Wed | Apr 8, 2020

When the cost of idling is too much

Published:Monday | February 17, 2020 | 12:05 AM
Julian Spence explains features of the fuel monitoring system to The Gleaner in a recent interview.
Julian Spence explains features of the fuel monitoring system to The Gleaner in a recent interview.

When the sensor level is fitted into the fuel tank of the trunk, the tank is calibrated with a cloud-operated global system for mobile (GSM) communicator, which constantly reports on everything happening with the fuel tank, in real time.

This means that when the truck is in operation, the person doing the monitoring can plot a graph, showing the fuel level gradually falling as the odometer reading goes up an indication that everything is all right. If the vehicle stops suddenly, it triggers an alert, ‘Abnormal Fuel Out’, with the engine off. It means that the truck engine has been turned off and a volume of fuel – the exact amount, for example, 20 litres – has come out.

If the prompt sent is ‘Abnormal Fuel Out’ and the engine is running, it means that the vehicle is stopped with the ignition running, and the exact amount of diesel drained will be recorded and sent back to the owner.

Another area of fuel wastage, which can now be precisely calculated, is excessive and unnecessary idle time. This happens where the driver has a legitimate hour-and-a-half to two-hour delivery stop, which should necessitate switching off the engine. However, he instead spends all that time in the comfort of the air-conditioned cab relaxing, sleeping or on his phone.

For one of the trucks assessed by Stinga, the fuel burnt during the idle time was calculated at $33,000 – an amount which, if spread over 50 trucks, would likely be in excess of $250,000 per month.

“So it gives the fleet owner the ability to accurately monitor their trucks, and when you factor in the loan repayment on a new vehicle, the rising fuel costs, and then driver salary, it can prove to be exorbitant overhead, which does not relate to legitimate operational expenses,” Julian Spence, managing director of Stinga Limited, said as he made a case for investing in his state-of-the-art electronic monitoring apparatus.

He pointed out, though, that for fuel theft under or about three per cent of operational costs, the expenditure for closing this loophole might not be practical. However, once it hits four or five per cent, fleet managers do have a problem, and at seven and a half per cent, the payback time for the system is less than 12 months. A 10 per cent loss means that the business is beginning to haemorrhage and the owner is in deep financial trouble.

“The first company we did saved 25 per cent in the first month, and the owner laughed and said he just couldn’t believe it. He thought he had tight monitoring, based on the fact that he allots fuel in five-gallon buckets based on the distance of the return trip.

“He had 10 trucks and we installed the system in five, and he caught a driver stealing in the first week ... he is now saving between $400,000 and $500,000 a month and is probably my best salesman. People say, ‘Oh, a you do the thing for Mr X? Bwoy, him nuh stop talk about it and say it work’.”

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com