Over the course of this season, we are covering some of the challenges the industry is up against and the creative ways people across the country are solving those challenges.
Getting your entire team on board with gps tracking
With Chris Seger
Chris Seger is currently the Director of Programs and Pricing for the Pavement Network Buyers Alliance (PNBA), but he also has extensive knowledge from managing a variety of fleets - including a fleet of construction vehicles and equipment.
Chris joins us today to talk about his experience launching GPS tracking to a construction fleet in 2018 and launching dash cams in 2020. If you have recently launched GPS tracking or are considering it for 2022, this is a great episode to learn from someone who has successfully gotten their team on board.
Tune in, or read the transcript below to find out what to consider when selecting a solution, how talk to your team about GPS tracking, and how successfully launch it (transcript edited for length and clarity).
Can you tell us a little bit about your Experience in the construction industry and how you got where you are today?
Chris: I graduated from UTI, a trade school in 2004. From there I went to a Mercedes Benz program and worked at Mercedes Benz for 8 years.
I decided I wanted to switch to the fleet side of things, and got in with a fleet of three hundred school buses. That was quite the challenge. After that I moved into food delivery fleet stuff, which is a whole other challenge with reefer units and all that. And then my last role before the PNBA was with a construction company and I was the fleet and DOTT manager there.
I got a lot of really good experience over the last five years with that company and I’m excited to share it.
how (and when) DId you realize that you needed GPS tracking at past companies you've been at?
Chris: With my background in maintenance, one of the first things I think about is maintaining a vehicle. A lot of people maintain vehicles on a schedule, whether it's three months or six months, or you know a certain amount of miles. And that's great and that has its own challenges of trying to record miles and things like that. But from a maintenance side, if you have a GPS that tracks your engine data, that's awesome.
Another big one for the industry is the ELD (electronic logging device) mandate that came out. If we have to have the ELD, we might as well hook it up to the engine. We can get multiple benefits from it.
Can you break down how you see the ELD mandate impacting long haul vs. short haul vs. vocational trucking, and some of the nuances there might be when it comes to thinking about the ELD side of things?
Chris: It's really interesting. I feel like most of the ELDs are really OTR focused -- over the road -- and being in construction, there are a lot more constraints and a lot of different things going on.
I understand the biggest chunk of the money is in over the road, but I think there's a lot to be had with the construction industry and how we operate. Not only that, but if you have a GPS and an ELD for that, you can also create GPS units for the yellow iron. That's another big focus that I've pushed with the whole vehicle maintenance side of things.
Honestly, there's a lot of theft out there, so that is really important too.
When you were researching options for GPS, knowing that there WERE constraints on the table, and different use cases -- (managing a fleet of school buses vs. a fleet of dump trucks) -- what were you were looking for in a solution?
Chris: Being a bit younger in the industry, I really like the technology that's coming out. The interface is really important to me and how it integrates into what you do on a daily basis and how it operates is important. We chose Samsara as our GPS provider.
I feel like they are a technology company that's moved into the GPS world, as opposed to kind of like the old-school GPS companies that are trying to catch up. The AI and all the technology behind Samsara is just phenomenal and I feel like it makes your day easier when you can allow that stuff to help manage for you.
When you were thinking about purchasing a GPS solution, who else at your company did you loop into those conversations, and who did you have to get on board?
Chris: My style is I want to get everybody involved. Anybody that's going to touch the product or use it. I want to get their feedback. So we did. We went through three different GPS companies and vetted them out. We actually ended up with two. We did demos of how the drivers interacted with it. How administrators would use it. How everything is used on a daily basis. I think it's really important to vet everything out.
I also talked to other PNBA members. I reached out to them and between the different members, people were using two or three different ones, and I got their feedback. We were really trying to get as much feedback as possible.
Word of mouth, especially in the construction industry, is so important. Buying technology is no different.
When you talked to other PNBA members, did they give you any advice about how to introduce this change into your organization? did your team have any initial concerns?
Chris: Change management is big. Trying to get people on board with looking at the benefits of the systems. Getting drivers on board is huge. I would say for me personally, the GPS implementation wasn't as difficult as implementing the dash cameras.
We did the GPS implementation in 2018. Dash cams were in 2020. That was a big one. Trying to find internal advocates, from within the driver world, it’s hard. Word of mouth, whether it's from the admin side or the driver's side, trying to find somebody that's going to be an advocate for you internally, is really important.
I’ve heard that some of the people who have the most questions in the beginning, who you think are never going to get on board with technology, are actually the ones who become champions because they end up truly understanding it and the benefits.
Those people turn into the internal advocates that can help get others on board. Have you had that experience as well?
Chris: Yes. That's it. I actually looked for that person at every division during drivers meetings when we were implementing GPS because in general, in my experience, that person is pretty vocal.
That person is out there asking questions. If I can change those questions from concerns to advocating for the GPS, they’re going to ask those same questions during those meetings. They're going to help advocate for technology, and I think it's good. If somebody stands up and asks questions, everybody learns from that. I’ve definitely found those people and had that same experience of trying to get them to become advocates.
