When it comes to fleet management, it’s now about the convergence of established technologies and innovative tools.

Traditionally, we have thought about fleet management in its different aspects – telematics for powered vehicles, asset management for what is being transported, and more recently, driver safety. But now these parts are coming together as never before.

It’s a convergence of fleet solutions that enable the collection of more actionable data that helps companies manage their operations more efficiently.

And with that improved efficiency comes a bonus: possibly lower costs for insurance. With safer driving and fewer accidents, plus an enhanced ability to keep track of vehicles and assets so they are less likely to be lost or stolen, insurance costs can be better controlled.

The sum of the parts

Companies with fleets have been relying on limited data for years. But with the collection of so much more valuable data today from so many IoT (internet of things) technologies; in vehicles, on trailers / assets, and in the cab, we’re reaching a point where the whole is much greater than the sum of the parts.

For example, fleet telematics has evolved into a comprehensive system of knowing where vehicles are, how fast they’re going, scheduled and actual arrival times, and preventive maintenance. Combining fleet telematics with asset management offers the ability to know in real time where a trailer is, where individual pallets of materials are, the ambient temperature of a trailer, and more.

More recently, driver safety tools have gained traction and moved far beyond the simple – but valuable – monitoring of speed, hard braking or acceleration, and other good and bad driver behaviors. Now, with in-cab cameras, device usage monitors, and recorders we can get a complete picture of a driver’s actions, often in near real-time, ensuring the driver is always engaging in safe, authorized behavior.

Safety: the new emphasis

It is driver safety that is rightly getting the most attention today. Federal regulations that focus on how much time a driver spends on the road (HOS: Hours of Service) and that require implementation of an electronic logbook (ELD: Electronic Logging Device) have helped shine a spotlight in this area.

In addition to protecting their most important assets – human employees – organizations also want to limit the costs of traffic accidents and other incidents. Damage to cargo, damage to the vehicles and equipment, and liability – all these impose a significant cost on a business over and above any harm to their drivers and others on the road.

Considering that most accidents result from distracted driving, and a major source of that distraction are the mobile devices used by drivers, it is critical to limit potential distractions in the cab. That’s where in-cabin cameras paired with artificial intelligence can help.

Visual monitoring of drivers can capture important information such as mobile device use at inappropriate times, drowsiness, distracted eating, and other behaviors. Negative road behavior such as aggressive driving, tailgating, weaving, and hard braking can be better detected as well. These can be dealt with in real time or through later coaching.

Many companies are moving to in-cab notifications directly to drivers – not via their mobile devices – because this has been proven to be far less distracting than using the device. These notifications can do much more than just convey information; they can provide necessary coaching regarding behaviors behind the wheel. In one five-month study by Nauto, for instance, use of in-cab notifications reduced distracted events by 54 percent. 

Putting it all together

Driver safety may be in the spotlight at the moment, but it is the combined trinity of fleet management – vehicles, assets, and drivers – whose convergence is making it possible to maximize the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of fleet operations.

The challenge is to harness all the valuable data that the convergence of fleet management tools make readily available and use that data to help make better tactical and strategic decisions on how to improve fleet operations. The best approach is to find a partner that offers the right mix of solutions across this new world of fleet management. Then you can optimize your data and channel it so that it drives the best decisions.