to implement the GPS Fleet Tracking System from FleetMatics, which is based in Wellesley, Mass., to monitor these wait time charges. The system provides a fleet tracking dashboard, fleet reports, GPS fleet tracking alerts, route replay, geofencing and landmarks, fuel card integration, fleet maintenance reports, as well as traffic and roadwork alerts.

Cal-Gas began with a gradual rollout. "We started with our Calgary branch," states Harrison. "After a couple of weeks, we were comfortable with the technology and realized that we wanted to continue to work with it. We then rolled it out to the other Alberta branches, where the majority of our business is, and then branches in the other provinces." Cal-Gas is now one of FleetMatics' largest Canadian customers, with more than 150 vehicles now being tracked.

Cal-Gas scheduled individual training sessions for each branch manager at the FleetMatics training facility, during which they learned how to use the technology, including the features and functions of the company’s website. "We arranged for individual training, because managers have their own fleets, and the system is set up so they can only see their own fleets," he explains. The training also took into account the unique needs of each manager and branch.

Initially, there were some technical challenges, especially with the Rogers cellular network. "We didn't realize at first that the information from vehicles to the database was transferred through the cell network," says Harrison. "We were under the impression it was done through satellite. We serve a lot of regions that are not favorable to cell networks. As a result, we had to get those units to different network-capable systems, going from the Rogers network to the Bell network in most cases." However, Cal-Gas still has some units that can't regularly transfer data because of the lack of cell coverage.

Cal-Gas Improves Customer Service, Reduces Costs

Overall, the reaction from managers and drivers has been positive. Once the managers became familiar with the FleetMatics system, they liked being able to keep an eye on the units via the website. Initially, however, the drivers had some concerns about their key fobs. Each driver is assigned his or her own key fob, and is not to share this fob with anyone else. The driver is required to use the key fob on each journey taken in a company vehicle. A key reader is installed in each vehicle's dash, and when the vehicle is turned on, the driver presents his or her key fob to the key reader. "It took a while before the drivers were convinced that they had to have the fob," says Harrison.

Since rolling out the technology, Cal-Gas has enjoyed significant benefits. One of the most important has been improved customer service. "In the propane business, you have a lot of calls for quick service," explains Harrison. "When people call, they generally don't want it tomorrow or next week. They want it now. Managers can now log in and see where their vehicles are and who can most easily service customers when they call in. Before, a manager may have had to call four or five different trucks to find out where they were."

Cal-Gas has also seen reductions in the cost of fuel. This has resulted from a number of factors, such as more efficient routing, reduced vehicle idling times, reduced overall mileage (as managers can now deploy the nearest vehicle to a service calls) and monitoring vehicle speeds. Overall, the transition to the fleet-tracking system, despite the initial technical glitches and slight learning curve for managers and drivers, has proved to be a boon for Cal-Gas.

This article was originally published on 01-17-2013