- By Joanne M. Tucker
In five years Mobile Thrones went from zero portable toilets to about 475 and from zero vehicles in its fleet to six, with one ordered and on the way, according to Mobile Thrones CEO Gary Oliver. And while the largest part of its growth happened in more recent years, Mobile Thrones was an early adopter of a global positioning system (GPS) for its vehicles.
In 2007, the Texas-based portable toilet company deployed TomTom, a GPS program that allows companies to create map routes, compare jobsite locations, and track vehicle mileage and speed, among other features.
Spending an average of $10,000 a month on diesel fuel for its majority Dodge Ram 5500 fleet makes route management an important aspect of Oliver’s now sprawling business, which serves the northern region of the state out of Jacksboro, Texas. “We’re maximizing our time,” he says. “We’re not just zigzagging around.”
Oliver adds that TomTom increased his company’s bidding power because he is able to quickly estimate fuel costs in relation to other worksites. In revenue, “there’s no telling how much it’s saved me,” he says.
Mobile Thrones mostly services oil companies and other jobsites located on country roads. TomTom allows Oliver to mark specific gates and off-street areas, which are typically visually inaccessible from map services such as Google Maps.
As well, the programming helps Mobile Thrones stave off abuse from any of its clients. For example, if a company requests and pays for weekly servicing to its portable toilets and claims Mobile Thrones didn’t comply with a service, Oliver can show the client records of his trucks traveling to that site, the amount of time spent there, and which employees finished the task.
When Oliver first deployed the TomTom software, he had only one employee. “He wasn’t too crazy about it because he thought I was going to use it as a policing device — and I certainly can do that and I do use it as that,” Oliver says. “But he’s a country boy, and he was scared to death to drive through the city, but with that TomTom on there, it took a lot of the edge off.” Oliver added that employees are forced to be honest if they make a personal trip on the job. “It will mark their trails pretty well,” he says.
Portable toilets and related sanitation services started as a side project for Oliver, who first got his license in septic pumping and sanitation when he bought three car washes that he still owns. He had to pay $700 to have the sand traps — the car washes drainage systems — cleaned for each station. “I figured I could get an apparatus and do it myself,” he says, and so he obtained his license, which is the same used in the portable toilet industry.
Oliver says he received some inquiries from people asking if he offered portable toilet services. “So I went out and bought about seven of them,” he says.
Mobile Thrones quickly became Oliver’s larger money-maker over the car washes, even after two fleet vehicles were totaled — in two separate accidents — and replaced. “I always encourage the guys to be very safe,” Oliver says. “There are times when we try to get stuff done in a very timely fashion as quick as we can, but then always safety is of the utmost. Nobody’s life or health is worth a toilet.”