Installers pursue efficiencies as fuel costs sky rocket

Diesel, planned service routes seen as a solution for some
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Saturday, October 1, 2005

UNION, N.J.--Security companies that do installations and service calls are coming up with creative ways to deal with rising fuel costs--including changing to more fuel efficient fleet vehicles and installing GPS systems to map out better service routes.
It's been a hot topic for many months, but interest in conservation intensified with the dramatic fuel price increase that followed Hurricane Katrina, industry officials say.
"How to recover the added cost of fuel was something people were talking about at our meeting at ASIS," said Jim Coleman, president of Security Net, an association of integrators, which held its quarterly meeting at the September ASIS conference in Orlando.
"A couple of Security Net members--MacSystems of Boston and First Line Security of Orange County, Calif.-- have installed GPS equipment to track where vehicles are so they can better assign service calls," he said.
Other companies may add a fuel surcharge, like airlines do, to the cost of service calls, he said.
According to AAA, the nationwide average for a gallon of regular unleaded gas was $3.018 on September 9. One year ago, the average was $1.84; just prior to Katrina, the price was $2.48.
At Security Solutions in Norwalk, Conn., Vice President Bob McVeigh said, "We've told technicians not to idle the vehicles and asked them to try and conserve fuel." The company has a 14-vehicle fleet and allows technicians to take company vehicles home. Should gas prices continue to rise, the company may reconsider this policy, McVeigh said
Citing increased fuel efficiency, Supreme Security Systems of Union, N. J., took a dramatic approach. The company recently selected the diesel-powered 2005 Dodge Sprinter to replace its former fleet van, the Chevrolet Astrovan. The company bought five Sprinters and will gradually replace the rest of its 35 vehicles by 2008.
At $26,000, the Sprinter is more expensive than the $19,000-Astrovan, however, David Bitton, chief operating officer, expects to reap savings from the Sprinters' greater efficiency and durability.
"The (gas-powered) Astrovan gets about 14- to 16- miles per gallon and the (diesel) Sprinter gets about 23 miles per gallon," Bitton said. "We expect to save more than $11,000 over the next five years." In addition, Bitton has a longer lease on his new fleet. Since diesel vehicles typically last about 100,000 miles longer than gas-powered counterparts, the longer lease is a cost-saving measure as well, Bitton explained.
As an added bonus, Bitton said the Sprinter enhance his marketing efforts. "We took advantage of the larger vehicle to use larger graphics; it's like a great rolling billboard for Supreme," Bitton said.