When a cross dock manager at Cooper Electric Supply Co. came in recently for his shift at 3 a.m., he immediately noticed something out of place. One of the company vans was missing.
He immediately asked his drivers, “Who took the van out?” When his drivers answered, “Nobody,” he responded, “What do you mean, nobody?” But he already feared he knew the answer, said Don Siegel, Director of Transportation for Cooper Electric.
“He immediately called the police and told them that it was a stolen vehicle,” Siegel said. But he also did something else that turned out to be equally as important. He got on the company’s centralized system and checked out the GPS.
Cooper Electric Supply uses Geotab, one of the systems EnVue Telematics offers its clients to enhance areas such as route optimization and reducing cents per mile cost. But Cooper Electric was about to use it in a way they hadn’t anticipated.
Watching a Crime Spree In Real Time
After checking GPS, the manager quickly got a lot of information. The thief took the van about 2:30 a.m. He then drove to a U-Store-It and broke into four storage units. The stolen van then went to a house in another town about 15 minutes from the storage units. Finally, the thief dumped the van in a city in New Jersey (because it’s an ongoing investigation, details on locations have been removed).
What the thieves could not know is that people at Cooper Electric watched them every step of the way.
“During the process, we were watching this live on GPS and we informed the police,” said Siegel. “We were basically telling the police which way he was turning, where he was going, how fast he was going, what road he was taking, everything.”
Within 15 minutes after the thief dumped the van, Cooper Electric had already arrived at the scene. After the van got towed to the police station, experts retrieved fingerprints from the van.
But the most important piece of the puzzle came courtesy of information gathered through the GPS systems.
A Quick Pit Stop for Fast Food
In the midst of the crime spree, the thief decided to take a quick stop at a Wawa. Cooper Electric passed this information to the police along with everything else they saw that night through the telematics tracking system.
Officers went to the convenience store and looked through security footage. They found a video showing that a second car accompanied the stolen van, apparently with the intention to pick up the thief and drive him back home after they dumped the van.
Through the footage, they got information on the car. Then, police got the car’s license plate number when they decided to drive back home after dumping the van on a public turnpike, which is equipped with cameras.
“They’re doing a whole investigation,” Siegel said. “They got fingerprints, they got everything. They know exactly where he stopped, the house he stopped at, and they are pursuing it.”
Protecting a Fleet With Telematics
Siegel said the GPS system played the key role in finding the van so quickly. Of course, the company typically uses the system for less exciting reasons than tracking van thieves in real-time.
Since founded as a family business in 1961, Cooper Electric has grown to a regional supplier in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, with more than 1,000 employees and 53 locations. The company is a full-service electrical distributor, serving electrical contractors, industrials, OEM, utilities, residential, solar and more.
Siegel said the company currently uses GPS to track the location of the entire fleet. It also helps the company pivot quickly when needed.
“We get calls constantly from sales people asking, “Hey, can you make this pickup, can you make this delivery?” It happened just the other day,” said Siegel. “I was able to go into our big screen TV and see exactly where all of our trucks were, from Pennsauken to Buffalo, New York. And I was able to get the closest truck to do the pickup and then one of our trucks out of Cranberry, New Jersey, was able to meet him and grab the merchandise.”
None of that is possible without telematics systems, he said, adding: “Without the GPS, we would just be totally blind.”