How new technology can drive efficiency and profits
Online PR News – 25-February-2011 – – Who is Interstate Towing?
Jeremy Procon started Interstate Towing in 1998 with borrowed money for two used tow trucks and broken down service truck. He was young, hungry and energetic and knocked on every businessman’s door that had vehicles in a fleet, visited every car lot that sold cars and every shop that repaired vehicles. His office was a desk in the cellar of his duplex apartment, with his wife Kristen answering the phone and dispatching the calls.
Twelve years later, Interstate Towing is a 20+ truck towing & recovery business. They are the largest service provider in Western MA with location in Chicopee, West Springfield and Agawam. They provide towing & recovery to police departments all over Western Mass, including the Massachusetts State Police and the MSP Accident Reconstruction Unit. In 2010, Interstate Towing responded to over 35, 000 calls for service. Interstate Towing also operates vehicle storage facilities on Ramah Circle in Agawam and on Windsor St. in West Springfield. Owner Jeremy Procon has built his business with energy and ethics – now, how do we manage it all?
I have a business quandary…
Interstate first computerized 8 years ago but this only equated to a partial automation. The system allowed tracking of private and police tows, but there was still a major challenge in managing their AAA tow calls - a significant volume of their business. They ran two separate systems and relied on manual processes to complete day to day operations.
Jeremy clearly understood what technology could do for the efficiency of his staff and his fleet, so he once again looked for new solutions that could tie all business processes together. On February 1st, 2011, Jeremy went live with OnScene Solutions InTow Suite of towing software products. His main goal was to improve service levels to customers. The best way to accomplish this was to implement a system that:
1) Centralizes all his data - including his AAA calls - for quick and accurate retrieval.
2) Gives a method for 2 way communications with drivers in the field.
3) Supplies a visual of both pending calls and truck locations, allowing dispatchers to assign the ‘best’ available truck (by equipment type), for every call on his dispatch board.
4) Assists dispatchers in the navigation of drivers to service call locations.
Implementing a brand new software system always has its challenges, but after 2 weeks, Interstate is very close to a complete transition and of course everyone is still learning. The towing software they had been running did function as expected, but was simply limited in it capabilities. They needed to integrate processes in his business if they wanted to improve service levels. No longer could Interstate depend on obsolete software programs to manage a growing and evolving business. The difficult task of transitioning to new towing software , although in its infancy, is generating great results.
The Implemented Solution
The first business issue to address was the AAA call process which now warranted an integrated solution with AAA Pioneer Valley (AAAPV). With daily volumes from 50 to 200 service calls, a digital solution was vital. No longer could Interstate run separate systems to manage different types of customers. A communication and database solution with a central repository had to be implemented.
Interstate installed the InTow Connect AAA interface that works with the AXIS from Campana Software. This system allows calls to be digitally dispatched from AAAPV and added directly to the InTow Manager Dispatch board. As the call status changes in InTow Manager, the AXIS software is automatically updated (i.e. enroute, onscene, intow) along with the call clearing codes upon completion.
At month end, AAAPV supplies a statement of services rendered. Interstate can easily check for discrepancies and address problem calls. This process in the past was difficult as AAA calls were never recorded anywhere but in the AAAPV software.
Secondly, a communication system between office and drivers allows for easy job distribution. Drivers can update the office with call status changes, call notes, vehicle information, and invoice details. This gives instant information back to office staff.
The InTow GPS module with Navman Wireless integration allows calls to be digitally sent to in-truck messaging terminals. Drivers can select from a list of menu items (En Route, OnScene, InTow, Cleared, VIN, etc.) which in turn, updates the InTow Manager back-office software. It also updates the AAA system, allowing call takers and dispatchers to focus on customer related issues, not managing driver updates and information retrieval. The system also drastically reduces voice traffic in the office, lowering stress levels. For anyone who has worked in a towing dispatch office, if you reduce voice-noise, you instantly improve the overall work environment.
These two implemented technologies allowed you to receive a call, dispatch a call, update a call in InTow Manager and AAA, and you still have yet to pick up a phone or radio – a dramatic efficiency gain.
Who’s the best man for the job?
As part of the InTow GPS and Navman interface, another layer of integration is InTow Mapping. This InTow module allows dispatchers to find the best truck for every call and this is how it works: a call on your dispatch board is a flatbed call and the address is 100 Main St. We know the latitude and longitude coordinates of each truck in your fleet, and the equipment type (i.e.- rollback, wheel lift, etc.). By right clicking on a call waiting on your dispatch board, we can display the call location, and the trucks available, on a single map. You can see what truck is best for that particular call and this to will have a major impact on fuel costs, maintenance costs, and improved customer service.
How do I get there?
While this feature is the weakest part of the solution, it still helps immensely if used correctly. Dispatchers can find the call location using the InTow Mapping interface and send that lat/long to the in-truck terminal which is also a navigation unit. This evolving solution gets better with each update, but is still not as accurate as the likes of a Garmin device. But this unit is being implemented to support the next big software release from Navman, which is the custom forms-based ability. Now complete business forms can be developed and pushed out to the in-truck devices. InTow Manager will be able to populate certain details from the office; drivers will complete the forms from the truck, which in turn updates InTow Manager back at the office.
The 3rd quarter of 2011 will introduce this feature and the playing field just got a lot more efficient once implemented. We are getting closer to a paperless office with each new feature.
There are many other features that InTow Manager allows outside of the ones listed above, but one of main inner office solutions is the ability to add electronic signatures for cars released from the impound along with a scanned image of the owners drivers license and your company logo all on the release invoice. This conveys a very professional image for Interstate Towing and protects both vehicle owner and towing company. It ensures the owner agrees to the terms of the invoice, and secondly, their identity is confirmed. Images of the vehicle, the ownership or any other pertinent information can also be scanned and added to the call record, but not necessarily added to any reports unless required.
Check with the local laws pertaining to scanned images on your invoices.
For more information, please call 888.356.5452 x212 or my email at firstname.lastname@example.org