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.[PAGEBREAK]

Leveraging Business Intelligence

Fleetmatics is focused on how to turn business intelligence into an asset. "We have 20,000 customers with 417,000 vehicles reporting into us every 90 seconds, so we have billions and billions of data points to work with. We've been more focused lately about business intelligence as an asset and helping our customers large and small leverage that data to tell a story relevant to others or relevant to a scale beyond themselves," according to Todd Ewing, director of product marketing for Fleetmatics.

A new way that Fleetmatics is looking at data is with its Hotspots application.

"We can use the data and look at where drivers are going, where are the clusters of activity, and relay that to the fleet manager," Ewing said. "Hotspots is the first step in allowing us to proactively identify a client's key locations, rather than relying on the client to advise us. Ultimately, we want to be able to tell our clients: here's where your drivers are going, here's where your offices are, here's where your customers are. And, we'll be able to do that. We have the information to make it real."

Screenshots courtesy of GE Capital Fleet Services.

Screenshots courtesy of GE Capital Fleet Services.

Predicting Activity

GE Capital Fleet Services is seeing an increasing number of fleets adopting telematics as a regular part of business, and they're using its Monitor Application in increasingly sophisticated ways to increase uptime and productivity.  "A number of our telematics customers are using the key telematics data to change things such as where and when they pick up their inventory of parts for service needs, so their drivers spend less time at branch locations and more time servicing customers," explained Mike Mrosko, GE Capital Fleet Services' telematics product leader.

Another new offering is asset tracking, which is designed to keep tabs on ancillary equipment, such as a trailer or a small forklift. The cellular device sends a "ping" whenever the equipment is moved.

"We've also developed a tool to help our customers manage their idle asset inventory. The tool helps fleet managers identify and track when and which units are pulled out of service and helps monitor to ensure those units don't remain in storage too long. This leads to cost reduction and improved productivity of the assets," said Teresa Johnson, Fleet Management Solutions' product and RFP leader for GE Capital Fleet Services.

Going part-and-parcel with GE Capital Fleet Services' telematics solutions is predictive analytics. "We're building predictive analytic tools to gain visibility of future spend, this will allow us to run scenario analysis to see tomorrow's cost impact of today's actions" said Steve Jastrow, strategic consulting services manager. This turn to predictive analytics reflects GE's corporate push of using big data throughout all of the company.

Mrosko said the most significant cost savings opportunities are in the area of driver productivity. "We have an installation company focused on decreasing branch stop occurrences and time. As a result of their focus, they've been able to add more installations per installer per day — which is a huge driver of their bottom-line results," Mrosko said. 

GE Capital Fleet Services has also launched a collision avoidance device, which gives a physical alert when the vehicle is approaching an object too quickly.

Simplifying Productivity 

GPS Insight offers a customizable solution that can include more than 40 reports and alerts from an a la carte menu. Among its solution's new features are "categories" and "attributes." "This is extremely simplified, yet powerful searching within the software. For instance, if you're a dispatcher, and just received a call for a job that requires a bucket truck with a 50 foot boom, you can quickly search for that particular attribute and see where the truck is and what its current status is," explained Ryan Driscoll, marketing director for GPS Insight.

The newest product on the horizon for the company is its new mapping software, 2D Live. The real-time mapping software is expected to be available during the first quarter of 2014. According to Driscoll, the way GPS tracking software mapping stands today; all vehicles are refreshed on a 30-second schedule, not in absolute real-time. Customers' browsers are typically 10-25 seconds lagged when a device reports.  "What makes 2D Live revolutionary is how GPS Insight re-architected how data is processed and displayed. The mapping now updates vehicle and driver data faster than ever before, with literally no lag from the time a device reports to the time it is updated in the map. Customers who need to see their vehicle location the instant the device reports will really benefit from this," Driscoll said.

