As fleet management continues to evolve amid converging technologies and an always-changing regulatory environment, small to mid-size businesses that operate fleets of vehicles and equipment are understandably searching for the best way to stay on top of all of this.
That is why more and more companies are embracing fleet management systems. These advanced systems, in which vehicles and key assets are outfitted with sensors that transmit data wirelessly for artificial intelligence-based analysis, deliver a superior overall view of a company’s fleet operations.
And with that view comes a much clearer picture of how to improve and optimize those operations. Here are four ways that fleet management systems are improving operations for a rapidly growing number of small to mid-size companies:
1. Enable compliance
Compliance is serious business – never more so than in 2020 – and no company wants to run afoul of the various requirements. Activity logs, fuel tax payments, equipment inspections, and particularly drivers’ time spent behind the wheel are all significant aspects of compliance today.
A fleet management system that incorporates electronic logging devices, or ELDs, goes a long way toward keeping your company compliant. These units reduce inspection time by providing comprehensive logging data. And because ELDs remove the human element, they reduce the likelihood of simple mistakes while at the same time all but eliminate paperwork: two very good reasons to look closely at these systems.
The benefits? Accuracy in various logs is ensured, and even better, the information is available at all times. Reporting becomes easier, and so does your ability to plan and monitor fleet activities. Drivers who used to spend unproductive time filling out required information are freed for more productive activities such as keeping your vehicles on the road and making money for your company.
2. Enhance safety
Safety for your employees, your vehicles, and everyone around them is a top priority for any fleet operation. Fleet management systems with in-vehicle sensors improve drivers’ performance, reduce risks, and allow you to communicate with drivers safely. These sensors allow monitoring of speed, driving styles, aggressive acceleration or braking, unscheduled stops, excessive idling, and out-of-route miles.
With so much data about how your drivers perform on the road, it allows you to coach them in order to improve their behind-the-wheel behavior and make sure your policies are being followed.
Monitored drivers are proven to be more likely to follow their companies’ policies, traffic laws, and industry regulations. That means fewer accidents, liability claims, and traffic tickets. Which translates to lower insurance premiums and greater peace of mind for fleet managers.
Advanced fleet management systems also help to reduce distracted driving, the cause of so many accidents, by streamlining communications with drivers. Sending in-cab notifications through the system – rather than through drivers’ phones – is less distracting. And with an artificial intelligence-based system equipped with in-cab cameras, you can spot issues such as mobile device use at inappropriate times and any distractions associated with eating, as well as drowsiness and other concerns.
It’s not all about negatives. These systems can also be used to clear drivers of liability in case of an accident. In addition, you can easily set up geographic limits to where your vehicles can go, to help drivers avoid non-approved areas where there may be higher risks of theft, damage, or traffic dangers.
3. Improve performance
The more you know about your fleet vehicles, assets, and drivers, the better equipped you are to improve their performance along with the cost-effectiveness of your entire operation.
For example, by knowing in detail the status of each vehicle and how it is being driven – leveraging the analytics capabilities of a fleet management system – you can know exactly how well that vehicle’s engine and other systems are performing. That enables quickly diagnoses about whether maintenance is needed and, importantly, how to improve fuel usage.
A sidelined vehicle doesn’t generate revenue. If you can maximize the productive hours for each of your vehicles, getting more out of them and extending their usable life, it only enhances your bottom line. With fleet management system sensors in place to monitor fuel levels, tire pressure, oil status, engine temperature readings, and brake wear, for instance, you know ahead of time whether a vehicle may be headed for a breakdown. Then you can take action to manage that situation before a serious problem occurs.
Tracking vehicle status and driver performance through the system also boosts your fuel management capabilities and reduces fuel costs. By better managing driver behavior – such as quick acceleration and speeding – it saves fuel. So does something as simple as reducing the amount of idling by the average fleet vehicle. When you have this kind of data, you know what to target when it comes to saving money.
4. Deliver fleet efficiency
Operational efficiency is all about doing the best you can to track your fleet vehicles, monitor their use, and achieving optimal planning and scheduling. This is where fleet management systems shine.
With a system in place, you always know exactly where your vehicles are, whether they’re parked, idling, or moving. You can monitor scheduled and actual arrival times and even environmental data inside a vehicle or trailer.
By embracing preventive rather than reactive maintenance, you reduce costs. With the real-time diagnostics that a system provides, you know immediately if a vehicle is not performing well or needs maintenance. You can also:
- Optimize fleet schedules based on hours of service availability
- Track driver performance operationally and for safety
- Quickly notify drivers of a route change through cab-mounted mobile tablets
- Streamline back office processes, replacing paper with electronic data
- Automate day-to-day workflows and repetitive manual tasks
Bottom line: For all these reasons and more, a fleet management system can deliver a cost-effective upgrade in fleet efficiency and in the ways that small to mid-size businesses manage their vehicles, their equipment assets, and the employees who operate them.