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How to Catch Theft in Field Service Management

5 ways people secretly steal from your service businessYou’ve worked hard to build a successful service company, and the odds of success weren’t necessarily on your side. As Forbes points out, only about half of small businesses last 5 years. You should be proud.

But you should also be vigilant. You’re no doubt keeping a close eye on expenses, competitors, and new opportunities to expand your business. One area where small companies are notoriously lax, though, is monitoring their operations for… well, let’s just call it leakage.

If they go unchecked, these problems can add up to a lot of money — your money — wasted. So, let’s review some common sources of leakage for fleet-dependent businesses like yours, and discuss tips to catch and stop all of them.

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1. Unauthorized use

When they leave your facilities in your company’s vehicle, your drivers are pretty much on their own. You have to trust that they’re traveling from one job site straight to the next, and not taking any detours that might include using the vehicle for personal errands. Doing so could amount to fuel theft and putting your vehicles at risk of damage or theft without a legitimate business purpose.

You also have to trust they’re not using your truck to do side work without your knowledge.

Of course, if they’re driving around in your plumbing utility van, your field service techs probably aren’t running a side business as Uber drivers picking up business people from the airport.

But what if they take an under-the-table side gig fixing a sink for the neighbor of one of your business’s customers? What if they realize this is an easy way to make money, and start taking on more work like this — on your company’s time, in vehicles your company pays to maintain and insure — every chance they get?

 This can cost your company in many ways, including:

  • Making your drivers late for your company’s scheduled jobs, hurting your business’s reputation.
  • Putting additional wear and tear on your vehicles for work your company isn’t getting paid for.
  • Exposing your company to disputes and legal problems if a service tech makes a mistake at the job site of one of these side gigs.

2. Vehicle or equipment theft

According to research cited in a CommercialFleet article, van theft increased 45% from 2015 to 2019. Unfortunately, your company vehicles are attractive targets for thieves, for a couple of good reasons.

First, the bad guys know that when they see a utility vehicle parked in a residential or business neighborhood — an electrical-company truck, HVAC van, etc. — chances are those workers are busy on the job site and will be leaving their vehicles unattended for long stretches. And people generally don’t give a utility truck a second look, no matter who is standing in front of it or what they’re doing.

Second, thieves know that many of these service vehicles are loaded with expensive tools and equipment. Often the items it contains are worth more than the truck itself! The bad guys know they can offload the equipment for a quick score, in addition to whatever they’ll get for selling or chopping up the vehicle itself.

Our customers have experienced their own near horror stories. One had its landscaping truck stolen from a fast-food parking lot. Another had a company vehicle stolen from right in front of the employee’s home, as he was running back to his house to grab the lunch his wife prepared him. You can actually view the surveillance video of that theft here.

So, why were these “near horror stories” and not the full-blown nightmare you’d expect losing a company vehicle would be? We’ll explain down below, in the tips section.

3. Timecard padding

This is an unpleasant subject, we know, but you need to be aware of it. According to research cited in Forbes, the average employee steals nearly six workweeks per year from their employers, by falsifying timecards and using other tricks that add up to about 4.5 hours each week.

And keep in mind, the typical employee works onsite all day — in an office, factory, distribution center, etc. — where their coworkers and supervisors can see them. But they still manage to find ways to cut corners and fudge numbers to get paid for hours every week that they’re not really working. 

Your drivers actually have a lot more freedom throughout the day. That means you have to assume that if they want to, they could be padding their timecards far more than the average employee can. 

To get a sense of how costly this form of stealing is, let’s take the conservative estimate of 4.5 hours of lost time each week, or 6 workweeks per year. If you pay your drivers $15 an hour, and we assume a standard 173-hour work month, that means the typical driver could be timecard padding to the tune of $3,892 every year! (That’s 259 hours of padded time, at $15 per hour.) If they yanked that much money out of the company till, you would fire them in a heartbeat. But many companies blissfully ignore this type of behavior for years, when it shows up on a timecard.

4. Unsafe driving

By exhibiting bad driving behavior with your company’s vehicles, your drivers are, in effect, stealing profits from your company in less obvious but very real ways. For example:

  • Every time they take a corner at too high speed or weave dangerously in and out of lanes, your drivers are putting undue wear and tear on your vehicles. That will mean more maintenance and repair costs, a shorter useful life for the vehicle itself, and more money your business has to spend to replace the vehicle when it prematurely gives out.
  • The speeding tickets and other moving violations your daredevil drivers accumulate — not to mention any traffic collisions they cause — will drive up your insurance premiums.
  • Irresponsible driving behaviors, like hard accelerating and braking, speeding, and sharp turns, all consume more fuel than safe, steady driving. That needless additional fuel consumption is also eating into your company’s bottom line.
  • Finally, when they drive through your city or town like maniacs, your drivers are undermining your company’s reputation, and that could cost you business.

GPS Tracking: End Theft in Field Service Management

The fastest, simplest, and most affordable solution to all of these types of theft and fraud is to roll out a GPS vehicle tracking system for your fleetWith the right tracking system in place, your employees will know you’re monitoring this type of behavior — which itself will act as a deterrent. But even for those drivers determined to try, you’ll be ready, because you’ll be able to:

  1.  Know exactly where your vehicles are, and for how long, at any moment of every day. This will make employees’ unauthorized use or under-the-table side gigs much more difficult. One great way to do this is to set up Geozones and Alerts. For example, if Larry, an employee, is known to take his work vehicle home at night, a Geozone could be set up around his house. If the vehicle is being driven outside of certain hours, the boss could be alerted to monitor the vehicle for unauthorized use.
  2. Track your vehicles in real-time. This will help you help the cops stop would-be thieves — and retrieve your trucks and equipment. Because the customers we mentioned above had ClearPathGPS trackers, both were able to quickly lead the cops to their vehicles and get them back unharmed — along with the expensive equipment they were carrying.
  3. Maintain accurate, to-the-minute records of your trucks’ movements, including arrival, departure, and time onsite at each job. This will make timecard padding more difficult
  4. Monitor what’s happening with your vehicles — their speed, accelerating and braking, etc. This will help you identify unsafe drivers and incentive better behavior.

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At ClearPathGPS we help field service businesses—including landscaping companiesplumbersroofers, HVAC businesses, and more—improve their operations and improve their bottom lines. To learn more about how businesses benefit from the ClearPathGPS fleet tracking solutions, contact us today

4 Ways People Secretly Steal From Your Service Business... and…