AmeriPride fleet monitoring devices save company $500k in fuel and truck costs

Determined to quell speeding, idling and truck accidents, Minnetonka-based AmeriPride Uniform Services started installing high-tech monitoring devices across its entire fleet 20 months ago. The move is now paying off with safer driving, improved fuel efficiency and lower truck and delivery costs.

Officials at the linen and uniform servicing company say the firm won big when it installed a high-tech truck monitoring device called “inthinc” in more than 1,800 vehicles, at an estimated cost of roughly $50 per truck. The idea, which has been embraced by large trucking firms nationwide, was to promote safe driving among its 1,500 drivers and service managers through real-time monitoring and voice coaching.

The device installed in each AmeriPride delivery truck is activated by radio-frequency identification (RFID) cards carried by each driver. The device’s “Safety Driven Telematics Units” collect information about the driver’s behavior — such as speeding, seat belt usage, harsh braking or idling — and verbally coaches the driver in real time. The system also alerts managers back in the office of any unchecked safety violations or accidents and provides daily performance reports.

Months later, the full fleet is outfitted and the data is in:

• $500,000 reduction in fuel and maintenance costs in first 12 months

• 99 percent decrease in speeding events since implementation. “We were hoping for 50 percent,” said Ben Saukko, AmeriPride communications director .

• 71 percent decrease in aggressive driving events (hard stops, hard acceleration, hard dips)

• 8 percent reduction in crashes per 100,000 miles driven in second half of 2015

• 95 percent reduction in idling (approximately 35,000 gallons of fuel saved in 2015)

“The safety of our employees and others out on the roads is a priority for us,” said AmeriPride Fleet Manager Banny Allison. “This new telematics technology allows us to monitor driver behavior and proactively modify unsafe habits so we can reduce accidents and the many related expenses that go along with them.”

Dee DePass

Community banking

Bridgewater adds more expansion capital

Bridgewater Bancshares, which raised $15 million in private equity last fall, has raised an additional $27.5 million through a private sale of company stock that it plans to use for organic growth and acquisitions.

The money was raised from funds managed by EJF Capital, Endeavour Capital Advisors and GCP Capital Partners.

“This new influx will allow us to consider emerging opportunities to build the brand and serve the needs of a growing client base,” said President and CEO Jerry Baack. “The capital from Castle Creek’s investment in 2015 was integral to securing Bridgewater Bank’s first acquisition. We don’t anticipate any shift in our momentum.”

The bank, which launched with initial-investor capital of $10 million in 2005, raised an additional $30 million through last year, including $15 million from Castle Creek Capital of California, its first institutional investor, and which invests in financial institutions.

The Bloomington-based bank recently acquired Orono-based First National Bank of the Lakes. The deal for four-office, $76 million-asset First National Bank of the Lakes provides business-lender Bridgewater a bigger footprint in Minneapolis and the western suburbs.

Bridgewater, with more than $1 billion in assets, is one of the states’ 10 largest community bankers. The company earned $11.2 million last year, according to a filing with the Federal Reserve.

Baack was a federal bank examiner and lender at other banks before starting Bridgewater.

Neal St. Anthony


Digi helps connect tech in London black cabs

Minnetonka-based Digi International, which this year expects to be profitable on more than $200 million in sales, makes technology and internet-enabled products that connect all kinds of machines and humans.

Digi’s team now can claim a role in the development of the “Ecotive Range Extended Electric Metrocab,’’ the first zero-emissions product among the ubiquitous “black cabs” that prowl the streets of London.

The taxi’s core powertrain and infotainment systems, developed by Frazer-Nash Research, use the Digi ConnectCore 6, or Digi CC6 System-on-Module, to drive the Metrocab’s entire driver instrumentation and passenger displays.

The taxi is driven by two electric motors with a 1-liter gasoline engine, coupled with a range-extending generator that charges the battery pack. Alternatively, charging can be achieved via an outlet, ensuring an even lower fuel consumption, the company said in an announcement last week. This configuration, and the sophistication of the powertrain, allow the driver charging options to maximize their efficiency.

The “Digi CC6” has been designed to provide an array of instrumentation to assist cost-conscious taxi drivers in choosing the best mode of operation.

Neal St. Anthony