7 Ways to Improve your Road and Highways Business
5 June 2023
When it comes to roads and highways, businesses in this industry and their end customers are looking for a few key things:
✅ Reduce carbon emissions
✅ Improve the ease and speed of getting around
✅ Avoid logistics headaches – like supplies being delayed or struggling to locate a property (particularly new builds)
On top of this, for a road and highway business, there’s also the need to:
✅ Ensure safety
✅ Reduce costs
✅ Deliver outstanding customer service
And they need to achieve all this while experiencing a skills shortage.
So, what are leading businesses doing to cover these conflicting priorities?
Let’s look at each of these challenges in more detail and provide tried and tested tips to help overcome them. You’ll be pleased to know that solutions for one problem fix a few challenges in one go.
#1: Reduce carbon emissions 🍃
Concerns for environmental sustainability mean pressure on businesses to hit carbon emission goals. But this can be tricky when your industry relies on field teams travelling. Here’s how leading road and highway businesses have mitigated this.
Optimise travel routes: Plotting the most efficient route minimises travel distance and reduces the time spent in traffic – saving fuel and reducing emissions. So, how do field businesses do this? By using advanced route planning software. This provides real-time traffic updates and automates scheduling decisions, based on pre-set conditions so that you can send the right engineer to every job.
Monitor driver behaviour: Addressing certain driving habits can directly reduce emissions. For example, idling and sharp acceleration unnecessarily increase fuel consumption. With education and even rewards systems, you can incentivise eco-friendly driving and encourage field workers to turn off engines, and reduce excessive braking and rapid acceleration.
Vehicle maintenance: Not only is this one for safety, but daily vehicle checks can also reduce emissions too. For example, checking tyre pressure – as under-inflated tyres increase rolling resistance which increases fuel consumption.
#2: Improve the ease and speed of transport 🚘
One of the biggest costs to road and highways businesses is labour. And that’s why avoiding traffic, minimising delays, and optimising the dispatch of field workers is a top priority.
Here’s how you can do this:
Navigate congestion and road closures: With live traffic updates and incident notifications embedded into your job scheduling system, you can set schedules to avoid these delays – without having to manually review and update them. It’s a game-changer.
Real-time job scheduling: Manual processes lack real-time data. Whereas with automated systems, you can leverage software solutions like GPS tracking to assign jobs based on field worker location, availability, and skills. This means project teams can respond to urgent requests and save wasting time when there are cancellations.
#3: Avoiding supply issues caused by logistics 📦
For smooth job management, you need smooth logistics. And that’s been hard in the current climate. So, what can you do?
Finding nearest stock: Robust inventory tracking systems mean real-time views of stock availability. Not only does this save you from over-ordering and tying up cash flow, but it also means you can quickly find stock in an emergency or whilst on a job. And this isn’t limited to your warehouse – you could even track stock down to a field worker’s van. Failing that, with some software packages, you can just find the nearest stockist.
Pre-plan jobs per job or cluster of jobs: This helps prevent you from being held hostage to supply issues, which would otherwise mean you can’t complete work, hit SLAs, or invoice for it. Grouping jobs based on geographical location, or preparing individual jobs and the stock requirements in advance helps mitigate this. And it’s always best to have substitutions readily available.
#4: Ensure safety ⛑️
Protecting your workforce is essential. Road and highways businesses are one of the riskier industries but there are measures you can put in place to minimise risk and prioritise safety.
Regular vehicle maintenance: Keeping on top of services, MOTs, and getting drivers to run daily vehicle checks to spot potential safety hazards like tyre pressure, brake functionality, and lighting. This helps to reduce equipment failure, which can cause accidents.
Monitor driver behaviour: We’ve already mentioned this one. Essentially, reducing speeding and harsh braking creates safer and more economical driving and this can be rewarded.
Keep on top of training: Making sure team members have the essential skills and knowledge to work safely is a must-have. That’s why you need to keep on top of certifications like ISO, Hazmat, and Commercial Driver’s Licenses for safety, and compliance, and to follow industry best practices. Systems can automate reminders for training, ensure only certified field workers are sent out and can store training documentation – readily accessible on their mobile device or tablet.
Standardise processes with templates: To ensure you meet safety standards and compliance requirements for every job, leading field service businesses use templated job sheets and workflows. These act as step-by-step instructions and checklists which prevent field workers from closing a job if a key action isn’t ticked off – it’s great for quality control and delivering to customer SLAs too. And you can regularly review and tweak these templates to comply with new standards.
#5: Reduce costs 💸
Reducing costs is a little trickier to handle today, making it even harder to maintain profit margins – never mind finding ways to grow the business. Luckily, there are things you can do to streamline operations and reduce costs:
Optimise job schedules: For instance, by geographically grouping jobs so field workers can attend multiple jobs in one day – while reducing fuel costs, vehicle wear and tear, and labour costs. This can reduce unnecessary additional journeys. With advanced scheduling systems in place, you can also ensure they aren’t exceeding daily driving hours for safety and to avoid penalties.
