Knight watch

Features - Fleet Monitoring

How Knight Waste Services leveraged a new fleet management solution to better monitor its drivers and reduce its liability.

Subscribe
June 4, 2019

Knight Waste Services in Fort Worth, Texas, has been serving the residential waste and recycling collection needs for approximately 100,000 area customers since 2003.

Marcus Knight, president of Knight Waste Services, says that while in-cab technology has always been incorporated in the company’s fleet vehicles, he struggled to find an all-in-one package that delivered all the monitoring and reporting functionality he wanted.

With this challenge in mind, Knight began testing a range of software platforms in his trucks in 2015. After researching numerous fleet management offerings, Knight Services selected the onboard computing package offered by Montreal, Canada-based FleetMind Solutions Inc.

According to Knight, FleetMind brought together the best of in-cab technology and back-end reporting and monitoring tools that made for increased efficiencies and reduced liability.

A new solution

FleetMind integrates its software into an in-cab touchscreen display that provides GPS tracking, turn-by-turn driver directions, integration with up to eight mounted cameras around the truck for 360-degree monitoring, and multiple back-office reporting tools.

After an initial three-month trial period running the equipment on two of the company’s hauling trucks, Knight made the decision to expand the use to the company’s entire fleet.

Knight acknowledges that while there was an initial learning curve for both drivers and operators, staff gradually became familiar with the functionality of the system. FleetMind training is now a regular part of Knight Waste Services’ onboarding process.

“It’s a fairly intuitive system. In fact, when we are onboarding drivers and even in the hiring phase, we sometimes probe people and ask how good they are with technology and how good they are with their smartphone because we have this technology in the trucks that requires some level of technical competency,” Knight says. “Still, you don’t have to work in Silicon Valley to understand it.”

Knight says that once drivers are coached up on using the system and get over the initial learning curve, the FleetMind system becomes a tool that can be leveraged to make collection easier. The easy-to-read display clearly outlines stops the truck has already made and which areas have yet to be serviced, which allows personnel to better track their routes and avoid missing stops.

Beyond making routing easier for drivers, Knight Waste Services fleet managers like the software because it adds another layer of compliance that documents a truck’s service record.

Knight Waste tracks routing behavior for all of its trucks, especially with newer hires, to help coach up drivers on ways to improve their collections. This has manifested itself in greater efficiencies, a reduction in missed collections and fewer customer complaints.

In addition to its routing capabilities, Knight says the reporting tools allow drivers to easily document problems they encounter on the job and take pictures of things like overfilled or missing carts to explain why a specific location wasn’t serviced.

“Probably the coolest thing for the drivers is the ability to take pictures,” Knight says. “In our world, we have to document everything with a picture if we don’t collect for a particular address. So, if a cart was overfilled, we can document that with a picture and attach that picture to a message, and that provides justification for the driver. We can then send that message to the municipality to support why we didn’t collect at a certain location.”

In addition to giving drivers the ability to document issues out in the field, FleetMind has DVR capabilities to retain video surveillance around a truck. This video evidence can be called up remotely and used as evidence of compliance when a driver is accused of wrongdoing.

Knight says the company has used this video surveillance about a dozen times since adopting FleetMind on its trucks. Whether it’s to rebuff claims that one of its trucks hit a parked car or to show a driver wasn’t liable for an accident, Knight says having indisputable proof of driver behavior has been instrumental in easing the burden of compliance for the company.

“I chuckle because I remember one specific instance where a lady called our office irate and emphatic that we hit her car during one of our routes, so we said, ‘OK, ma’am, can you tell us about the time of day you believe this occurred?’ Sure enough, after she told us, we were able to drill down to the specific truck in her area and the time of day, and we reviewed the video,” Knight says. “It clearly showed that the car in question was hit before we even arrived. So, when I contacted the lady back, I explained it to her, told her I’d be happy to send her the video, and she was so rude—she didn’t want to hear any of that. But that’s just one example where that feature can come in handy.”

Beyond allowing the company to quickly address would-be headaches, Knight says the video monitoring capabilities have been instrumental in saving the company money on legal battles, as well as on its insurance deductibles and overall premiums.

And although the ability of back-office managers to check in on drivers and review their performance can have its drawbacks from a privacy standpoint, Knight says he works to communicate the program’s benefit to all involved.

“There are those who will always have some angst about being able to be tracked or us being able to log in and see where our drivers are and what’s happening out on the road,” Knight says. “But, we tell all of our drivers, ‘Hey, this is ultimately for your benefit as an individual driver and it’s for the benefit of the company because we can use this information to substantiate or support the actions the driver or the company as a whole took and what occurred out on the road.’”

For instances where drivers are in the wrong, Knight says the company often uses the data obtained from FleetMind as a teaching tool to educate his team on what they can improve upon when behind the wheel. In rare incidences, the data can also help the company spot problem behavior that can help justify the need to discipline or terminate a driver.

New fleet, same tech

Taking care of the company’s fleet assets is a pivotal part of Knight Waste Services’ commitment to its customers, its employees and the city of Fort Worth.

Knight says that the company’s existing fleet of 26 vehicles is getting replaced in the coming months with 31 new CNG vehicles manufactured with chassis built by Hagerstown, Indiana-based Autocar and bodies built by Scranton, Iowa-based New Way.

Upon taking possession of these new assets, Knight says that one of the first things he’ll do is have the FleetMind system installed and take the opportunity to utilize the FleetMind personnel to reeducate his staff on-site to get the most out of the company’s investment.

“We’re glad we decided to adopt the FleetMind technology,” Knight says. “They’ve been very responsive to any concerns or challenges that we’ve had. We’re in the process of taking delivery of a new fleet of trucks, and FleetMind is an important part of that whole package. They’ll be in here installing the system in the next few weeks in all of the new trucks, and they’ll be back for training [to help especially with the newer] drivers. So, we’re excited not only for what this technology has done for us, but particularly for what it can do for us going forward.”

The author is the editor for Waste Today magazine and can be contacted at aredling@gie.net.