Business Spotlight- Fire & Safety Commodities Tackles Mobile-Workforce Challenges With Fleet Telematics

Fire & Safety Commodities

Fire & Safety Commodities is a Louisiana based service business that specializes in wet chemical fire systems in restaurants, dry chemical fire systems in paint spray booths, hand portable fire extinguishers, exit lights and emergency lights for all commercial businesses.

We had the opportunity to speak with Trip Sutherlin, General Manager at Fire & Safety Commodities.

Trip, tell us a little bit about your company and your role?

Fire & Safety Commodities is a 35-year-old fire suppression company. We currently have about 48 employees. I am the General Manager of Fire & Safety Commodities and I have been with this company for over 14 years. I oversee the operations of all departments.

What measures have you taken to make Fire & Safety Commodities a progressive company?

The owners of this company have always been very forward thinking and found fresh, innovative ways to make us stand out in an industry that typically consists of a very remedial process of fire extinguishing. You see, what we do is nothing glamorous— we show up, make sure the systems work, they are in the right place, they are the right size, are protected correctly etc. But what we do differently is we tap into the power of technology — for example,  in place of a one-page manual hand scribbled report, we provide detailed electronic reports and forecasts to clients. We have adopted technology more open-mindedly, and this works well for us since all our customers are commercial businesses and they expect no less.

What steps are you taking to engage your mobile workforce?

We have a very unique approach when it comes to our employees— we overpay our employees so they are more interested in what they do, and do it right.

The other perk of working here is that we provide our mobile workforce with a company vehicle. By doing this, the employee can be much more productive by driving from their house straight to the job site.

What are some of the typical challenges you face with managing your mobile workforce?

As our business got bigger, our labor force got bigger, and it became increasingly more difficult to monitor our workforce, especially their driving behavior.

Prior to investing in a telematics technology, we had no visibility into the driving patterns of our vehicles and we didn’t know what speed the vehicles were going at any given second. Understanding the speed of the vehicle becomes even more important in the case of when they may be in an accident. Also, we didn’t know how many of these vehicles were stopping over at a friend’s house, or at a grocery store, on the way to a customer site.

That’s when we decided to partner with Automile. Even our insurance company told us it would be very beneficial to implement telematics technology in our vehicles to prove that our drivers were driving responsibly.

How has Automile helped address these challenges?

When we started testing Automile devices on our vehicles, within the first 48 hours, we found out that one of our vehicles was being grossly abused after work hours. Just curbing that would have paid for Automile for the year.

What Automile has done for us is that we now have the ability to see how many of our technicians drive around the block before pulling into the parking lot. We can also see if any vehicles have been idling. In fact, just this morning, I saw one of our vehicles idling for more than an hour. And when I have noticed similar idling, I have been able to have a meaningful conversation with the drivers and educate them.

Another unexpected advantage we have seen with Automile is that, once you install the devices in the vehicles, it curbs the drivers’ behaviors automatically. They are less inclined to speeding or idling vehicles because they know that the device is tracking everything. Having Automile has allowed us to enforce the point that these are company vehicles, and they are supposed to be used in a given manner, and we need the drivers to adhere to this.

Have you used any other solutions prior to Automile?

We tried couple of other solutions. One of them offered cameras that looked into the inside and outside of the vehicles. We never could figure out why we would need all of that and it made apparatus very expensive to maintain. That was sensory overload.

What advice do you have for other business owners like you?

Having insights into how your fleet is moving and how they’re doing is incredibly useful. Even if you don’t want to watch your fleet activity daily, just having the device in the car is enough to curb unwanted driver behavior like speeding. Because of how inexpensive this technology is, it’s certainly worth giving Automile a try. The fact that Automile doesn’t have a contract is attractive and I like the user interface.


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