Road ahead for fleet owners and managers

By: Rob McKay


Two fleet management technology bloggers nominate the top issues to tackle today to prepare for the 2020s

 

Truck Platooning _ATN Image

The 2020s have seemed so far in advance for so long that it would be understandable if some took a while to appreciate that the new decade is only two-and-a-half years away.

With equipment and information technology advances making forecasting a fraught business, fleet owners and managers face both the need to invest and the risk their investments may be dated before there is a proper return on the spend.

With this in mind, ATN sought two experts who also blog on the subject to carry the weight of foresight for the industry and asked them what they rated as the top issues that managers needed to get to grips with before the end of the decade.

"I think that the biggest technology game changers in the 2020's will be autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles and telematics," GPS Tracking Systems Director Matt Cooper says.

"For the companies that can afford to be early adopters of autonomous vehicles and/or electric vehicles, I think that they will gain a huge advantage over their competitors.

"The issue that I foresee with these first two technologies is that they will be expensive in the early days.

"If a fleet manager's changeover schedule does not align with the release of these technologies or they just don't have the capital to invest, then they'd better be looking at alternative technologies to stay competitive.

"I think that this is where telematics (or GPS tracking) can come into play. Many companies still aren't aware of the benefits of telematics and with a much lower price point than both the other technologies, it will allow them to still compete."

 Matt Cooper
Matt Cooper
Some of the advantages Cooper sees in adopting these technologies are:

 

Autonomous Vehicles

  • Improved safety for both drivers and other road users, especially where trucks are involved

  • Vehicles will be off the road less, due to fewer accidents which will have a positive impact on productivity and may potentially reduce insurance premiums

  • Ability for platooning which will provide fuel savings and reduce emissions

  • Reduced labour costs depending upon the autonomy of the vehicles

  • Improved asset utilisation due to "drivers" not having to take as many breaks. When level 5 AV's hit the road, I can see companies using car pools more often as a car will be able to drop a staff member to a location for a meeting then head back to the office or depot to do the next run. This will mean a lot less vehicles (and parking bays) will be required to do the same job

  • A bigger talent pool can be accessed for employment - a new staff member may no longer need to have a drivers licence and there could be improved opportunities for people with disabilities. 

Electric Vehicles

  • EV's could be as much as one third cheaper to run than petrol and diesel vehicles. With fuel being one of the major costs in a running a fleet, this will provide great savings

  • With less moving parts and less servicing required, EV's will be cheaper to maintain. This also has the benefit of improved productivity with the vehicle having to be off the road less.

  • Companies can become more environmentally friendly as EV's have zero exhaust emissions and can also be charged up using renewable energy.

 

Telematics

  • Productivity improvements - an Aberdeen Group study found that organisations with GPS vehicle tracking experienced a 23 per cent increase in productivity

  • Fuel savings due to route optimisation, driver behaviour analysis (harsh acceleration), minimising unauthorised vehicle use and identifying fuel theft

  • Improved safety with alerts for accident/rollover, remote/lone worker duress, speeding and harsh driving (acceleration, braking and cornering). Speeding and harsh driving are the biggest contributing factors to vehicle accidents. Drivers exceeding the threshold can be mentored and closely monitored

  • Improved customer service with the ability to identify vehicles closest to the next job, when a vehicle will be arriving at a job and proof of service

  • Automated vehicle and asset maintenance schedules which reduces admin costs, increases compliance and keeps vehicles on the road longer.

Fleetmatics Director of Product Marketing Todd Ewing is a fan of the way IT is being brought to bear on inefficiencies in trucking.

The promise of technological and data management advances was always about eliminating costly non-productive, wasteful and dangerous aspects of running a fleet with a special focus on fuel use and driving behavior.

 Todd Ewing
Todd Ewing

Ewing sees tackling the following issues now as crucial to being set up for the next decade:

Collecting and analysing data 

  • Modern developments in technology such as telematics systems and fuel cards mean that tremendous amounts of data relating to driver and vehicle behaviour is available to transport managers. The next big challenge – or opportunity – is not only capturing the data from vehicle tracking technology, but truly understanding how to harness it and respond to data-driven insights, to make effective fleet management decisions, and drive business profitability.

 

Reduce downtime

  • The ability to accurately record vehicle idling has been a challenge for fleet managers. Excessive idling wastes a significant amount of fuel and diminishes a fleet’s productivity. A driver might sit in the vehicle with the engine and air-conditioning running if they arrive early to a job, which means valuable fuel, and time, is wasted. Drivers practicing poor habits, such as speeding and harsh braking, are also burning fuel unnecessarily. A vehicle tracking solution enables fleet managers to make informed decisions based on driver performance. This information can help continuously improve efficiency.

  • With the ability to track exactly when vehicles are arriving and departing from sites, fleet managers are able to identify areas of wasted time and where fuel dollars are being wasted on needless kilometres. This helps enable drivers to take the most efficient route to the job, saving time and reducing unnecessary costs. 

 

Rising fuel costs

  • About75 percent of Australian fleet businesses cite fuel reduction as their key priority, according to a new report commissioned by Fleetmatics.Andthe price of fuel is set to increase. Transport businesses require a solution to reduce fuel wastage. Fuel costs can get out of hand very quickly if not monitored effectively. Again looking at modern advancements in technology, companies with a fuel card expect their employees to only purchase fuel for the company vehicle. But this isn’t always the case. Employees may be filling up their personal car or a mate’s car with the company fuel card. This means the company is paying for the employee’s personal fuel. This is also the case if a driver uses a company vehicle to run person errands after hours. Not only does this waste fuel, it adds wear and tear to the company vehicle.

  • The key to overcoming fuel budget blowouts could be vehicle tracking, both today and in the future. Businesses with fuel card integration, which integrates fuel card usage data with a vehicle tracking system, can identify when the vehicle was not at the pump when its assigned fleet card was used. For example, a fuel purchased report provides transaction activity for each vehicle on demand without digging through your monthly fuel card bill. This report serves as a baseline for fuel usage improvements, which is essential for fleet managers trying to put a lid on fuel costs. They can use this data to pinpoint fuel-wasting driving behaviours and inefficient vehicles.

 

Safety

  • Driving a truck has been identified as one of the most dangerous occupations in Australia, with one out of every three workplace deaths last year involving a transport worker. With risks this high, it’s clear that driver safety needs to be an ongoing priority for fleet managers – today and in five years’ time. They need to take advantage of the latest in technology and safety features. Keeping track of how vehicles are being driven is only half the battle when it comes to having a safe work environment. The most critical step is encouraging drivers to maintain a high calibre of driving style at all times.

  • We’re seeing Australian organisations invest in vehicle tracking technology. Near real-time access to data on how individual drivers are behaving on the road provides visibility into who is driving too fast, braking harshly or taking corners too hard. The software sends configurable alerts back-to-base when safety thresholds are crossed. With the ability to take quick action, fleet managers can target repeat offenders to curb unsafe driving habits, before they lead to more serious incidents. 

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