Move to digital processes: Stepping away from paper-based operations and instead using digital systems and mobile devices saves so much time on the need to return to the office with paperwork/kit… As well as the costs like duplicating admin work, printing, file storage and such too. Plus, it also means you can invoice faster, respond to customers quicker, and improve data accuracy and reporting.
Proactive maintenance: Essentially, you can avoid costly delays such as breakdowns – which make team members unable to attend jobs and vehicle repair costs which are higher than with preventative maintenance like services and daily checks.
#6: Deliver outstanding customer service ❤️
To keep contracts and gain referrals, you need to deliver excellent service. By this, we mean:
Provide customer alerts: Customers expect clear and regular communication. Replicating services from brands like Amazon, customers expect to receive tracking updates and estimated times of arrival (ETAs) so they can manage their day.
Self-service portals: Customer portals for self-service make it easy for customers to rebook, access documents and proof of works, certificates, and more. It’s all accessible at their convenience. Plus, it frees up your team’s time to focus on other areas of customer service support.
Speed of support: Combined, these lead to quicker service and response times, as well as minimal uncertainty and wait times, and an overall smoother experience thanks to less back-and-forth. So, happier customers.
#7: Plug the skills gap 🎓
This is a big one for all field service businesses right now. But by optimising resources, and leveraging approved contractors, you can bridge the skills gap so you can smoothly run operations.
Let’s delve into this more…
Resource optimisation: This allows you to complete more jobs within a day, using the resources you already have. We’ve already mentioned a few tactics for this like smart scheduling to avoid traffic congestion and route optimisation to geographically group daily jobs.
Access approved contractors: Accessing a network of contractors that have undergone rigorous screening processes, and that meet predefined quality standards, allows you to tap into specialist skills and knowledge that you may not have in-house. Plus, if your existing teams work alongside these contractors, there’s a great opportunity for knowledge sharing and upskilling, which could reduce dependence in the long-term.
Case studies: Real road and highway business success stories
Now, this all looks great in theory but it’s much easier to see how it works with practical application. So, let’s look at a couple of case studies from other road and highway businesses.
🔍 Hatton gains complete control of mobile operations
Hatton Traffic Management operates nationwide from 10 locations, providing a complete range of traffic management systems for anything from motorway closures to city-wide event traffic management, rail crossings and portable traffic light control.
One of the biggest challenges they had was that they managed all this via paper-based processes. Moving to digital systems was a game-changer for managing its operations.
“Each depot simply has visibility of their jobs but centrally we see the whole picture.” – Simon Watton, Software Developer, Hatton Traffic Management.
Here’s how it changed operations:
- Hatton currently has 107 field operatives and once jobs are scheduled and allocated, the appropriate operative receives the job on their rugged tablets.
- All vehicles are equipped with dashboard cradles for tablets that provide routing and navigation.
- On-site tablets are unclipped and used for risk assessment ensuring operatives complete a safety and procedural checklist before proceeding.
- The tablets are used for photographing the site on arrival and throughout the job through to the final off-hire equipment collection.
“Previously it took ages to get back all the paperwork but now it’s all digital everything is much faster and our operatives don’t need to come into the depot before starting a job.”
📕 Read the full case study here.
🔍 AA Salt doubles productivity
Gritting company, AA Salt, has doubled the productivity of its operations thanks to a cloud-based mobile workforce management system.
“As demand for our gritting service increased we knew we had to automate more” – Ben Tanner, Sales and Operations Director, AA Salt.
Here’s how it changed operations:
- Automation has improved routing and job scheduling – with jobs scheduled and sent directly to gritting operators’ tablets.
- Operators can see job specifications on their tablet (eliminating the need for paperwork) and notify of any issues with time and location referenced photographs on location.
- GPS tracking means gritting operations can be monitored 24/7 and this, coupled with live status reports from gritting operators, has allowed them to boost customer service.
“Through work optimisation and digital reporting, we reckon we are saving 5 minutes per job and reducing driving time by a total of 4 hours each night. From just 100 jobs a night we can now do up to 450.”
📕 Read the full case study here.
Driving success: How these strategies improve your road and highways business
Using these seven strategies, you can start to navigate the current challenges facing road and highways businesses through a more streamlined job management approach. You can also maintain strong levels of customer service by hitting SLAs and providing real-time updates.
You’ve probably noticed that the strategies overlap which means introducing one solution kills two birds with one stone. Better still, these strategies help to futureproof your business so that you’re better placed to navigate new bumps in the road with a more agile system and processes in place.
Like what you’ve seen? If you’re looking to level up your road and highways operations, a cloud-based and all-in-one job management software could be the answer.
We’re here to help: Talk to our sales team.
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