How is technology changing fleet management?
Fleet management has benefited over the last decade from advances in technology.
GPS, telematics, fleet tracking, mobile comms, fleet management software and more have all helped.
Operating costs have tightened. Profits boosted. Compliance streamlined. Fleet operators have remained competitive and driver safety has improved.
But things continue to change.
Autonomous vehicles, 5G networks, wearable tech, advanced telematics, augmented reality, mobility as a service, blockchain and electronic vehicles are all set to impact fleet management in the coming decade.
Let’s examine how.
Three Broad Areas
Fleet management technology impacts fleet operations in many areas.
To help understand it, we group the elements into three broad areas:
(1) Fleet Safety
(2) Fleet Operations
(3) Fleet Data
Safety is a key element in pushing fleet management technology.
Covid has caused an increased focus in this area. Be that in cleaning regimens, or driver physical and mental health.
Answers have come in driver well-being programs, supported by in-cab technology data. Combined these improve safety. From spotting bad driving habits, to checking drivers are mentally fit to drive.
Other technologies for improving fleet safety are wearable tech for drivers, advanced telematics and (semi) autonomous vehicles.
While not a technology, Covid affected fleet management and its use of technology.
It pushed fleet operators, fleet managers, and drivers to adapt to evolving circumstances.
The changes included:
Upscaled health and safety procedures. Cleaning routines, social distancing, wearing PPE all became standard to keep drivers safe.
Increased demand. E-commerce became the norm. Resulting in a huge increase in shipping, both to hubs and last-mile delivery. Forcing fleets to upscale and pivot.
Remote fleet management. The fleet manager needed to work from home. Having to learn to track their teams and work through software, rather than face to face.
These changes continue to impact the fleet industry, having often become the new normal.
Wearable tech for drivers
An item looked at by fleet operators is the use of wearable technology by drivers.
Smartwatches offer a two-way solution.
They can give drivers important information with minimal distraction. And they can also send back important data about the drivers’ well-being to fleet managers. Such as health information on the drivers’ fatigue and stress levels.
Combined with telematics systems. Wearable tech creates a more detailed data picture of the driver’s safety.
Telematics continues to be the core technology in fleet management and a key tool for a fleet manager.
Providing real-time updates on locations, vehicle status, and driver behaviour.
As the use of telematics data is a key element of our work, on fleet safety, we have produced articles on the use of telematics data and the issue of having too much.
(Semi) Autonomous vehicles
This is the big-ticket item in fleet management.
The driverless, autonomous vehicle. Be it a car, a van, or a truck.
The accepted scale of vehicle autonomy is the SAE scale. Which has five (or six) levels of vehicle automation.
While the technology exists today to have Level 5 driverless cars. The legislation, acceptance and trust in the concept working on public roads are several steps behind.
Meaning that we are at about Level 2+ “Advanced Partial Automation” or Level 3 “Conditional Automation”
So, the forty-ton driverless HGV is still a while off. But semi-autonomous vehicles are with us.
Radar, automated braking, and all-round camera systems are on HGV’s. Making them safer vehicles for both the driver and those around the vehicle
Such technology is in cars and is making its way into LCVs
This technology will make vehicles safer to drive and be around. As machine reflexes take over from human ones should the situation dictate? Plus, there will be benefits in congestion and pollution levels. As the vehicles are driven more efficiently.
At an operational level, technology will impact fleet management in the areas of mobility as a service, remote fleet management, voice commands, electric vehicles, and augmented reality.
In all these areas the key benefits are flexibility, efficiency and safety.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
While MaaS is a massive opportunity in our near-future personal mobility. It is also becoming an element in B2B Fleet Management.
The acceptance of Uber as both a service for users and a revenue source for vehicle owners is seeping into B2B fleets.
For example, 70% of products in the U.S.A. travel by road. And more than half of fleet operators are having difficulty finding drivers. To solve this combined issue fleet managers could use on-demand services akin to MaaS.
B2B MaaS drivers could move products when businesses run out of in-house resources. Drivers could rent out their services to complete last-mile deliveries. Which is the business model of Roadie, a crowdsourced delivery service (an now part of UPS)
One we highlighted in this post about home delivery.
While this won’t replace traditional fleet operations, it is becoming a viable element.
From efficient vehicle loading to safer driving, Augmented Reality (AR), has a massive role in fleet management.
Already in use in parts of the US air force. AR guides staff wearing smart glasses in maintenance, repair, and inspection tasks. Reducing errors, omissions, and other mistakes. As well as speeding up the task rates.
For drivers, AR can help training, build route familiarity, and simulate incidents. Which makes the driver more cognizant of the situation and safer on the road.
Additionally, AR can deliver enhanced and updated route information to the driver. Making them more efficient in their operational tasks and safer.
Further AR helps with the loading of the vehicles. Scanning and loading every item is a time intense and complicated task. With AR glasses, loaders know where every item needs to be inside the vehicle. Drivers then know where every item is when making deliveries. Again, speeding up tasks and reducing errors.
As with autonomous vehicles, Electric vehicles (EVs) are a big item in fleet management technology.
Environmental, sustainable, legislation and commercial factors are driving the move to EVs. Amazon operates a growing fleet of electric delivery vans. Other services are following suit.
While the vehicles are similar to drive, they are not the same. Plus, maintenance and support needs are different. For example, roadside assistance is different for EVs in tasks as simple as wheel changes.
