Operations & Maintenance

How Certarus Manages a Fleet of 500+ CNG Trailers in Real Time

Ryan Chan

The demand for compressed natural gas (CNG) is growing. It runs cleaner than gasoline, is safer to transport, and is applicable across a variety of industries and use cases. However, adoption has been slow because there’s not a developed infrastructure to transport it like there is for gasoline. This is changing though with the introduction of CNG fleet companies.

One of these companies is Certarus, a company that provides a “virtual pipeline” of natural gas to anyone from pulp mills to asphalt plants. Over the years, Certarus has grown its fleet to 500 trailers that are used to store, transport, and decompress CNG in a snap.

In this post, we’ll explore the fleet management system that Certarus’s fleet maintenance manager implemented to streamline maintenance and improve productivity.

How Certarus approaches fleet management

Certarus’s trailers are not your everyday trailer units. They are some of the highest pressure, highest volume transport trailer systems available. And just one can displace 6,000 gallons of diesel per day, making them incredibly valuable.

To protect these trailers, Certarus’s fleet maintenance manager, Kyle Dunbar, always knows where the trailers are located, which trailers require maintenance, and when maintenance tasks are completed. He can access all of this information from an easy-to-use fleet management app that he also uses to assign work orders to technicians.

To make this possible, he integrates two types of software into one fleet management solution:

  • Fleet tracking software by TitanGPS
  • Fleet maintenance software by UpKeep

Titan GPS provides location coordinates of trailers in real time and UpKeep uses these coordinates to create location-specific work orders. This way, Certarus’s technicians don’t go to the wrong location if a trailer is moved after a work order is created, which is often the case with Certarus’s portable hubs. The CNG hubs are constantly changing sites and being used for different purposes.

Certarus fleet in action

Before creating the fleet management solution

Before integrating its fleet tracking and fleet maintenance software, work orders were frequently assigned to the wrong location.

“I was having to go into TitanGPS to identify the location of the equipment and manually reconcile where a repair needed to take place,” Dunbar told us during an interview. “By the time I was done with this exercise, there were at least six or more pieces of equipment that had already changed locations. Necessary inspections were getting missed and costs were adding up as mechanics were called to the wrong locations.”

Beyond this, work orders were not being logged with a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS) like UpKeep. This made organizing information for audits difficult. To see how equipment was maintained over time, documentation from different sources had to be collected. A huge administrative burden was created because of this.

There was also a burden placed on maintenance managers. The old-fashioned work order system did not allow them to easily view the work orders that were relevant to the region they were responsible for.

This old system was deprecated shortly after Dunbar was hired by Certarus in November 2017 and became responsible for fleet management.

After creating the fleet management solution

With the introduction of TitanGPS and UpKeep, Dunbar can get a bird’s eye view of every trailer’s location and operational status with an easy-to-use fleet management app. He can track the uptime of an individual trailer and view a history of work orders completed for the trailer.

Fleet management solution by UpKeep - fleet assets page

Sample of the “Vehicles” page inside UpKeep. Clicking on an individual vehicle reveals a complete work order history of the vehicle, its operational status, and its location.

In addition to viewing operational details for each trailer in his fleet, Dunbar can assign work orders to technicians closest to the trailer that requires maintenance. The technicians can then view work order details from their mobile device and get to work. Some technicians even act proactively and take on open work orders that aren’t yet assigned.

“[The fleet management app] is great because it gives workers the ability to proactively address repairs even before a manager assigns it to them,” said Dunbar.

Fleet management solution by UpKeep - fleet work orders page

Sample of the work orders page in UpKeep. One-time work orders can be created for repairs and recurring work orders for preventive maintenance.

Dunbar can also do the following from inside the app:

  • Receive work order requests from clients and technicians in the field
  • Run reports to see which trailers require the most maintenance
  • Print PDFs of work order histories by trailer, technician, and location

This new approach to fleet management has had a significant impact on Certarus’s productivity. “Across the company, we’re saving 50 to 60 hours a week, repairs are happening faster, and inspections are not being missed.”

If you’re interested in learning more about why Dunbar decided to maintain Certarus’s fleet with Titan GPS and UpKeep, you can read this case study. Or, if you’re interested in creating a test environment for your own fleet, you can create a free UpKeep account today.

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