Companies Looking to Profit with Niche Fleet Markets

November 25, 2013  - By

Logo: American Towman ExpositionNiche markets for location companies are sometimes hit-and-miss. One real opportunity that is gaining more traction among location companies is towing. There are legions of Duck Dynasty-type of towing trade show attendees, but you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. There is tons of money in the towing industry as banks, insurance companies, motor clubs and other technology entities are flocking to these shows. Many times that scruffy-looking guy in a Duck Dynasty T-shirt is a multi-million-dollar owner of a big towing company. Companies such as Verizon are ramping up their fleet opportunities for more conventional markets, which leads one to say, once again, that the fleet, mobile resource management market is still growing and lucrative.

BALTIMORE — Although it is a strong niche market, the towing industry is gaining traction among the dozen or so location companies that were exhibing at the recent American Towman Exposition here.

Location companies exhibiting asked towing operators to look at the usual benefits of their products: fuel savings, dispatching tow trucks to the nearest incident, reducing idle time, reduced overtime hours, monitoring of speeds and other features. The location companies present were TomTom, Teletrac, Fleetmatics, Progressive Platforms and others.

Several financial institutions were on site who acknowledged the importance of tracking and monitoring technology in towing company fleets and headquarters. One banker said that he will not give a loan to a towing company unless it has, across a fleet, a real-time tracking system. The same goes for many insurance companies.

TomTom Business Solutions is offering its Webfleet product to tow companies. The company recently integrated the unit with Service Station Computer Systems Digital Dispatch software to reduce administrative tasks between an office and tower site. At the conference, towing software and services companies such as FTI Groups are integrating location company products from BudgetGPS, Geotab, TomTom and sureFleet Mobile into their offerings for transportation markets.

One challenge that location companies may have in smaller niche markets is volume. One company says it cannot sell to fleets with five or fewer trucks.

Verizon Partnering with Samsung and XRS on Trucking Product

Verizon recently partnered with Samsung Telecommunications America and XRS Corp. on a mobile software product, called NXT, for the transportation industry. The unit uses Verizon’s 4G LTE network and works on Samsung Mobile’s devices.

NXT allows drivers and fleets to use Samsung Mobile devices with an XRS trucking software subscription. The unit is available on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.0 and has a $54 per month data and subscription plan. Other fees include $39 for a monthly XRS fee and $15 for wireless data.

The NXT rollout doesn’t affect sales or shift away from in-vehicle hardware now offered by Verizon, said Michael Toto, Verizon Enterprise Solutions director of strategic global alliances. “We view this as a complementary addition, not a shift away from our in-vehicle solutions,” he said.

Toto says that the company’s partnerships, with Samsung and XRS, allow Verizon to provide a broader portfolio that allows its customers more business options. With best-in-class partnerships, such as Samsung and XRS, it can provide a broader solution portfolio allowing its customers to select a solution that closely matches business needs.

Toto believes the NXT deal is a big deal and differentiates Verizon from other wireless carriers’ fleet offerings. “NXT is a game changer in the fleet industry because it is a comprehensive solution to help transportation companies be MAP 21 compliant,” he said. “The elements are available separately, but have never been offered before as a complete end-to-end solution.”

Toto says Verizon provides high-speed wireless connectivity right now for operators. “Tomorrow we will further integrate the solution with Verizon technologies,” he said.

Echoing what Toto said, NXT also offers integration with many enterprise transportation products. Over time, the platform collaboration will expand to introduce additional components, including MDM and wearable products, the companies said in a prepared statement.

The product, which was developed through the Samsung Solutions Exchange program, works in both over-the-road and private carrier configurations — and according to the companies — is tailored to fleets of all sizes. The companies say that since the unit works on certified smartphones, tablets and handhelds, it allows companies to comply with the pending Electronic Logging Device, or ELD, mandate for recording driver’s hours-of-service.

In other location news:

  • The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recently said that more than two-thirds of the calls to 911 emergency centers in Texas from wireless phones do not include the accurate location information necessary to find a caller in crisis. The data, provided to the FCC by state and local 911 agencies, show a dramatic drop in more accurate “Phase II” data in Texas from 67 percent of all wireless calls in January 2011 to just 33 percent in June 2013, despite a dramatic increase in cell phone calls over the same period.
  • C.J. Driscoll & Associates released a new multi-client marketing research study covering U.S. fleet operators with Mobile Resource Management systems and services. The 2013-14 Survey of Fleet Operator Interest in MRM Systems and Services assesses fleet operator interest in GPS fleet management, driver behavior management, and GPS-equipped handset/portable solutions for managing mobile workers. The study was partially funded by 14 companies, including major cellular carriers, GPS fleet management solution providers, suppliers of driver behavior management systems, and other leading telematics suppliers to the fleet market. The following are among the key findings of the study: More than three-fourths of the fleets that are using a GPS fleet management system reported a high level of satisfaction with their system and two-thirds reported that they have recouped their investment in the system. Another study finding indicates participating fleets that have never used a GPS fleet management system expect to deploy a system in the next 12-18 months.
  • MapQuest, which hasn’t gotten the publicity of Google Maps or Apple, recently rolled out a new mapping application, which was a nine-month project. The new mapping app features layers of information “around” a user such as coffee, bars, gas, banks and parking. The new app gets traffic updates on the fly and works more like a standard GPS system, according to published reports. MapQuest is still the number 3 mobile map provider, which is a quiet stat given how long the company has been around in the location industry.
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About the Author: Kevin Dennehy

Kevin Dennehy is GPS World’s editor for location-based services, writing a monthly column for the LBS Insider newsletter. Dennehy has been writing about the location industry for more than 20 years. He covered GPS and location technology for Global Positioning & Navigation News for seven years. His articles on the wireless industry have been published in both consumer and trade magazines and newspapers.