When we think about fleet management, we likely think about utility fleets, service vehicles, and even construction sites; not agriculture. Yet, fleet management solutions are being adopted by agriculture operations at a rapid rate to streamline communication between drivers, dispatchers, and customers, while also monitoring vehicle diagnostics to offer real-time analytics and reducing interruptions in workflow.
As of Dec. 18, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration mandated the use of electronic logging devices (ELD) and automatic driver vehicle inspection reports to improve roadway safety for fleets that are required to keep paper logs. While many agriculture operations are exempt from the ELD mandate, there are some that travel across state lines and often exceed the distance limits required to receive ELD exemptions. For example, Dobler & Sons have been producing conventional and organic produce for over 50 years. The California-based company grows and transports baby spinach and mixed greens 365 days a year between growing sites, taking advantage of extended growing seasons.
“I’m a safety and compliance guy, and using paper logs creates more room for error,” said David Castaneda, head of human resources for Dobler & Sons. “We needed a system that was essentially error proof and allowed me to see that every driver is operating safely under FMCSA regulations.”
In addition to bringing produce from the field to processing, Dobler drivers were spending approximately 40 minutes per day on required reporting using paper logs, and when vehicle repairs were identified from driver inspections, the requests were often not documented properly resulting in repairs not being completed in a timely manner. The company was also having difficulty providing customers with accurate delivery estimates.
With the adoption of Trimble Fleet Management and FieldMaster Logs, Dobler & Sons found a way to lay out the day electronically and help drivers know where to be at what time and how to adapt to changes. And these tools helped make the farming operation compliant under the ELD mandate.
“We have already seen a 50 percent reduction in time spent on manually logging paper since we have transitioned our operations to the Trimble electronic log system,” said Martin Gutierrez, dispatch and IT personnel for Dobler & Sons.
A fleet management solution makes sense for many agriculture operations that are trying to get a firm grip on productivity, not just for those required to implement an ELD solution by law. In the world of specialty crop farming—like many other industries—time is money and produce has limited shelf life, which requires efficient routing and traceability through the harvesting and delivery cycle.
Gutierrez also said that implementing the fleet management system has decreased detainment for the drivers, which means less waiting for the customer to receive their produce. Because of this, drivers also spend less time idling and more time on the road making more deliveries.
Instead of constantly asking operational questions such as, “Where are my drivers? What time will they complete their task? How much fuel have they used? Which equipment is in use? How many vehicles need service?” Fleet management provides complete visibility into the entire operation.
Running a farming operation in 2018 means implementing technology to improve efficiency and reduce operating costs. Farm managers are bombarded every day with products and services designed to improve their business operations. Before jumping into a something that does not align with current business goals and introduces a complete departure from standard business operations, think about how the piece of technology will optimize performance and ultimately, a better bottom line.
Paul Miles, is a Segment Manager with Trimble Field Service Management focused on providing visibility into field and fleet operations. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.