Cloud computing and big data are powering real-time vehicle monitoring in systems that capture a wealth of actionable information from tire pressures and idling times to, speed, locations and routes. These telematics and analytics-driven fleet management tools can deliver data to desktop dashboards, but more importantly, recent developments in how that information is aggregated and presented to users have truly harnessed the power of the Internet of things. As a result, managers and drivers can make informed decisions that reduce accident rates and fuel usage, maximize resource deployment and mitigate vehicle wear and tear. 


Eco-Driving – Small Changes, Big Results
Investing in a fleet of hybrid vehicles can be cost prohibitive, but even minor changes in driver behavior can achieve significant reductions in fuel consumption and carbon emissions without buying new models. According to the EPA, “smart driving” also known as “eco-driving,” can improve fuel efficiency by more than 30 percent. Armed with data such as acceleration, hard stops, and idling times, managers can work with drivers to modify behaviors and then follow the progress. Simple changes such as keeping a steady speed between traffic lights, using cruise control on the highway and shutting engines off when standing for more than five minutes, will have a considerable impact across a fleet. The latest fleet management systems can produce reports that track and quantify the results, giving agencies the opportunity to reward employees and publicize successful sustainability efforts.

Proper maintenance can boost those numbers even more. A faulty oxygen sensor alone can cause a 40 percent decrease in fuel efficiency, so diagnostics information is delivered to managers’ desktops much like a driver would see the “Check Engine” light. Rather than a maintenance schedule based on mileage, these sophisticated systems monitor engine run times so routine upkeep like fluid and filter changes are more timely, drivers can be reminded to optimize tire pressure, and other potential issues can be addressed quickly before breakdowns occur.


Accident Prevention & Liability Management
In addition to the potential for injury or even death, crashes can cost thousands or even millions of dollars in repairs, downtime, litigation and reparations. One of the most significant advances in telematics and analytics-based fleet management systems over the past decade is the ability to predict which drivers are most likely to have an accident. The data can also demonstrate whether driver safety training programs are effective. Speeding, hard breaking, and lack of turn signals are useful to identify risky driving behaviors, but if training and safe-driving reward programs reduce those bad habits and the accident rate fails to fall as expected, managers can look at other potential issues such as fatigue or distracted driving.

Limiting liability and proactively addressing risk management extend beyond driver behavior. GPS tracking is nearly as good as an eyewitness in certain situations. For example, a complaint is made claiming debris from a municipal dump truck broke a windshield. With recorded GPS locations, it is easy to check whether one of the dump trucks was in the vicinity at the time. Snowplow supposedly ruined a mailbox? Simply run a check.


Maximizing Deployed Resources
It is also possible to be proactive when the right information is presented at the right time. In winter conditions, for example, if one vehicle’s antilock breaks engage, other vehicles in the area can be advised to use caution and sanding trucks can be deployed. If citizens are calling about a neighborhood not being plowed, the highway department can give them a fairly accurate estimate of when to expect the plows based on current locations.

Following storm events, managers can assess the efficiency of their deployed resources by reviewing how many trucks were out and how long they were in each location removing snow or clearing tree limbs and storm drains. The data can inform decisions for future events and support the argument for increasing resources if needed.


The good, the bad, the actionable
The ability to collect data, analyze that data and distill it down to provide a true picture of total cost of ownership and identify trends (both good and bad), is essential for determining where there is room for improvement and cost savings. Some of it is low-hanging fruit, while other initiatives require driver buy-in. The analysis that comes from vehicle and driver behavior data collection should guide the path that organizations take, and fleet management solutions providers should work with their clients to customize the systems to best meet agencies’ particular needs.

The most important considerations are always improving safety and reducing costs, which really go hand-in-hand. A close second is environmental consciousness, particularly in municipalities that have made sustainability a priority. Pilot programs are a great place to start. Test drive a fleet management system to make sure an implementation will have a meaningful impact to achieve specific goals.

 

Contributed by Maria Neve, Government Sales Manager, Merchants Fleet Management