A common misconception is “you're just implementing this to spy on me and to try to catch me doing something that I shouldn't be doing.”
That’s not the case. GPS tracking has so many more benefits than that. In your opinion, and for your business, what are some of the key benefits of GPS tracking?
Chris: I think that you can find just as much good in the GPS as you can find bad. And for the good stuff, rewarding good behavior is really important. I’ve always been a fan of handing out. five dollar or ten dollar gift cards, things like that to drivers, in an effort to say “hey, you know you know I'm not just looking at the fact that you ran a red light last week, because I also know wore your seatbelt every day this week, and that's something we've been working on.” Here's ten dollars. Go grab lunch. Things like that I think are really important.
Going back to Samsara, I like letting them work for you. I don't have time to sit and look at the GPS all day, but if I can get alert, I can find patterns and again, it isn’t necessarily that somebody did one thing wrong. We’re all human. It happens. But it's behavioral changes that you see over and over and over that we really need to correct. Another thing with the GPS is that I worked a lot with our insurance company.
That was another benefit. Our GPS enables us to get lower rates with our insurance company and I can work with them and send in our GPS info to the insurance company. Also, our DOT scores, that was related to why we added GPS units. Whether it's speeding, or the dash cameras, or seat belts. Somebody gets pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt. And if we can catch that on a regular basis, and maybe that's one more reason that we don't get pulled over, and in turn, that makes our scores get better.
Another benefit is going back to monitoring mileage and maintenance and things like that. There are endless opportunities that can be found with GPS tracking.
Did you end up with any unintended benefits of GPS tracking that you weren’t expecting?
Chris: Going in, I knew a lot of the benefits. I’d done a lot of research. For me though, one of the biggest things, and the one thing that pops into my mind is I had a hard break alert in Birmingham, Alabama. I pulled up the camera like what was? And it was ducks crossing the road and the driver freaked out and hit his brakes. It was a really harsh break. You could tell he was panicked. He was stopped and it was a mama duck with five babies crossing the road.
You know the drivers out there are going to have things happen. So stuff like that is really cool to see.
GPS allows you to go from making an assumption based on seeing a hard break, enabling you to see the truth. But also, if you had just implemented GPS tracking, without the dash cams, you might not have known the full story.
Chris: Sure, I could have called the driver and asked him about it but being able to have that dash camera, it's really been a game changer, and in a sense, it's been pretty humbling to see what the driver's experience is on a daily basis. From the fleet sideI did have my CD. At one point I was out driving, so I have some of that experience. But definitely not the everyday experience. These drivers have significantly more experience than I ever had.
I've had drivers call me and say hey, look at that dash camera. You know, ten minutes ago it was storming and raining and you see a car circling in front of them on the freeway. And it's just stuff that you would never see or never experience and you really get a different perspective from the drivers with those dash cameras. It's definitely been game changing.
You hope that those instances [where something crazy happens] don't come about, but it only takes one. I think about how five or ten years ago, how many accidents were missed or not recorded. Hopefully with the AI it can alert, alert things to the driver. How many accidents is GPS tracking saving? It's really interesting. It's hard to quantify that, but it's cool to think about.
Agreed -- it would be hard to pull that dataset! But the overall impact being positive indicates that there's something good happening here.
There are many GPS solutions that do different things. Maybe they focus on one thing -- checking all the boxes for ELD. There are also ones that are hard wired into a vehicle, magnetically attached to the side of the vehicle, or on a mobile device.
Have you worked with different types? What do you think companies should look out for? Do you see any pros or cons of different options that are out there on the market today?
Chris: There are so many options at so many different price points. I'm more familiar with the plug-in, engine tracking ELD. We do have a member in the PNBA that stays within their city, so they're not ELD mandated. They run a GPS just off a very basic system and it works for them and it's cheap. They don't have very many trucks. So for smaller companies, that’s great.
Once you get outside that 150 mile radius you're required to run ELDs and if you go across state lines. There are so many benefits to the full system. I just see it working its way down to the smaller companies. I see companies eventually getting away from the smaller handheld units.
Trux is a great example. I've actually seen it and it works great for the construction side because we're able to see all those trucks that we put out for the day. We could see where they're at on their way to the job. It's a perfect use case for that.
Overall, there are just so many benefits to having a full GPS system. Not necessarily, you know a thousand dollar, over the road unit, but the Samsara units are pretty affordable at that price point and I think, just like I said, there are just too many benefits to it.
You make an interesting distinction -- tracking internal fleets vs. third-party drivers. What are your conversations with independent owner operators like when you ask about GPS tracking? I can’t imagine you’d try installing something on their truck...
Chris: Absolutely. I wouldn’t ever try that.
Right. So you’ve made the benefits for a business clear: insurance and visibility are huge. What are the benefits for driverS?