Focusing on Safety

Lytx is focused on the performance of drivers related to safety. To help keep fleets safe, the company has developed a program built around predictive analytics that identify drivers most likely to be involved in a collision.  The program utilizes a device that captures data about how the driver is driving, covering a wide-range of driving activities from driving too close to texting to not wearing a seat belt.

"The device is cellular, and it has two imagers — one facing the road and one facing the driver — so you'll get a view of what's taking place in the vehicle as well as what's taking place around the driver. It's an exception-based video," said Chris Silver, Lytx's director of marketing.

The system captures 8 seconds of video before the event and 4 seconds after. "The goal is to capture what happened," Silver said. "What's most interesting is capturing the behavior that led to the event, which we can then follow up with in coaching and scoring."

The Lytx device has a fleet tracking component, so it can be used not only to help improve fleet safety, but can be added to the established fleet management system for routing or other mapping functions.

Silver noted that while telematics is a data-driven business, there are qualitative benefits that fleets can derive apart from hard-cost savings. "We haven't yet quantified this, but we've heard a lot about customer service. There's something about someone paying attention to these drivers and treating them as professionals. We've heard that, if they're uniformed drivers, they have sharper uniforms and they're being nicer to customers. Customers tell us that when driver performance is better, customer service is better too," Silver said.[PAGEBREAK]

Zeroing In on the Driver

PHH Arval's approach to driver technology is to focus on the fundamentals — the driver. The tools follow from what the driver needs to accomplish their jobs and stay productive.

"We've seen a huge opportunity for usability for the driver," said Dave Zuidema, senior vice president and CIO of PHH Arval. "We're looking at how to make the solutions as user friendly and painless to use for the drivers as possible." For instance, PHH Arval has developed a system to make the tracking of personal-use miles easier, decreasing reporting time by 42 percent, according to Zuidema.

PHH Arval's telematics solution PHH Onboard is designed to help find more precise uses for the data that's being captured. "One size doesn't fit all," said Bruce Horan, director of PHH Onboard. "Two ways we're doing this is by creating individualized driver profiles to help identify and proscribe a solution. The telematics data helps to get to the granular level to develop that profile. There's a lot of data points out there that we haven't traditionally pulled together to create this risk profile. From a productivity standpoint, the ability to monetize each one of those activities and understand the cost for each activity is huge because we can help companies develop a cost per job. The ability to analyze and monetize it is key."

PHH Arval has taken a holistic approach to helping its clients be more productive. "When clients come to us saying they have a problem in a particular area, they're not really looking for an al a carte solution, they want to know how long and how much before I can become more efficient. I think we're looking at this as a holistic approach to end-to-end. How do we achieve the goal by combining the PHH service and everything around it instead of individualized products," Horan said.

Screenshot of FleetLocate 2.1 courtesy of Spireon.

Screenshot of FleetLocate 2.1 courtesy of Spireon.

Acting on Business Intelligence

Not just collecting, but acting on business intelligence data is a hallmark of Spireon's just-released FleetLocate 2.1, according to Richard Pearlman, Spireon's director for product management for fleet. FleetLocate 2.1 is built on the company's scalable platform, which can be used to develop a number of actionable reports. For small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), FleetLocate 2.1 has the business intelligence to help SMBs monitor negative driver behaviors such as speeding and excessive idling to managing start/stop times and vehicle maintenance.

"Probably the most innovative thing we've done is FleetLocate's Joe Gibbs Driver Performance Program," Pearlman said. "We have gamified driver performance."

Launched with their Enterprise Fleet Management solution, the Spireon-Gibbs' driver performance system takes driver metrics — speeding, hard braking, idling, etc. — and scores them and puts them in game format so the drivers compete with each other and teams compete against each other. The system is designed to provide incentives and social media pressure is also a great motivator, according to Pearlman.

For Spireon's fleet customers they have seen lowered idle times and harsh braking among other productivity improvements.

