2004 Spring/Summer Volume No. 3

Ask Adams: Tips & Insights from the Trenches

Mike Adams
Managing Director
PolyJohn Enterprises Corporation

Throughout the year, I get a lot of questions from PolyJohn customers. I try to answer as many as possible based on my 2 decades in the portable restroom business. However, when I don’t know the answer, I usually know who I can call to find out. Here are answers to some questions I was asked recently.

What have you heard about the new chip technologies that promise to make running a portable restroom operation easier?
At the PSAI Conference I met Robert Medina owner of Fresh & Clean Portable Restrooms in Albuquerque, NM, who is testing this new information system in his business with plans to install it in his entire fleet this summer. JohnTalk called him to see how he liked it so far, and how it worked.

“Based on our trials, it’s going to be mind-boggling,” said Medina. “We’ll have near perfect accuracy for managing our drivers, billing our customers, and creating our service routes. We’ll also have a record of every stop and how long the engine ran for filing our off-road fuel-tax rebates,” Robert explained. He told me that he is buying the system from Mark Billings at Ritam Technologies, so we called Mark for more details.

He explained how the system works. The drivers carry a handheld data collection box which reads a miniature solid-state circuit inside of small stainless steel buttons. These buttons are secured where needed. When the driver swipes the button, the box records a time, date and location. Buttons are placed at the time clock where drivers punch in for work. They are also placed inside the truck cab and on each restroom unit in the field. At the end of the day, drivers turn in their data box and the information is downloaded onto a computer spread sheet. The information collected will show when the driver started, when he finished, and every stop he made throughout the day including how long he stayed at each location.

This information is useful for business management, customer service, and the driver. It helps the driver find out where he is being most efficient and where he has room to improve. It helps customer service see exactly when and where units were serviced so that if a customer challenges a bill, there is accurate data to show whether or not the customer is right. Management never has to worry about a situation where it becomes the customer’s word against the driver’s word. And if the driver accidentally misses a stop or is locked out, the readout at the end of the day will show what stops were missed, so that customers can be contacted before they even notice that they were missed. The driver can correct the error the next day and everybody remains satisfied. At the end of the month, management can examine route efficiencies for greater control of fuel, labor, and equipment costs. Managers can also see if certain customers are not cost effective due to the time it takes drivers to service their location and adjust rates accordingly.

The entire system can be purchased as a turnkey package or it can be implemented in stages. Stage one is basic customer accounting, office organization, and customer service software. Stage two is routing and mapping software. Stage three is the entire service tracking system with data collectors and electronic buttons. For more information contact Mark Billings at 1-800-662-8471. We’d love to hear from other operators using this system or competitive bar code systems to see how these cutting-edge technologies work in daily use.

What kind of tank do you recommend on service trucks?
The kind of tank that’s right for your business depends on several factors. You must consider the location of your business and local weather, what you want to pay, what kind of chemicals you’ll be using in the tank, whether or not you’ll be carrying clean water for sinks, what fuel economy you expect, and how much load-carrying capacity you need. There are pluses and minuses to all three tank metals—stainless steel, aluminum, and mild (carbon) steel. Here are a few of the basics you’ll need to know to make the decision that’s best for your company.

Advantages: lightweight and saves on fuel when empty. Looks good when new and polished. Offers greater load carrying capacity because the tank weighs less than half as much as steel. Internally, it resists corrosion and will not stain fresh water.

Disadvantages: More expensive. More difficult to weld and repair than steel. Shiny exterior can become corroded and pitted after years of use in salt-air or road-salt environments. Brine solutions can corrode the interior, and will corrode at the fittings if care is not taken in building all components to be compatible with aluminum.

Stainless Steel
Advantages: Will last indefinitely and can handle most materials including salts without corroding. Old tanks may be reused on new trucks. Somewhat lighter and stronger than mild steel. Stronger than aluminum.

Disadvantages: Most expensive of the three materials. Not easy to weld and repair, must use shop familiar with the material. Heavier than aluminum.

Mild Steel
Advantages: Least expensive and easiest to repair. Can be attractively painted to become rolling billboard for your company. Usually lined with epoxy to prevent corrosion. Good track record in the industry with tanks lasting 10 years or more. Stronger than aluminum.

Disadvantages: Prone to rust. Rust inside tank may stain water, making hand-washing water unattractive. Corrodes faster when used with brine solutions. Heavier than aluminum and stainless steel.

It helps the driver find out where he is being most efficient and where he has room to improve. It helps customer service see exactly when and where units were
serviced so that if a customer challenges a bill, there is accurate data
to show whether or not the customer is right.

To learn more, see the recent May 2004 article in Sanitation Journal that covered this
topic in depth. It featured input from several major truck manufacturers.

Industry Info

Click here for a listing of companies offering Trucks & Accessories, Decals, Financing, Restroom Trailers, Trade Publications, Marketing, Restroom Manufacturing/Sales, Billing/Routing Systems and Insurance.

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