Volatile diesel prices have caused many professional estimators headaches as they work to predict job costs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, diesel prices have continued to climb since February 2022.
During the summer, Dave Cunningham, Chief Estimator at Marathon Construction Corporation, searched for tools to monitor fuel consumption on a lagoon restoration project. Cunningham wanted to find the right equipment to stay up and running in a salty marshland. He turned to experts at RDO Equipment Co. to understand how machine monitoring technology could help operators and managers be more efficient. “One factor we considered was how the equipment could share telematics data so that it would be valuable for my work in the future,” Cunningham said.
Marathon recently completed a four-year earthwork where operators used excavators and articulated dump trucks to reshape the site’s terrain. During this project, they didn’t have John Deere Operations Center™, a telematics system that enables data flow on their fleet. Without it, the Marathon team manually tracked fuel costs, which made it challenging to maintain a complete account of costs and decipher which machines required more fuel.
“If I go look through years of receipts, that doesn’t tell me a whole lot since fuel consumption fluctuates depending on the piece of equipment and its job,” Cunningham said.
Due to the inability to double-check fuel costs, Cunningham became interested in trucks that could automatically connect to Operations Center for better fleet management.
Ernie Dobson, a 20-year construction industry veteran and Sales Professional at RDO Equipment Co. in Lakeside, California, highlights John Deere's telematics system's benefits, including measuring trip counts, load passes and fuel utilization. While operators report their trip counts daily, the truck’s telematics system provides a secondary source of fuel consumption in idle mode and more.
The Marathon Construction team continues to shape San Diego’s waterfront through the San Dieguito lagoon restoration project. This complex project requires Marathon’s team to move more than 1 million yards of dirt to restore 50 acres of tidal wetland and 15 acres of brackish marsh to create approximately five acres of plant life along a man-made river.
“The Operations Center™ gives us all sorts of data that we like. If I had just rented trucks, I would not have gotten that information,” Cunningham said. “During previous earthwork jobs like this one, we’d hire somebody to sit there and count with a clicker every time a truck went by so that you knew how to track the truck’s trips.”
With its ability to automatically track data, Cunningham said he monitored load weights related to fuel consumption for the San Dieguito project, which helped his team tremendously.
“This telematics data gives me actual consumption rates for each machine. So, I can figure out how many hours I need for that machine and calculate exact costs,” Cunningham said.
The information also enabled Marathon’s team to detect load capacity and fuel usage per trip on all trucks. While he says this information is helpful in real-time, Cunningham said the data would prove indispensable in the future.
“It’s valuable data for me as the estimator,” he said. “I know exactly what my average fuel consumption is for every one of these trucks. I know how many trucks a day I have up and running.”
Dobson highlighted that each piece of equipment used in the San Dieguito lagoon project has the John Deere Operations Center™ integrated into Marathon’s GPS. This allows operators to share data with managers and other municipal project partners. He also said this access to data in real-time helped Cunningham track the progression of the job and manage input costs during supply chain shortages and changing diesel prices.
“We are more accurate across the whole million-and-a-half yards because we’re using John Deere Operations Center™,” Cunningham said. “And we can improve our estimates in the future.”
Watch Ernie and Dave talk about this lagoon restoration project on the job site.