The Car and Truck Fleet and Leasing Management Magazine

Technology Fuels Productivity for Fleets

Fleet managers have a number of high-tech tools available to increase driver productivity and safety.

February 2014, by Chris Wolski - Also by this author

Screenshot courtesy of Fleetmatics.
Screenshot courtesy of Fleetmatics.

Today's fleets are under constant pressure to be efficient when delivering the company's goods or services to the customer.

While this can sometimes be a difficult task at first glance, fleet management has evolved to handle productivity and efficiency as a matter of course. (Read "Strategies to Increase Productivity" from the February issue.) Technology is key factor in fleet managers' ability to be efficient and productive.

Following are a representative sampling of some of the newest technological options available from telematics and fleet management companies:

Giving Fleets Options

For ARI, technology isn't about advocating one solution, but the best solution for its clients. To that end, the fleet management company developed and maintains a technology lab designed to help its customers find the right technology for their companies' fleets. The lab features both ARI's own telematics and fleet management technology and that of outside companies and partners.

The fleet management company will recommend an outside company's technology if it is the best fit for the fleet in question, according to Lou Vella, ARI's assistant manager of new product development. "We can't be good at everything. Some things aren't core to what ARI does," he said.

As an example, Vella noted routing technology that's paired with geo-location technology. "There are other companies within that space that provide superior technology and a superior product, and, in cases like that, we would recommend the best provider whether it is ARI or not," he said.

Instead, ARI shares information about the technology with its clients as part of its consultative approach to productivity technology.

"The technology lab is a place where our customers can come in and see firsthand what some of this technology can do, and we use this as a learning experience for our customers. The technology is paired off with real examples of how things work or videos in some cases. One of the exciting things we've been doing is offering our consultative services and helping our customers find technologies they can use in their environment. We work to understand the challenge or challenges their business may be facing and help develop solutions that meet their specific needs," Vella explained.

Vella said the response has been "fantastic," and has helped ARI re-engage with clients by creating pilots or referring them to other technology providers.

Relying on Web-Based Analytics

Davis Instruments offers fleet drivers immediate feedback with its CarChip Connect, a real-time, GPS, OBD II device.

"We monitor how the vehicle is being driven and where the vehicle is being driven, so it's both a safety monitoring and efficiency device. There's feedback to the driver, so if they're doing something unsafe or inefficient, there'll be a warning 'beep.' It identifies at-risk behavior and helps coach drivers," explained Mark Barrett, director of sales for Davis Instruments.

The web-based system allows access by managers behind the scenes, produce scored reports on each driver using a red-amber-green system, allowing for at-a-glance evaluation by fleet managers. "CarChip Connect takes the big data that is sent to a company's customized website and distills it down into a single number. Fleet Managers can immediately see which drivers are performing well — and who may need additional training," Barrett said. "Where our customers are getting the biggest benefit is the safety and efficiency aspects of the system. I had one customer who was able to save $1 million through the safety program they implemented with CarChip Connect to identify at-risk behaviors."

Photo of ARI's technology lab courtesy of ARI.
Photo of ARI's technology lab courtesy of ARI.

Introducing a New Technology

Deutsche Telekom and its subsidiary T-Mobile will introduce a new technology in the U.S. The company expects to release the still-to-be-named product sometime in the first quarter of 2014.

The system will build on the company's experience in helping fleets in Europe be more productive and efficient, according to Niclas Andersson, Deutsche Telekom's director of sales.

"What we're doing in the automotive space is a different approach. Our intention is to expand on some of our capabilities that we have in Europe within a variety of solutions going beyond connectivity," Andersson explained.

Andersson said the first trial in the U.S. was with an automotive asset and inventory management service called iCar in cooperation with Un-Blinking Technologies is now being tested together with Barrier Motors to manage inventory, and additional options, such as proactive service offerings, real-time GPS monitoring, eco-drive functionality including possible electronic boundaries for the consumer vehicle.

Fleets in the U.S. that are expected to be the first users are small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) fleets, giving them a comprehensive inventory overview, including routing. "The goal is to provide a complete turnkey service to fleet customers," Andersson said. "It will be designed more like an asset management system, and can be combined with security systems. It's more about how to extend the services."

The system will allow accessibility through smart devices and will be a service and not require any up-front costs.

Monitoring Preventive Maintenance

Donlen's DriverPoint telematics offers its customers a number of fleet management applications including customized analytic tools. Among the most recent innovations are a maintenance analysis and an engine diagnostics tool.

"For one of our clients, we analyzed maintenance times by different maintenance vendors. For example, an oil change at one vendor might take 20 minutes while at another vendor it might take more than two hours. By being equipped with that information and data, they were then able to route the drivers to the proper vendors, so they're not wasting their time waiting for service," said Tom Sloan, Donlen's director of telematics.

Vehicle diagnostics is another new area for Donlen's DriverPoint solution. The goal with this new analytic tool is to try to predict the timing of severe engine failures or when major maintenance work needs to be done before a vehicle has to be pulled out of service for an extended period of time. To that end, the DriverPoint system can capture engine trouble codes directly from the vehicle. "The goal is to nip those problems in the bud before the engine actually does fail by capturing that data that you may not notice when you're behind the wheel driving," Sloan said.

Donlen has also added some additional improvements, so it can be integrated into other companies' management software to increase driver productivity.

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