You know the price of every bit of hardware; you know the cost of every version of a software license; you know the terms of every wireless subscription – but do you really know your true cost? Before you make your next safety tech investment make sure you include all the indirect costs. In other words, make sure you understand the total “Cost of Ownership”.
In some cases, the indirect or soft costs can outweigh the direct vendor costs. In this article, we wanted to share some thoughts on how to think about the true cost of safety tech implementation and deployment – specifically for fleets.
Imagine you are considering new temperature sensors for your trailers. You’d probably think about the downtime that it will take to install them – but would you consider the back office cost of dealing with potential data imperfections that are inherent in new sensor installations? Not to mention the hardware and software fixes needed to get up and running correctly?
That new camera system seems really cool, but what about the amount of time it takes safety supervisors to review the video? Will you have to use a third party to review that footage?
Safety Scorecards are definitely awesome, but do you know how much time it’s going to take you to train drivers to understand them? You can bet they are going to have lots of questions and even complaints when you first put them to use.
How Do You Begin to Identify Those Additional Costs?
Advances in technology have helped solve many problems over the last few decades. That makes us believe that almost any challenge can be met with the proper technology or a better solution. As I am sure you have discovered, implementation and maintenance can be a lot more expensive than that list price. Let’s take a look at some of the additional costs and challenges that come with ownership, specifically in the context of a trucking company. Here’s a good standard list to keep in mind:
- Evaluation and purchasing costs
- Installation and deployment
- Training – maintenance and operations, management, drivers
- Integration and system use
- Maintenance and upgrades
Evaluation and Purchasing Costs
Nowadays, most safety tech can be evaluated on a trial basis, often for free. We certainly do this at SpeedGauge. But what are the costs to actually run a trial? Depending on the solution, that “free” trial can become quite expensive – especially if you trial several different solutions before selecting one:
- Do trucks need to come into the yard and get pulled offline in order to install hardware? What is your cost to coordinate this? How many planning meetings will it take?
- Driver training can be necessary for some trials. Imagine you are testing a lane departure warning system. How much training do your test drivers need before they go out on the road? What about the drivers not participating in the evaluation process? They are going to hear about this trial. Do you need to spend resources communicating with them?
- Installation costs need to be included in some eval processes. Imagine you are deploying a collision avoidance system – a high risk deployment! Do your maintenance folks need to study how to install the solution? How much time does that take?
- Reviewing the results of an evaluation takes time and people. Who needs to review the trial? What’s involved with reviewing and deciding to purchase? Does a cross-functional, multi-location team need to get involved or can one person handle the review?
- Is there a negotiation involved in the purchase price? Are the business terms fixed or do execs, legal and purchasing staff need to spend time finalizing the deal points?
Installation and Deployment
Before any processes are started with a new system, it must be properly installed.
- Do you have technicians on hand that have the skills to install your new state of the art camera system?
- Will your vendor provide installation as part of the purchase price or is that extra?
- Will you roll it out fleetwide, or in vehicle groups?
- Is there data integration involved, and can your IT and servers handle it?
Making a plan, and costing out each phase of the plan can be helpful and end up saving time and money. If you roll out in phases, maybe there are efficiencies to be gained from one phase to the next.
No matter how much you have paid for your new collision avoidance system, it’s going to be worthless unless your drivers know how to use it properly. This is true with safety technology across the board. Poor training can result in a bigger problem than the one the system was designed to solve.
You can spend thousands upon thousands of dollars on training. Even if you are able to conduct the training in-house with your own team, training hours take drivers off of the road and other employees off tasks. Downtime is costly for equipment and people, and drivers don’t get paid by the mile for training.
However, there is a way to mitigate costly and time consuming training. Choose programs that are intuitive. This is one of the things we put a prime focus on at SpeedGauge. Unlike opaque grading scales, we set out to create a program that is user-friendly and intuitive enough to cut back on long implementation periods.
Integration and system use
Most companies run their fleets with a suite of safety and tech solutions. This could be a combination of collision avoidance systems, front facing and in-cab cameras, speed monitoring and lane departure warning systems. It’s important that they all work together seamlessly.
When you bring a new system online, it may need to be modified. Make sure you understand these requirements, and create a specific process of installation in order to integrate with the other systems you already use. Can your internal team handle it, or do you need a systems integrator? Will your other systems handle the integration better with an upgrade before you deploy the new tech or process?
Maintenance and Upgrades
When looking at bringing on a new piece of safety tech, ask the vendor how often it has to be upgraded, and how much each upgrade costs. Are some of the upgrades free like an app on your phone, and will those upgrades continue to play well with your other systems. Will your amazing new technology solution become obsolete if you do not continue to pour money into future upgrades?
Another question to ask is how much will long-term maintenance cost. Will you be required to pay a maintenance tech from the vendor to come out on a routine basis to keep the system operational? Will you need to send your team for training – once or periodically?
Remember: When it comes to technology & equipment, there is no such thing as free software, maintenance free hardware, or a perfect system that takes care of itself. When we are dealing with the lives and safety of our drivers, there is also no such thing as “set it and forget it” solutions. Consider the above factors when looking at new programs and save yourself some expensive headaches down the line.