The fleet industry is on the verge of a productivity revolution through the introduction of faster, better, and more sophisticated analytical tools. This revolution will be further fueled by an explosion of increasingly powerful driver apps and the ever-widening preference of mobile technology as the primary medium drivers will use to fulfill most mundane fleet tasks, such as mileage reporting, log books, and complying with preventive maintenance schedules.
Developing in parallel with this trend are increasingly sophisticated vehicle connectivity tools that will turn predictive analytics into a true science. The first manifestation of this will be the transition of fleet maintenance from reactive to proactive practices using remote diagnostic tools. The impact on fleet will be further augmented by the macro societal migration to the “Internet of Everything” and the use of Big Data to drive fleet data analytics.
In most cases, these fleet trends will be manifestations of a broader technological transformation that is percolating throughout the global economy, impacting many different industry segments, with fleet representing only one offshoot of this multi-pronged, multi-faceted change.
Fleet is an Early Adopter
Historically, fleet has proven to be an early adopter of new technologies and business practices; therefore, it is important to watch how technology and business practices are evolving outside of fleet. How will these innovations be incorporated into fleet management? Without a doubt, the greatest catalyst for fleet management change in the next 10-15 years will be technology-driven, and it will be driven by technology developed outside of the fleet management arena that will be customized to our business practices. This will result in a myriad of traditional fleet functions redefined by technology. Many observers can envision advances in onboard automotive technology from non-traditional suppliers integrating their products into future vehicles, such as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Will other non-traditional (and traditional) suppliers create the onboard technology to directly manage fuel purchases or allow for proactive maintenance scheduling?
Similarly, most subject-matter experts see Big Data as having a tremendous future impact on fleet management. Big Data will drive decisions for all aspects of fleet management, including vehicle selection, maintenance management, and fleet safety initiatives. With the use of fleet analytics and accessibility to greater amounts of data, fleets will become ultra-efficient and gain the capability to make quantifiable increases in driver productivity.
In the near-term, Big Data will help fleet managers understand relationships that were never analyzed in the past, such as employing metrics to enhance sales performance by fine-tuning vehicle routing to a granular level. Or, identifying previously unrecognized patterns for accidents by evaluating data in ways that we would never have considered in the recent past.
Data Analytics the New Engine of Change
Data analytics will grow in importance and become the primary engine that will drive fleet productivity to the next level. Data analytics is the new frontier of fleet management that will ultimately transform the profession from an “art” to a true science. It will create the ability to use analytical tools to turn raw data into actionable events. This watershed development will significantly impact all fleet managers, regardless of fleet vocation and fleet size. These next-generation productivity tools will aggregate and correlate massive amounts of data and turn these data points into the industry’s new best practices that, in turn, will evolve into the new best-in-class standards that will drive our industry.
Currently, and even more so in the future, fleet productivity will revolve around telematics. Fleet productivity tools are evolving at a rapid pace due to the adoption of telematics by many commercial fleets. There will be improvements in the standardization of data collected between telematics providers and their devices, as well as between vehicle types. As the technology evolves, fleet managers will become more comfortable implementing telematics solutions and using this technology as a productivity tool.
Changes in the Way Fleets are Managed
The widespread rise of integrated, advanced data analytics will be the start of a new chapter in the history of fleet management. Data being generated by the vehicle itself, combined with its actual and predictive maintenance data, will allow fleets to target replacement schedules on a vehicle-by-vehicle basis rather than a generalized replacement date.
Looking further into the future, we have yet to realize the full implications of drivers using “digital wallets” and the impact of wearable devices, such as smart watches, body cameras, the next iteration of Google-like glasses, health monitoring devices, etc.
The fleet managers of tomorrow will marvel how we were able to accomplish what we did with the primitive tools of our era.
Let me know what you think.