Cheat Sheet to Capitalizing on Fleet Data
Graphic courtesy of iStockphoto.com.
While many fleets understand the benefits of knowing where your vehicles have been and are going, they might not be digging as deep as they can to mine through all the useful data being pulled on a daily, hourly, and, sometimes, by-the-minute basis. Here are some easy reminders on how to get the most out of your data.
Companies can feed all the data they collect into internal databases, and through the integration of third-party programs, can carry out an in-depth analysis. By looking at vehicle efficiency and driver behavior, they can benchmark fleet performance and find connections and relationships between different factors.
It can be as simple as a fleet wanting to determine whether or not they are getting the proper fuel efficiency out of their vehicles. They would compare the fleet’s miles per gallon against the manufacturer’s listed fuel consumption rating, as well as things like fuel consumed versus fuel card purchases, or even how different road conditions and weather affect fuel economy.
In most cases, fleets can use what they learned from big data in three different ways: benchmarking, predictive analysis, and the use of aggregate intelligence data sets. Benchmarking, like the situation previously mentioned concerning fuel economy, can give drivers a goal to attain, and show fleet managers where they can find the weakest link and the best ways to strengthen it.
Predictive analysis gives managers a prediction, based on past performance, on the behaviors that could affect a driver’s ability to navigate their route safely and securely. Aggregate intelligence datasets allow fleets to look broadly at the collected data and determine very specific predictions, such as dangerous intersections based on the past number of accidents.
It’s not always easy to sell the idea of telematics to upper management decision-makers in your company. That’s why some fleets combine telematics with other solutions to garner more buy-in through the concept of data integration. For example, fleets now have the ability to combine video with telematics to reduce risk even more, improve accident rates, and have the ability to offer visual evidence to disprove false claims.
Telematics can also become an assistant to other departments in your company, including payroll. Through an application programming interface — or API — a telematics system can deliver information such as driver name, the time windows in which they used their vehicles, and even time on-site. Pair that with the creation of optimized routes for each driver, and you have a system that will allow your organization to immediately send information to your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to allow for faster customer billing and notification.
Telematics systems, while seen as a safety tool in terms of driver training, can also help be integrated with systems that help them avoid collisions and re-train them while on the job. Crash avoidance systems, while gaining popularity in the consumer vehicle market at the OEM level, can become important tools in the aftermarket commercial vehicle market as well. These systems offer visual and audible alerts to drivers if an imminent collision is detected, which can reduce accident rates. The system can automatically alert drivers when there are unintentional lane departures, unsafe following distances from vehicles ahead, forward collision warnings, and pedestrian collision warnings.
While gamification is still in its infancy, its acceptance is growing and becoming more than just a tool to improve driver behavior. The popularity of smartphones and the increasing number of available apps are a driving force behind gamification’s acceptance by drivers, who once saw its use as a tool of “Big Brother.” It’s becoming more of a form of social gaming among drivers, with each one trying to outdo the other’s score.
Driver scores could measure a decrease in speeding or hard braking over a defined time period, or could measure who is getting the highest MPG score over a month. It can bring out the competitive nature in drivers, which can then lead to reduced fuel usage, increased productivity, and fewer accidents. And prizes are not a necessity. While an extra vacation day or cash bonus will certainly sweeten the pot, something as simple as bragging rights can give drivers all they need to do their best.
But don’t try to do it all at once. Gamification is best served in small doses, and if you try to rush your fleet into a program, you might see some pushback. Ease into the concept, see if there are any concerns or complaints, make adjustments, and then try again. It is not something that works overnight, but the benefits of creating a fun and interactive program has more pros than cons.
With all that data you’re extrapolating from your telematics system, why not give others a look at the wares? In other words, why not share some of your information with your customers? While this won’t work in every aspect of the fleet industry, in terms of those that use their vehicles for delivery of goods or services, telematics can give your customers some sense of timing and reliability.
Maybe it’s something as simple as automatic updates on the state of a supply delivery to a customer. And with the constant evolution and fine-tuning of smartphone applications, you might even be able to create an app which follows your customers goods from pickup to delivery, giving them reassurance that their business is important to you.
The world of telematics is an ever-growing and evolving landscape. In the years that come, who knows what else will be possible with the devices, data, and software that is out there and on the horizon. But it’s best to keep ahead of the pack when applying telematics to your fleet by taking full advantage of the benefits as they continue to develop.