Atlantic Tower Services is an Orlando, Fla.-based full-service installation, maintenance and repair provider of communications towers and cables. ATS focuses on maintaining cell towers, but also installs and maintains electrical generators and HVAC systems, and provides disaster recovery and site management. The company employs technicians in 24 states across the South, Midwest and Southwest, as well as Alaska and Puerto Rico. ATS strives to deliver excellent service to its preferred partners in order to cultivate long-term relationships.
The challenge: to deliver quality service quickly and efficiently over challenging geography
Long-term customer relationships don’t just happen; they require delivering quality service quickly and efficiently. As ATS grew rapidly, so did its challenges in achieving that goal. That’s when the company decided that it needed a GPS-based fleet management system.
In 2012, ATS chose Trimble Fleet Management, a cloud-computing platform that provides visibility into day-to-day field service operations so organizations can identify, manage and improve areas such as speeding, driver safety, customer service, back-office administration, fuel use and vehicle efficiency.
Trimble Fleet Management enables field service managers to make intelligent decisions using real-time information to improve productivity, asset use and fuel consumption. Fleet Management also offers current location, diagnostics and exception alerts to help manage overall performance for fleets of any size.Chief among ATS’ goals was identifying which truck is closest to a cell tower when service is needed so a vehicle can be dispatched as quickly as possible.
“With Fleet Management, our dispatchers can see which vehicle is closest to the job and know where to send them,” Ricardo Ramos, ATS operations manager in Puerto Rico, said. “Our technicians work all around Puerto Rico, maintaining 500 towers. It is a small country but we drive a lot. The geography is challenging so it can be difficult to get around. Some areas are very hard to reach.”
An unexpected benefit: stolen vehicle recovery
Shortly after implementing Fleet Management, ATS discovered that its benefits exceed efficient vehicle routing. When a Ford F250 pickup was taken, the Trimble system led ATS and police to the precise location where the thieves were hiding the truck.
“One of our generator technicians called me from home at 7 a.m. and said the unit was not in his driveway,” Ramos said. “I asked if he had called the police and he had. There are only two residences on the street so the thieves must have followed the driver home. I immediately logged onto Trimble Fleet Management and it showed that someone had started the vehicle at 2:32 a.m. and driven about 15 miles. There were two stops, the last at 3:26 a.m.”
ATS first tried to locate the truck using a different satellite service, which showed the vehicle was somewhere in the mountains but didn’t pinpoint the exact spot, so Ramos turned to Trimble GPS, which quickly determined its precise location. With police following, Ramos drove to the site.
“I was in another vehicle that had Trimble GPS and I could see real-time the exact point of the actual unit and it showed us getting closer,” he said. “This place was deep in the forest, very hard to reach, and surrounded by trees. We located the vehicle in an abandoned garage covered with brush.” Because of the woods camouflaging the garage, Ramos said it would have been nearly impossible to locate the truck by sight.
“We never would have found it without Trimble. Even when we were 20 meters from the vehicle, we still wouldn’t have found it. I didn’t know this area and I live minutes away,” he said.
The Trimble system, Ramos said, has unquestionably proven its value.
“We had a $30,000 asset that someone had stolen and we were able to recover it. Now if car thieves see ATS on a truck, they will know not to touch it because it has Trimble GPS,” he said.
Fueling growth with Fleet Management
ATS has realized other benefits from Fleet Management. Because every vehicle is equipped with a GPS device, Ramos can keep track of their locations and work progress throughout the day. To conserve fuel and increase productivity, each morning technicians drive directly to work sites from home, avoiding the extra travel time of going into the office.
Ramos said fuel usage has decreased by about 30 percent, and has proven to be one of the system’s best returns on investment. Every month, he receives Fleet Management-generated reports from ATS headquarters on gas station stops and fuel consumption. He also gets monthly reports with details on idling, speeding and other driver behaviors.
“We take these reports back to the drivers and talk about slowing down or turning off the engine when not in use, and that saves lots of money,” Ramos said. “For example, if a worker is on a tower and it’s hot outside, he will leave the vehicle running with the air conditioner on, which really adds up in fuel costs.” Since implementing Fleet Management, ATS has worked successfully with drivers to improve their habits.
“We are 100 percent happy with Fleet Management,” he said. “There are so many features that help us. Techs make better use of their time, we save money and protect our assets – and we can keep up with our phenomenal growth.”