GPS: Beyond maintenance

Photo: flickr.com/photos/billjacobus1
Photo: flickr.com/photos/billjacobus1
GPS vehicle-tracking systems can be a great way to combat and prevent vehicle and equipment theft. Photo: flickr.com/photos/billjacobus1
GPS vehicle-tracking systems can be a great way to combat and prevent vehicle and equipment theft. Photo: flickr.com/photos/billjacobus1

Texas Turf Management invested in a GPS tracking system as a vehicle maintenance solution, but it got much more.

The Problem: Nolan Butterfras, owner of Texas Turf Management in Houston, was tired of having to take his diesel trucks into the local lube shop for oil changes and routine maintenance. Remembering to check the little windshield sticker on the fleet was inefficient and easy to forget. Butterfras knew there had to be a better way.

The Solution: Investing in a GPS vehicle-tracking system for two-thirds of his 21 trucks, Butterfras solved his vehicle maintenance problem but discovered numerous other benefits.

He says the benefits of implementing GPS software from vendor GPS Insight have been a reduction in costs, greater efficiency and even peace of mind. He spent about $100 per truck to install GPS, and he pays a few hundred dollars a month for the service.

The ability to locate the trucks at any time has come in handy with customer complaints, a theft and even a potential lawsuit. For example, an attorney contacted Butterfras, claiming that his client was involved in a hit-and-run with a Texas Turf vehicle. The accusing party even had a license plate number. But when Butterfras logged into the GPS system he was able to prove the vehicle was 31 miles away from the scene of the alleged crime—and had been the entire week. The complaint was immediately dropped.

In another instance, Butterfras was able to use the GPS history to follow the route a thief had taken with one of his trucks to see if and where the vehicle was dumped. In the end, police tracked down the truck, trailer, one mower, four blowers and a trimmer. He lost one mower.

While these situations would have made the GPS system worth the investment, Butterfras says, using the system daily has been the biggest benefit of all.

The ability to see crew locations allows management to call in nearby reinforcements if one crew is struggling to finish a large job on time, and the system provides the quickest route for the crew to take to the job.

Regarding routing, Butterfras says he’s saved big in electronic toll collection costs. After installing the GPS system, he learned his crews were often taking toll rolls, even when there were faster, non-toll routes.

Graphic: LM Staff

“It was almost as though the Beltway was the only way they knew how to get around—even if it meant getting off an exit and backtracking,” Butterfras says. “Re-routing their daily routes lead to time and fuel savings, as well as saving $900 a month for EZ TAG.”

More savings come from the original reason he sought out GPS: To improve truck maintenance methods.

“Before implementing GPS, my brother or I were manually checking each vehicle for the sticker from the lube shop to see when it was due,” Butterfras says. “Or we’d write the approximate miles and dates on a board. It wasn’t very accurate, and many times we’d forget to look and wind up being 2,000 miles over before we got around to the oil change.”

Using the GPS system to automatically track vehicle maintenance needs, Butterfras has done away with manual record keeping and brought some work like oil changes in-house. Even with overhead factored in, he says he saves $225 per vehicle per year.

With greater efficiency and better routes, since adding GPS the company has doubled its landscape maintenance work while increasing profits by 22 percent on the maintenance side alone, Butterfras says. He says that’s pretty much unheard of in his competitive market.

“The bottom line is that it saves time and money,” Butterfras says. “The vehicle maintenance may have been my main objective and is my favorite use, but it’s helped us in so many other areas.”

To learn more about Butterfras’ experience with GPS Insight, watch a recorded version of our January webinar, here.


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Casey Payton

Payton is a freelance writer with eight years of experience writing about the landscape industry.

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