Chris: I think just the everyday safety of having GPS in your truck is still kind of a one off. But generally during a driver meeting, I’ll have somebody stand up and say hey, I use GPS or I use this, and somebody hit me and it wasn't my fault. I was in my lane and they were able to pull the GPS up. It’s just immediately apparent what happened. So just being able to not have to deal with stuff like that [lawsuits]. Unfortunately, it’s a pretty regular thing, so I think that that's the biggest benefit to the driver.
On that same note, when we talk about third party haulers, I've seen a lot of adoption at the foreman level. Where they can see where their drivers are at and they can see what's going on. So that's really good for them as well.
Can you explain some of the benefits for a foreman at a construction site?
Chris: There are multiple benefits there. But I think the biggest one is that the foreman's not picking up the phone, calling the driver and saying “Hey, you know where are you?” And then the driver's talking on the phone. Hopefully he has a hands free headset, and not talking on the phone while he's driving. The foreman just already knows where everybody's at. So I guess that is kind of another benefit to the drivers too. They’re getting less phone calls on a daily basis.
Again, there's multiple layers of benefit throughout the company.
Right -- GPS tracking wouldn't be becoming more and more mainstream if there weren't benefits at multiple levels of the organization.
For a business that doesn't have a solution and is thinking about one for 2022, whether it’s to support the work they might get from the Infrastructure Bill, or to combat labor shortages, what should they be thinking about before pulling the trigger?
Chris: I think figuring out what your price point is, what you want to get out of the system is important. Also every company that I have wanted to demo with, they'll send five or ten units out and they'll set you up a dashboard and they'll do all that and it's been a pretty good experience.
I think that that's important. Finding out what level of GPS you're looking for and maybe one level above what you're thinking about so you can see the difference in benefits. If you don't want dash cameras, maybe just try one with a dash camera and see if you like it or not. There are just so many options out there. I think you're just going to have to kind of dig through and start doing a couple of demos to figure out really what you need and what you want.
Talking with your team about what your goals are is really important too. It's easy to get caught up in the process. You don't want to buy something that's completely overkill and then not end up extracting all of the value out of it, or you're overpaying for the value that you need.
After purchasing a solution it’s a matter of change management and setting it up so that everybody's actually utilizing and leveraging the solution you've gone with.
Chris: Yeah, I think that's really important. Something I've learned over my career is that every system needs a manager.
So if you're getting a GPS system, know that somebody is going to be asked to manage it. Make sure you have somebody that can look over it and you're not just getting a system to have a system.
To wrap-up … we have a few rapid-fire questions that we ask all our guests.
What is one of the biggest challenges that you're facing with PNBA? What’s on on your mind?
Chris: Maximizing the vendors we have with the program -- I’m really trying to get a minimum of one vendor in every category, so whether it's office supplies, fuel, propane, or auto parts. That's what I'm working on right now. We have a lot of those categories covered
We’re really talking to all the members. What are their big dollar spend items? And we’re trying to get those vendors in.
Any predictions on where you see the industry going in the next five years?
Chris: Electric machines, remote job sites… it's going to be really interesting to see how technology pushes into construction. And really the adoption of it. How fast will different companies adapt to that technology? I don’t know.
I think it's going to be really interesting to see how that plays out between different verticals in the construction industry, and then also the older generation may be a little more resistant to technology. Some of the younger generation want it, but the problem is, we have a pretty big labor shortage in the younger generation. That'll be interesting.
if someone is thinking about a career in construction or fleet management, what is one piece of advice that you’d give them?
Chris: There's a lot of runway. There are a lot of different directions you can go. Look at me! I think that if you play video games, or you're into drones. Drones are here. Drones are happening in construction already. It's a huge part of it.
I think that there are so many avenues to go down, and if you find one, you're there for a few years, and then you can move, move along to a different area later if that just doesn't fit you very well.
That’s true -- not everybody is taking a linear path in their career within the construction space, and the great news is that the skill sets that you build up for those three years will more than likely translate into whatever you decide to do next.
In terms of where you go for industry insights, is there anywhere in particular that you turn to for your news on construction, trucking, or fleet management?
Chris: Mostly just the standard industry digital publications.Whether it's For Construction Pros or Fleet Maintenance or things like that. And then just peer to peer; talking with the different members, talking with different companies. And trade shows. Trade shows are coming back. That's a good one. I talk with a lot of different vendors and they're talking with different companies. So a lot of different sources. I’m just trying to get all the opinions and figure it out.
Last question: If you could see somebody else interviewed on this podcast, who would you pick? And why?
Chris: The first one that comes to mind is Mike Rowe. He's huge. He’s a hands-on construction industry guy. I've seen him at a few different trade shows and he just seems like a really solid guy and really advocating for trade skills, which is going to be really important going into the future.
You've thrown the gauntlet down. We're going to have to try and figure out how we can achieve that goal!
Chris: Last thing -- I want to say thank you and I really like the construction industry and I’m excited for the future.
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