So, while the move to EVs will only increase. Being the only option from 2030. There is a set of new tasks and knowledge that fleet managers have to master. As covered in this recent Forbes article “How Electric Vehicles Are Disrupting Fleet Management”
Alexa, Cortana, and Siri are now part of our everyday. They make tasks simpler and support safer multi-tasking.
Adding these connected services to vehicles gives drivers and fleet operators more communication and support tools.
Voice commands can order route replans, find new destinations, or update HQ staff.
Removing the need for the driver to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road.
Making for more efficient and safer operations.
Remote fleet management
Covid had a huge impact in this area. With fleet operators having to rapidly pivot to remote fleet management for their fleet management solution.
That has meant moving to cloud-based fleet management software. Investment in mobile communications. And a cultural shift in management methods.
Technology has supported this. Telematics has been supporting a remote workforce for years. So the main change has been for depot and HQ staff.
As Covid recedes, the question will be how fleet managers change. Will they revert to their old methods, stay remote or be a hybrid of the two?
Whichever the choice, the pandemic has proved the technology can support it.
Data is now a key element in fleet management. Or rather the increased amounts and availability of it.
Fleet managers can now measure, analyse, and inform on any part of their fleet’s operations.
Thanks to the amount of data that they have.
This will change further with new technologies and considerations coming into play.
5G, Blockchain, IoT, big data & AI, and data security will all have an impact.
The 5G network is a game-changer in the way the connected world works. Speed, number of connections, and uses will all be more when the network is operational.
We looked at its impact on fleet management and other areas in this article.
Blockchain is a secure record-keeping method. Decentralised and distributed, it brings transparency and accountability to data records.
For fleet management blockchain keeps track of vehicle maintenance, driver’s history, delivery information and many other elements in the most secure, detailed, and transparent way possible.
Additionally, with more data transmitted between parties, data privacy becomes an issue. Blockchain helps here too.
Blockchain then is a technology that helps everyone trust the data.
Keeping communications and working together effective.
IoT and the connected fleet
A connected fleet has been possible thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).
Bringing safety and efficiency for the driver and the fleet operator. But more than that it has changed data collection from a passive activity to an active one.
Making the fleet manager more aware of the real-time situation, and better able to take proactive action when needed.
Cybersecurity and data security
With the increase in data from the fleet. Fleets become more tempting targets for cybercriminals.
Looking to steal data or cause disruption.
So, it is important to protect the data. As any flaw or a breach in the system can lead to commercial and safety issues.
Data security has thus become a concern of fleet managers. They now need to look for and spot potential threats and actual breaches. Plus, know what to do when they spot them, or they happen.
Of course, being good at data security is a commercial advantage for both customer trust and fleet operational efficiency.
AI, big data, and machine learning
The final point on fleet data is how with big data, fleet operators can use AI for insights on improving their operations.
Technology has delivered this capability to even modest-sized fleet operators.
They can now interrogate their data for patterns and learnings on their fleets. Which can deliver cost savings, improved safety, and better customer service.
An example of this from nearly two decades ago is UPS’ research into its big data.
This identified the cost in time lost for making left-hand turns (in the USA). That is, the amount of time wasted by waiting to cross traffic.
From this UPS started route planning that minimised the number of left-hand turns.
The value of this insight and action?
$300m to $400m in the first year.
Additionally, as highlighted by our US-based customers. Turns that cross across traffic are the single most hazardous manoeuvres drivers take. The accident rate is higher than in any other action.
So, eliminating turns across traffic not only saves money it also improves safety.
Nearly twenty years later, AI capability has improved exponentially. As has the amount of big data.
Meaning that insights such as UPS’ should be available to any fleet operator prepared to go looking for them.
Finding them will deliver savings and improvements in driver and fleet safety.
Conclusions and Summary
In 2018 Shell published a report called “Future of Fleet”
It concluded that:
“The pace of change in commercial fleets is accelerating rapidly, and the industry will look radically different within the next 20 years. Alternative fuels, data analytics, automation, and greater connectivity will require new business models, skills, and partnerships between fleet operators, manufacturers, energy and technology providers, and start-ups.”
Nearly four years later, the trends predicted in that report are well in place.
Fleet’s are moving to electric vehicles as the 2030 deadline is only two or three purchasing cycles away.
Covid changed so much. From driver safety protocols to remote fleet management, to increased demand.
Thankfully, the innovation and technology helped that unprecedented pivot be a success.
No doubt a tough one, but also a success.
The near future will see drivers wearing smartwatches and glasses to help with both communication, driving and monitoring of their health.
They will be driving electric-powered vehicles, following routes that are constantly reviewed and updated to be as effective as possible.
The vehicle will be communicating with its surroundings and other vehicles over the 5G network. It will be constantly aware of the road situation, stepping in when safety becomes an issue.
And when the driver arrives at a delivery point their smart glasses will id where the package is in the van.
Meanwhile, back at base, the fleet management team will have data streams giving them a total picture of what, where, how, and when their drivers and vehicles are. Plus, their reporting analysis and insights will be highlighting areas for improvement and efficiency.
CMS and fleet management technology
At CMS we very much exist in the world of fleet management technology.
Clara, our cloud-based platform, takes in the information from telematics, wearable tech, and other sensors to provide analysis and insights for fleet managers and fleet safety.
And as the amount of data and range of sources continue to grow, Clara will combine them all and continue to deliver the risk management insight and incident alerts that make fleets safer.