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How to Cut Wasted Truck Rolls that Eat Your Budget Dollars

By Andrew Erickson

September 8, 2022


Truck rolls are the expensive field service trips that gobble up your staff time. Every time you must send a technician on-site, you've just created minutes and hours of wasted driving. The technician you sent probably earns a lot more than a professional driver, but driving requires 100% attention.

Let's review how you can reduce or eliminate this expensive waste with budget-saving remote monitoring & control systems.

Problem: Your service territory is huge, so truck rolls destroy your budget

The reality of every telecom network, power utility, radio system, railway, or similar operation is that it necessarily covers a large area. Because staffing is scaled to the size of the enterprise, your service territory is always going to feel massive in relation to your available staff.

When something goes wrong, you have to dispatch a truck. In all likelihood, the target location is many miles from the nearest responding technician.

That means you're going to be burning budget dollars on all of the component costs of a truck roll:

  1. Staff time (labor cost)
  2. Staff safety (especially in poor weather conditions)
  3. Staff opportunity cost (what complicated work could have been done instead of driving?)
  4. Fuel consumption (gasoline/petrol)
  5. Truck wear and tear

Even though all of this is true, it's not like you can just stop responding to remote site problems...

You can't afford to ignore remote site problems

When something goes wrong at a remote site, you have to respond. This type of customer service isn't apparent to the public - but the consequences of not responding certainly are.

If you fail to respond to problems at your remote facilities and dispatch a technician in a timely fashion, "bad customer experiences" only scratches the surface of what could happen.

Remember that your work is likely critical for public safety. There are stiff penalties associated with failing to keep 911 service online, for example. Even power outages end up being lethal within hours.

So, how can you simultaneously reduce truck rolls in a way that maintains (or maybe even increases) customer satisfaction?

Remote monitoring and control systems are a secret weapon

In the telecom industry, including telecom sites within power utilities and railways, remote monitoring is king. If you have good remote monitoring and control, many service truck rolls never have to take place.

Imagine that your service operations experience some kind of growing threat on an idle weekday. It might be something like an HVAC malfunction leading to a slowly overheating site. Maybe you have 8 hours or so to schedule a site visit. A truck roll might still be required, but at least you can make it as efficient as possible.

Contrast that with the same scenario - except you don't have prior warning. You don't become aware of anything until service is disrupted. It's a cliche, but your customers might even be the ones reporting the problem to you.

Suddenly, we're talking about an all-hands-on-deck emergency that's many times more expensive than it could have been. In fact, almost any monitoring system would have paid for itself by preventing just one emergency.

In my work at DPS, I've learned that mountaintop sides that are accessible only by helicopter are particularly important. These "truck rolls", which instead require a helicopter fee, often cost several thousand dollars.

You only really need the core basics - but with excellent reliability

Fortunately, remote monitoring really isn't that difficult to achieve. You can make big strides in your truck roll optimization without needing fancy VR augmented reality or anything like that. Remote visual assistance probably as a role to play in good situational awareness, but that's a ways off as I write this in 2022.

High-quality monitoring of your remote site starts with a simple device called an RTU. This box will have a variety of sensors and interconnections with your other equipment. It is the starting point for collecting the data that your service technicians need.

As I noted above, some site visits will still be required no matter how much information you have. When work needs to be performed, that does in fact require a human.

The benefit here comes from the fact that you can plan your site visits with as much advance warning as possible. Imagine that you need to replace an air filter in your HVAC system. That might be something that you can allow to wait for a few weeks until your next regularly scheduled site visit. This condenses what would ordinarily be two truck rolls into only one.

Even better, some site visits can be entirely eliminated with good remote control capability. You don't need to roll a truck if you can activate a backup system with a control relay output. You don't need to roll a truck if you can "buzz in" a third-party contractor without leaving your desk.

In this way, a simple remote monitoring device that might cost somewhere in the $800-$4000 range can have a massive impact on the cost of delivering remote support truck rolls within your telecom site network.

Give me a call to discuss how to reduce your truck rolls

It's excellent that you have a distinct business goal in mind. Many times, my new clients will call me looking for a very specific technical solution. In that case, I would spend a bit of time stepping backward and asking, "What are you really trying to accomplish?"

That's because I along, with all of the other engineers at DPS Telecom, are focused primarily on your long-term satisfaction. I'd rather sacrifice a little bit of short-term sales to ensure that we solve your problem today. If we have a successful partnership on this project, you'll tend to come back and want to work with DPS on your next project.

Let's start a conversation. Just give me a call. We'll discuss your project goals, set some subgoals, and decide what types of equipment are necessary to get the job done.

Call me at 1-800-693-0351 or email me at sales@dpstele.com

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson

Andrew Erickson is an Application Engineer at DPS Telecom, a manufacturer of semi-custom remote alarm monitoring systems based in Fresno, California. Andrew brings more than 17 years of experience building site monitoring solutions, developing intuitive user interfaces and documentation, and opt...