Copart Cuts Idling with GPS Fleet Tracking Devices




“After six months of training and on-the-job coaching based on machine numbers reported via Vision Link, here’s where we ended up:

  • 14 percent idle time—a reduction of almost 10 percent.
  • Average fuel burn rate of 2.55 gallons per hour—a savings of .4 gallons/hour/loader.
  • I took the numbers to the executive team and showed them:

Entire fleet of 500 loaders x (10 percent reduction in idle time) = about $3.5 million. Needless to say, that got their attention.”

These enviable results were achieved by Copart Director of Equipment, Safety and Environmental Compliance, Joe O’Leary. Copart is an auto remarketer. They process and sell salvaged and title-clean vehicles from 155 auto yards in nine countries. Their 500-unit fleet is primarily wheel loaders with parallel lift for placing cars onto carriers.

At the start, the data didn’t measure up.

Joe O’Leary is a long-time believer in the power of telematics data. Unfortunately, until a few years ago, he wasn’t able to use it the way he wanted. That’s because the parameters of the GPS fleet tracking devices on COPART’s loaders didn’t recognize a machine moving at less than three miles per hour as “working.” Wheel loaders in a salvage yard often move that slowly to avoid damaging cars while carrying or loading them.

“With that system, the data showed the fleet was idling 40-50 percent of the time. We knew that wasn’t the case. I was lucky to have an experienced group of equipment managers at the time, so we substituted good experience for good data. But it’s hard to drive real change when you don’t have the numbers.”


Lucky for Joe, he was able to take advantage of Caterpillar’s introduction of the 938K loader with an optimized Z-bar linkage that could parallel lift, and the Cat® Product Link™ telematics hardware that could be configured to match the salvage yard application.

“I don’t make rash decisions. So when we bought the new Cat loaders, I agreed to put Product Link in 16 of them and see how it went. That’s something critical about anything new—you have to let people come to it. I had to let the operators get used to the machines, adjust to joystick controls and hydrostatic transmissions, before looking at any of the data. I had to make sure we had reached some kind of ‘normal,’ so the data would actually reflect real life in the yard.”

Joe let the operators run the Cat 938Ks with GPS fleet tracking devices for a year. Then the real work with the idling data began.


First, Joe met with a team from Caterpillar to confirm that the idling data was valid. “At the end of that review, I knew we had an accurate picture of our operation. I thought the best way to use the data was to start small with a couple of key benchmarks — idle time and fuel burn.”

Operation Data

Ranges and Averages across his 16 Cat 938K loader operators:

KEY METRICS Range Average  
Idle time 18% to 35% 23% Less
Fuel burn rate (gal/hr) 2.5 to 3.8 2.9 Less


“What’s great is that when you have accurate data, you can set targets you know are doable. The real question then becomes—how are we going to get to the targets?”

Benchmark Targets

Based on this data, Joe set benchmark targets:

Idle time 17% Less
Fuel burn rate (gal/hr) 2.5 Less


Data-based training helps operators achieve targets, boost profits.

Joe’s approach was thorough training and on-the-job coaching. He and his team:

  • Wrote a set of Best Operating Practices designed to reduce idling and conserve fuel
  • Trained the operators on these techniques for about a month.
  • Showed them the numbers — where their idling numbers had been and what their targets were
  • Reviewed the numbers with them weekly and charted progress.

“After about 6 months of work, we ended up at 14 percent idle time, an almost 10 percent reduction, and an average fuel burn rate of 2.55 gal/hr.—a savings of .4 gal/hour/loader. I showed our executive team how it would work if we could apply the same savings to all 500 loaders in the fleet. The savings in idle time alone was about 3.5 million dollars. Needless to say, that got their attention.”

Data will drive continuous positive change.

Currently, Copart is adding more Cat loaders with GPS fleet tracking devices to its fleet. They are managing the VisionLink® data from all of their yards under one account. This lets them compile the data and make decisions quickly. Joe’s plan is to select more key metrics and work with the crews to make positive changes.

“Technology can be a valuable tool. What I’ve learned about using it is this:

  • You can’t overwhelm people. Give them a manageable number of things.
  • Use data to engage people, so they can see the impact they have.
  • Don’t just tell them how to meet the goal, teach them.

If you keep the conversation going, keep showing people results, it’s amazing what can happen.”

Cat Wheel Loader Info

GPS fleet tracking devices

The Cat 938M Small Wheel Loader sets the standard for productivity, fuel efficiency and operator comfort. The improved optimized Z-bar loader linkage delivers the quick loading performance of a traditional Z-bar with the parallelism and load handling capability of a tool carrier.

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