Relocating Assets to the Right Place at the Right Time

For Telogis, one of the keys to productivity is getting drivers to jobsites efficiently and on time.  To this end, the company has launched a mobile application called WorkPlan, which is part of the Telogis mobile solution. "Using location intelligence is mission-critical to productivity gains. Customers consistently request solutions that can manage their work orders from planning to data collection in the field, all as a way to be more productive. Integrating mobile applications as part of a comprehensive platform approach has been a key factor in meeting this demand," explained Mark Wallin, vice president of product management for Telogis.

This is particularly the case for drivers in the field, who can receive up-to-date, detailed information routing them to the job in the field via their smart phones, and collect data necessary to complete the job. The WorkPlan solution can be viewed either using an Android or iOS device.

Drivers become more productive by having the jobs handled electronically in real-time accurately, according to Wallin. From the fleet manager-side of the equation, it allows the easy reallocation of personnel and equipment, so jobs can be completed on time.

Improving Driving in Real Time

TomTom has made driver improvement a real-time experience for its customers with its WEBFLEET telematics solution.

Its Active Driver Feedback component of WEBFLEET allows the real-time monitoring of driver behavior and offers real-time feedback and coaching, including about speeding, excessive idling, sudden braking, and harsh turning.

Drivers receive real-time alerts appear on the screen and reminds drivers to adopt a safer and more fuel-efficient driving behavior. A component called OptiDrive allows fleet managers to generate a report from data received by the Active Driver Feedback system.

The system has a couple of key benefits for fleets. "Not only does it create a safer driving environment, but it reduces wear-and-tear on the vehicle," said Matt Gunzenhaeuser, sales director for TomTom.

Informing the Driver

For Trimble, the key component for fleet efficiency is getting the right data to the right person.

The platform it uses to do this is GeoManager, which consists of a number of modules focused on specific uses, including workforce management, fleet management, diagnostics, driver safety, and maintenance. Mobile applications are a growth area for the company.

"With the advent of more mobile applications and smartphones, it's much easier to give the driver feedback in real-time about an event or activity than in the past," said Nick Mitchell, vice president of global sales for Trimble's Field Service Management division. "Very much fleet management in the past was about reviewing an activity in the past and correcting it moving forward. But, if you don't speak to your driver for two weeks or even a week, when you have a regular review with them you've missed the opportunity to correct that event. It's very much about giving it as something easily digestible and actionable."

Trimble's productivity solution is about making the vehicle available for use, but also looking at the productivity of the worker. "We're looking at the complete picture around that piece, and to not just monitor the driver's behavior but also the whole work environment and improve that activity," Mitchell said.

Leveraging Gamification

Fleet management company Wheels Inc. has turned to gamification with its ChangeDriver solution to help clients' drivers become more productive. The solution is expected to be launched in March.

"We're leveraging gamification to motivate drivers and educate them through rewards and points and online badges. The end goal is to keep drivers on the road, driving safely, and in compliance. If drivers are on the road, doing what they're supposed to be, that's really the ultimate productivity enhancer," said David Glines, manager of product innovation for Wheels.

ChangeDriver reinforces productivity and safety by having drivers make pledges to drive more safely. It also allows them to search maintenance vendors in the Wheels network and view past fuel and maintenance transactions and see the locations on a map, saving time with the maintenance role.

Gamification is a good solution for fleets because it has already become an established trend in business. "The gamification is a method to keep people engaged and motivated all while leveraging positive reinforcement," said Glines. The system requires about a 5-minute commitment per week from the drivers.

Drivers earn points for avoiding accidents for a certain number of days or for being the top fuel-efficient driver. Glines added that the system can work effectively in conjunction with a formalized coaching program.

The beta users have seen about a 6-percent improvement in fuel use and a drop in accident rates, according to Glines.

"What I like about ChangeDriver is that it reinforces compliance through education; drivers like it because they can earn merchandise, and is fun and can break up the day-to-day monotony. The clients like it because it saves money. It's a win for everyone," he said.

About the author
Chris Wolski

Chris Wolski

Former Managing Editor

Chris Wolski is the former managing editor of Automotive Fleet, Fleet Financials, and Green Fleet.

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