By Mike Antich
Do you know the location of your fleet vehicles during work hours? The most likely answer is no. In fact, nine out of 10 fleet managers have no idea where their fleet vehicles are at any given time. This assertion is based on a recent study commissioned by TeleNav that revealed 94 percent of those who operate corporate vehicles are completely unaware of their fleet's location during work hours. "The results of our survey are staggering. Not knowing where your fleet is throughout the day can result in higher fuel costs, increased payroll expenses, and sub-par customer service," said Sal Dhanani, co-founder and senior director of marketing for TeleNav.
However, this may soon change as a result of growth in the deployment of mobile resource management (MRM) systems. The market for MRM services using GPS-equipped cellular phones and other portable devices is expanding rapidly. Suppliers of field force automation and transportation/logistics applications are increasingly integrating mobile workforce location information from GPS-equipped handsets into their applications for improved time and task management, dispatching efficiency, route optimization, customer service, and other benefits.
C.J. Driscoll & Associates, in a comprehensive study on the U.S. market for MRM systems, concluded there will be 5.8 million GPS/wireless devices in use by 2009 to monitor fleet vehicles, trailers, construction equipment, and mobile workers. According to Driscoll, MRM market growth will be fueled by the availability of low-cost, reliable wireless data communication networks, the incorporation of GPS location as a core component of field force automation and transportation/logistics applications, and growing demand for the monitoring of mobile assets, including trailers, heavy equipment, and high-value products. The C.J. Driscoll & Associates report concludes that the market for monitoring mobile workers with GPS-equipped cellular phones and other portable devices will grow rapidly.
Others Prognosticators See a Similar Future
ABI Research reports that one of the faster-growing areas in the commercial telematics market is the use of GPS-enabled mobile handsets for mobile resource management. Using these systems, fleet data is actively sent via a mobile phone to a centralized server. This allows fleet managers to better organize field workers and make operations more efficient.
Frost & Sullivan is another research company that shares a similar assessment. In a brand-new study released in October 2008, Frost & Sullivan said the handset-based mobile resource management market is set to grow at a quick pace as businesses perceive the financial benefits of MRM solutions. The new Frost & Sullivan report, entitled "North American Mobile Resource Management Markets: Handset-based Field Productivity Solutions," estimates that U.S. handset-based MRM revenues totaled more than $154 million in 2007 and projects it will surpass $1.6 billion by 2013.
According to the Frost & Sullivan study, moving MRM from large, proprietary in-vehicle systems to less expensive GPS-enabled handsets and Web-based tracking has opened up the technology to all size businesses and a wider array of vertical industries. GPS-enabled handsets are ideal for small to mid-sized fleets looking for a simple and lower-cost means of communicating with drivers, and looking to determine their status for dispatching, time sheet reporting, navigation, and exceptions-based alerts.
However, ABI Research cautions that fleet management services delivered by a handset are by no means a comprehensive solution, and can never replace embedded hardware. According to ABI Research, integrated in-cab hardware offers a deeper level of functionality for fleets, partially including remote diagnostics, driver hours-of-service reporting, cargo monitoring, and additional choices in wireless communications links.
Looking to the Future
Mobile resource management systems allow companies to know where their fleet vehicles are at any given time. "MRM systems allow businesses of all sizes to increase their productivity and reduce costs," said Dhanani. "For example, line managers can use GPS tracking to review routes to see if trips are running longer than expected or determine the vehicle nearest the customer and dispatch more efficiently. Additionally, MRM services can estimate how long it will take a vehicle to reach a customer's location, which can help increase overall customer satisfaction."
I agree with all of these assessments. I predict that MRM/GPS-based fleet management will become commonplace and viewed as an essential component of fleet management. In the not too distant future, MRM/GPS technology will be regarded as necessary prerequisites of running a well-managed fleet. These systems will allow fleet managers to know the location of their mobile assets on a 24/7 basis. This is the future of fleet management. In fact, I can envision future generations of fleet managers marveling in amazement at how the fleet managers of 2008 were ever able to efficiently manage fleets without these capabilities.
Let me know what you think.