Technological advances mean fleets can access all manner of real-time information about their vehicles. But what is it you really need at your fingertips?
The key to running a fleet effectively is knowledge: knowing what is happening, when, and why.
In your fleet, you will need to access a wide variety of data streams to effectively manage vehicles, drivers and operational requirements, and with the latest technology you can often get access to most of these in real-time.
Instant notifications through 4G and 5G and wifi-based systems and telematics can now report vehicle diagnostics, such as tyre pressure warnings or fault codes for engines, and enable the monitoring of a vehicle’s health status in real time.
So you can see when vehicles are broken down, behind schedule, or have technical issues, and even with some providers get granular information which tells you when a part is about to fail. Then there is information available for overall fleet performance reporting for areas such as mileage, location and fuel consumption.
What this high speed information does is give you insight, and for the modern connected fleet this is hugely beneficial, as you can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Actionable intelligence about what’s going on in real time can build a picture of issues with particular vehicle types or the behaviours of certain drivers, and can highlight reliability problems with certain parts.
You won’t need to know about some of the information created by your fleet operation in real-time, but for other aspects, you will.
For example, you probably don’t need to know mileage for every vehicle every single hour of every single day, because although funding and servicing requires keeping a close track on it regularly, it isn’t going to impact on your company on a daily basis.
However, there are some areas that it is worth keeping a close eye on, and these tend to be those where drivers have some responsibility over spending company money. After all, once it’s spent, it’s gone.
Take some aspects of maintenance for example. If drivers are able to buy new tyres, oil, replacement windscreens or other on-the-road expenses such as food and drink without any oversight you could find yourself trying to manage uncontrolled spending after the event.
Some of these purchases will require your expert insight and input – which tyre to fit as a replacement for example - but many won’t. And what you don’t want to be doing is approving every purchase for a sandwich or litre of oil as they happen. So look for systems where real-time control can be automated.
In these cases, being able to manage daily spend through a dashboard is incredibly useful – you can put in place spending controls for each employee that effectively do the job of real time management, giving you the best of both worlds: instant control over spend without adding huge amounts of administration to your workload.
It’s important to have a clear idea of what you need to know in real time and the amount of work that will be involved in managing it, and what are the goals:
What is the goal of having this information?
How long will it take to turn the data into actionable information?
What technology is required to gather the data?
What will you then be able to do with this data?
Take fuel as an example. If you gather real time information on fuel purchasing, the goal might be to understand what your company is spending on any given day so you can budget more effectively and look for ways of reducing consumption and costs.
But if you are just confronted with hundreds of purchases daily without any structure or context, then making any sense of them will require a lot of time. And if you are using spreadsheets to collate this, will they need inputting, and then time spent comparing against historic data, vehicle logs and driver information.
Not least then, is what can you do with it? The spend needs to relate to current fuel prices and historic spending to show trends, before you can start to look for improvements. It might require a huge amount of work with no guarantee you will discover ways to improve.
With a provider such as Allstar, you can get all the data – both contemporary and historic - presented for you on an online dashboard which allows you to jump many stages and go straight to the analysis stage.
You can see what is being spent, where and by whom, allowing you to make tactical decisions on a daily basis if you so wish, such as where drivers refuel, and strategic ones for the future on improving fuel economy through vehicle choice, or identifying employees who drive less efficiently than others.
There is no doubt that as technology develops, fleets will be able to receive more and more real-time information. In some cases this will be tremendously useful, but it is also worth being careful about what you receive. Having too much information, much of which is not actionable or immediately useful could have the opposite effect and result in you drowning in data. So ask yourself: what do I want to achieve with real time information, and what can I manage?
Once you have decided on what information you would like at your fingertips, and what you want to do with that data, you can put in place technology and processes to manage it, putting you in the driver’s seat, but crucially only when you need to.