ADT switches out its tech's vans

When fuel costs were hovering around $4 a gallon across the U.S., many security companies that rely on keeping their vans and patrol cars on the streets had their eyes wide open as they considered how rising fuel costs could impact their business profitability. That rise in fuel costs was driven by the shut-down of oil production facilities that had been swamped by the flood waters of Hurricane Katrina and political instability in the Middle East. Fortunately, fuel prices declined and before long were closer to pre-Katrina costs. Overall, however, the United States has seen steady climbs in fuel costs at the pump, rising from $1.59 in 2003 to an expected average of $2.83 per gallon this year according to data from the Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration.

That steady rise in fuel costs impacts the security industry. When fuel prices were at their peak, company managers told staff members that increased fuel costs were eating profit margins and that they were having to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles and or pass rising fuel costs onto their customers.

Today that trend of switching to more fuel-efficient vehicles continues with the announcement that ADT Security Services is purchasing 1,500 of Ford Motor Company's Transit Connect vans now and has plans to purchase a total of 3,000 of the compact vans. The purchase of this new fleet of 3,000 would mean a vehicle swap for almost half of the company's total vehicles, and is expected to save the company $5.3 million annually in fuel costs.

The 2010 Ford Transit Connect earns an EPA ranking of 22 mpg city/25 mpg highway. In comparison, a full-sized van like the Ford E150 earns a 14 mpg city/18 mpg highway fuel economy rating by the EPA (and that's with the smaller 4.6 liter V8 engine, not the optional 5.4 liter V8). Furthermore, many security installing companies use the heavier E-250 and E-350 vans with the large engines due to those vehicles' ability to bear heavier loads. ADT's fleet was 95 percent comprised of full-size vans like the Ford Econoline (E-150/250/350) series, and with ADT technicians driving an average of 2,000 miles per month on business, fuel costs for the company's fleet were roughly $30 million per year.

According to a press release issued by Ford Motor Company, the Transit Connects will be used by ADT's residential and small business installers, and the decision to make the switch followed a pilot program test with ADT technicians. Technicians said they initially had reservations about using the new compact vans, afraid that the smaller vehicle would not leave as much space for the equipment they need when performing installations of security alarm systems. However, those perceptions apparently changed as ADT's technicians put the vans through the paces of a pilot test.

"The Transit Connect seems to work well for ADT residential and small business installers and service technicians -- especially those in congested, urban areas," said David Wade, ADT Supply Chain and Fleet Group director. "It is much easier to maneuver and park than a larger commercial van, and it offers ample cargo-carrying capacity for supplying our residential and small business customers."

Based on data from Ford Motor Company, the Transit Connect (which was developed and produced in collaboration with Ford's European and Turkish divisions) has a payload capacity of 1,600 pounds, 135 cubic feet of space and uses a 2.0 liter engine. Ford plans to offer an electric version of the vehicle (at least in Europe), though it is highly unlikely that the estimated 80-mile range of the electric engine would offer enough capacity for high-mileage users like security installing companies -- even if Ford eventually offered that electric option in the United States.

According to, the only U.S. competitor for the Transit Connect is the panel-van version of Chevy's HHR. The downside of the HHR, said GreenCarReports, is that the HHR has a "higher load floor and less than half the cargo-bay space. Reflecting its origin as a passenger vehicle, the HRR panel van has hinged rear side doors, while those of the Transit Connect slide (like the rear doors of a minivan)."

Besides upgrading to more fuel efficient vehicles, such as ADT is doing with the Ford Transit Connect, some security dealers have explored the use of GPS systems that can help pinpoint the nearest available installer to minimize driving distances and to track employee movements to cut back on the misuse of fuel cards and fuel expenses.