Director of Sales Engineering, Networkfleet
Tell us about Networkfleet. What is the focus of your business right now?
We help fleets manage their businesses better. That is in essence what we do. We design and manufacture our own hardware as well as have all of the departments that you might imagine — marketing, sales, return authorizations, customer care. The end goal is to bring solutions to our customers; fleets of all types, commercial, private, public — all over the United States. To bring them a solution that will help them save on fuel, will help them reduce costs, will help them drive fewer miles, will help their vehicles run better and more efficiently and ultimately save them money. We help them to be more efficient to bring consumers like you and me a better product for a lower price.
What sorts of challenges are you hearing from fleets? What are their concerns?
The same challenges that many businesses face. They need to be more efficient. They need to do more with less. We have had tough economic times for the past several years so we have a scenario where they need to pay less on fuel, less on labor, less on maintenance, less on vehicles in general. They need to do a better job running their business; become more efficient at doing their jobs because they have less business and because there is less money to go around in general. So, the main goal really is to increase efficiency. You can increase efficiency in a number of ways. You can reduce the amount of fuel you use, drive fewer miles or just be more efficient with how you work.
What are some of the solutions that you are bringing to fleets?
We have a technology solution. Networkfleet is a technology company at heart. That said, we are a total full service company from consulting to software to hardware. In fact, we manufacture and design our own hardware and software; one of the only companies to do both. The reason we do that is for quality control to make sure that we can bring the top quality hardware and software to our customer. In the end, a customer gets a piece of hardware to put in their vehicles that connects over the air — wirelessly — to the Internet to our software. They use our software and reporting and alerting and other things to manage their fleet. To understand how fast they are going, how much they idle, where they are going, how many jobs are completed, how their vehicles are utilized and any number of other things that will help them determine how their business is being run in regards to their fleet.
Do you have any sense of the cost savings a fleet can anticipate by using a program like yours?
Absolutely. First of all it is an across-the-board savings so everybody sees it whether they are running reports or not. Drivers ultimately know that there is a new piece of hardware in their vehicle and that it is reporting information back to their managers and other people. You get an immediate cost savings just by better driver behavior. In the end, if people manage their system well using Networkfleet and the drivers know it is happening and they are being coached, you are talking a fuel savings of 10%-30%. You are talking labor cost savings or increased efficiency of 15%-50%. You might be able to do one or two more jobs, so 15%-20% increase in revenue if you are a revenue generating fleet. You are talking fewer vehicles, so a fleet utilization savings of 5%-20% is possible. Real savings, real hard core savings across the board with fuel, efficiency, utilization, maintenance, assurance and a number of other places.
Do you have a success story that you want to tell us about?
I would love to, we have many. One I will tell you about is the Eastern Municipal Water District. They are a public agency in southern California and they use a lot of work trucks. They use a lot of big heavy duty equipment as well as vehicles like Ford F-150s. They saved $700,000 a year in efficiency from labor and increased work orders. They were doing X number of work orders before they started using Networkfleet. However, they were doing many, many more after they got Networkfleet. Why? The drivers become more efficient, and with that, they were able to cut their overtime and the savings ended up being $700,000 and that is on top of the fuel savings they had as well. They saved 140,000 gallons of fuel in one year. When they first installed Networkfleet, fuel was about $3.00 a gallon. Now it is about $3.75 in Southern California. So you can imagine 140,000 at $3.75 — that is a lot of money!
What kind of response have you gotten from the drivers?
You know, it is interesting that you ask that because initially most of the time it is negative. GPS is still in its sort of infant stages so you still don’t have a lot of people that know about it. Even drivers that hear about it are all still sort of negative, right? So, you get a lot of the negative but it almost always turns positive. The reason it turns is because good businesses incentivize their drivers. They coach their drivers. They don’t punish their drivers. They say listen, it is our best interest, it is your best interest for you to go slower, to idle less. It is more job security; we are going to be a better company. In the end, employees want to buy into that, including drivers. That is on top of the exoneration. All companies receive complaints…your driver was going too fast in a school zone or if they cause an accident. When they find out that most of the time there is an exoneration there, the driver really wasn’t going too fast or wasn’t even in the area for that matter, drivers really start to buy in at that point.
In the end, people want to be better at what they do. They want their businesses to be better at what they do even if they are a driver. In the end, they come around and it doesn’t take that long either.
What is your assessment of the industry?
All innovations: The spoon, sliced bread, the cell phone, radio and TV all go through a stage — the early adopter stage. The first 20% of customers that buy — it takes a long time, too — ten, twelve, fifteen years where it is all the newbies buying, right? Then they have to tell their friends whether it is good or bad and after that, the industry either fails or dies or people start beginning to buy very quickly. The curve sort of looks like an “S” right, it starts sort of slow and then it gets fast really quickly. That is where we are right now; we are at the bottom of an S. We are at the end of the early adoption stage. The last ten or twelve years there have been enough people that have bought; we are at 20% penetration rate now but the word is out. GPS, telematics is extremely valuable. Their return on investment is there and Networkfleet as well as companies in our space are seeing that rapid increased growth. Having to build and design software, hardware, sales people, and processes to handle that sort of growth, which is what we are seeing now. I think businesses and fleets understand that this industry is growing quickly
And your sense of where the economy is going?
The economy is going up but it hasn’t hurt most of the companies in our space the last few years. Networkfleet has had record years in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and we expect that here again in 2012. It is not just about the economy, it is about the fact that people know they can save money using technology like telematics. Even though the economy is getting better, it doesn’t really matter because we have been economy proof the last several years and I think it will continue that way, which can only help folks like Networkfleet.
Chris Ransom, Director of Sales Engineering
Chris Ransom is the Director of Sales Engineering for Networkfleet, Inc. In this role, he is responsible for working with commercial and public fleets to understand their operations and how they fit with Networkfleet’s capabilities.
In his five years with Networkfleet, Chris has spearheaded the organization’s efforts in the clean technology arena by working with its partners to quantify the clean air benefits of Networkfleet. Through partnerships with national, state, and local clean air agencies like the United States Environmental Protection Agency, California Air Resources Board, South Coast Air Quality Management District, and Nevada DMV, Networkfleet has become a leading telematics tool used by fleets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He has also worked with hundreds of fleets across the United States in order to merge their needs with Networkfleet’s technology roadmap. Chris has spoken at dozen of events and is recognized as an industry leader in fleet telematics.
Before joining Networkfleet, Chris worked for technology consulting companies like SAIC, Accenture, and Gartner Group as an industry expert where he assisted companies of all sizes with strategic initiatives. He was also the Director of Business Development for the telecom software startup, Cygent.