Two decades ago, Jon Kudla navigated limousines as a young chauffeur. Now, he runs a company that tracks them from the sky.
Since adapting its proprietary technology to chauffeured transportation last year, Enterprise GPS Tracking Solutions of Tustin, Calif., has grown into a pivotal technology firms serving the industry.
Since 2003, Enterprise has worked with fleet-oriented businesses, such as plumbing companies, law enforcement agencies, and security companies, among others. But the focus of the company now is livery — from limousines to shuttle buses to sedans.
President and co-owner Kudla worked as a chauffeur for a limousine company in Orange County, Calif. in 1987 and 1988. Kudla also draws upon the diverse experience of writing software, teaching school, and working in law enforcement. His vocations have given him firsthand insight into the needs and demands of operators.
“If there’s anything I get with GPS, it’s how it affects limousine drivers,” Kudla says. “As a former driver, I know what their issues are. I know what the drivers are doing in real life.”
Kudla says chauffeurs and operators face more complex issues than 20 years ago when he drove. Liabilities are more prevalent, and gas costs eat up a larger share of revenues. “You can’t afford to have vehicles doing anything other than what they are tasked to do,” Kudla says. “Margins are much tighter today than 20 years ago.” Chauffeurs could get away with going to a friend’s house or taking a spin in between runs, he adds. “It was not a big deal back then, but you can’t do that now.”
Driving for a 15-vehicle operation taught Kudla many of the basic skills needed for a lifelong career in business. “That’s where I learned about customer service,” he says. “If they are not happy, then you haven’t done your job right. How do I do anything that’s above and beyond what everyone else would do, so customers would have better experience with us than anyone else?”
In offering GPS services, the most important factors in choosing a system are ease of use and advanced features, Kudla says.
Before the era of Web-based navigation, systems were “built by engineers and needed engineers’ brains to work it,” he says. “Clients don’t have time to learn engineering terms, or unlabeled icons. They need to be able to look at the interface and know what each function does without training. Your system must be user friendly. If not, they won’t use it.”
With the advanced features, a GPS system must help clients save money by reducing fleet costs, he says. “There are objective costs that we can define and calculate, and subjective costs that are difficult to define, such as lost labor, wasted time spent managing fleets and finding drivers.”
Enterprise GPS anticipates and identifies technological advances and then integrates them into its systems, Kudla says. “Other providers are out there, but what you get with those competitors is more of a location application, and a few other components,” Kudla says. “But they don’t have the full suite.”
For operators, Kudla stresses that Enterprise GPS can offer the following bottom line advantages:
· Time management: “This removes the stress and time needed to manage the fleet. You can look at reports in e-mail.” Such reports on fleet performance can be scheduled, and be referenced as often as the client prefers. “As a GPS company, you must be able to take a lot of their responsibilities off their plate.”
· Small operator service: Kudla rejects the notion that GPS systems only apply to operators with 10 or more vehicles. His vehicle minimum: One. “A lot of GPS operators will not handle fleets under five or 15 vehicles. From our perspective, an operator with one car today. . . chances are he’ll have two or three cars in six months, 10 cars in a year or two. If you don’t serve them now, you don’t have the right to expect their business two years from now.“
· Driver performance: In addition to location and speed, Enterprise GPS tracks acceleration and deceleration, Kudla says. “We give them the ability to eliminate speeding, idling, and change their drivers’ behavior,” Kudla says. “If the driver is hammering the gas pedal or smashing the brakes, you are going to know. It’s really hard on limousines to do that.”
· Improved safety: “One bad accident can put a small company out of business,” Kudla advises. “Driver behavior changes radically; it’s the difference between drivers who beat up your cars and ones that respect them the way you want them to. We want the driver to take ownership of that vehicle.”
· Geo-fencing: The GPS system offers geo-fencing, where a boundary can be set up for a geographic area, and dispatch is notified if the vehicle enters or leaves that area, such as a holding lot, airport, or service region.
· Close tracking: A key perk of an Enterprise GPS system: Tracking at two-minute instead of five- or 10-minute intervals. “There is never any question about where your vehicle is,” Kudla says. “You can set up landmarks, and it allows you to add as many as you want.”
· Client location: “Sometimes the client is angry at dispatch because the vehicle is in the wrong place, but usually it’s the client,” Kudla says. “The dispatcher can see both locations, and tell if the client gets directions mixed up. You must be able to handle issues quickly, and handle them on time.”