GPS lessons from Australia


Jim French
Jim French

Jim French, a heavy construction specialist at Navman Wireless, believes that in the future big construction companies will require GPS tracking of all contractors and subcontractors on a site.

JIM FRENCH THINKS that the heavy construction industry in this country will go the same way as the mining and oil and gas industries in Australia, which require GPS tracking of all vehicles based on that country’s Land Transportation Safety Recommended Practice.

These guidelines provide advice on ways to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the number of serious road traffic incidents and fatalities through the implementation of land transport safety elements within a management system and require IVMS (in vehicle monitoring systems) to be used at all times.

The move that Jim is predicting toward universal GPS tracking in the heavy construction industry in New Zealand, will be driven (initially at least), by safety and compliance considerations.

Safety as a key driver

In 2012 the Australian health and safety legislation was strengthened, and as a result there is a significant duty of care placed on employers, with huge penalties when things go wrong. New Zealand is also moving in this direction with the Health and Safety Reform Bill currently before Parliament, and expected to be passed into law in the second half of 2015.

In both Australia and New Zealand a significant percentage of workplace deaths involve vehicles or machines.

In business, plant and vehicles represent the third highest cost behind salaries and rent/power. Given that combination, it makes sense to focus on minimising risk and ensuring worker safety.

Employers should be thinking about: Where are my employees? How are they driving? Are the vehicles well maintained? Are they taking enough breaks?

Jim also believes that there will be a move towards compulsory GPS tracking of all people on a site, not just all machines. On a big site, such as the construction of a new section of motorway, there are many occasions where a worker may be working alone and out of sight of others, so technology that can alert site managers in the event of a ‘man down’ incident is very important.

Better business practices

The heavy construction industry faces multiple business challenges, such as achieving accurate estimating and bidding, reducing profit erosion, keeping machines running, increasing labour productivity and efficiency, increasing asset utilisation, and ensuring the right equipment is in the right place at the right time. Jim believes that moving to GPS tracking of every machine on site can go a long way toward alleviating these challenges.

With a GPS fleet tracking system you can trend productivity across the whole site, and extract data that allows you to reduce downtime, reduce cycle times, and distribute equipment between job sites more efficiently. The remote monitoring aspect of the system means you can monitor your equipment and workforce on multiple job sites then access real time data to make instant decisions based on what is happening on site.

There is another compelling benefit of universal tracking on a construction site. The data extracted provides proof of hours worked and machines used, and this provides a safeguard for both the employer and the subcontractors. When a subcontractor submits an invoice, they have proof of the hours worked and machines used. It also gives the main contractor peace of mind: that the machine was on the job and worked these hours.

Universal tracking of vehicles, machines and people on heavy constructions sites is the way of the future, Jim iterates.

“Safety of workers will be the main driving force to this change, particularly with the upcoming change to health and safety legislation in New Zealand.

“Improving business practice and efficiency will also be a key consideration in our very competitive heavy construction market.”

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