The Evolution of Fleet Management Technology

A few decades ago, it used to be that a driver needed a paper map to navigate while travelling through an unfamiliar route. And supposing this driver had a boss (the fleet manager) that they reported to, then communication had to be shared through the telephone. At this phase, Fleet Management was not such a standardised role, nor was the scope vast. The first significant improvement was the invention of the Global Positioning System (GPS). This technology improved the business experience for fleet managers and drivers by providing information on estimated arrival times, route suggestions, route changes, and traffic delays.

Fast forward to 2022, Fleet Management has experienced remarkable growth. It continues to expand to accommodate new opportunities and demands created by emerging industry challenges and technological innovations. For instance, the “Global fleet manager” portfolio hardly existed until 1997 when Theresa Ragozine was placed in charge of worldwide commodity management. By this time, Johnson and Johnson, whose commodities Ragozine was to manage, had a global fleet of 33,000 vehicles.

In terms of industry scope, Fleet Management has evolved beyond company-wide vehicular oversight and maintenance. Whereas you would have only needed to have a deep interest in vehicles and be knowledgeable about how to keep them in good shape, as a fleet manager today, expectations from your role would likely include supervision of drivers on hire, regular diagnostic assessment of vehicles from remote locations, manipulation and drawing of insights from big data to improve business decisions, and much more.

These functions, without a doubt, can only be achieved through advanced technology. And this need has created even bigger opportunities in terms of how Fleet Management now deploys technology.

The following section highlights in greater detail how Fleet Management technology has evolved:

  • Fleet Telematics

Telematics is a mash-up of two words, telecommunications (remote communications) and informatics (information processing). It is built on the back of the existing GPS technology from where it sources its data. Using this data, as well as sensors and diagnostic codes, a telematics system is able to collect information about the location and status of a vehicle in real-time.

Leveraging the potential of this technology, fleet managers are beginning to explore the use of IoT sensors for monitoring driver behaviour. For example, fleet managers can use feedback from these sensors to determine whether drivers comply with safety behaviours regarding speed limits, braking, cornering, acceleration, and the use of seat belts. Ultimately, this technology makes it easy to track how the drivers handle the vehicles and who is responsible for mishandling, which is helpful in making business decisions such as driver incentivisation and sanctions.

  • Geofencing

Since services like car hire have become mainstream, it has also become imperative for fleet managers to seek new solutions to protect their assets. In this regard, geo-fencing has been as revolutionary as a solution. Based also on GPS technology, it has sustained the viability and profitability of fleet businesses and departments worldwide by strengthening vehicle security and forestalling driver deviation from pre-programmed routes. Put simply, geo-fencing works like a virtual fence around vehicles. It has its other roles in how it has helped Fleet Management evolve, such as enabling the automation of driver reports ( which is a significant progress from the distractive method of calling drivers who are on duty behind the wheel). The car-hailing industry benefits from this technology as passengers get to learn if drivers are running late. Also, customers of freight companies receive prompt updates on delivery schedules.

  • Big Data

Considering the proliferation of businesses like Uber, it is almost inconceivable that companies once managed their fleet over manual spreadsheets. Uber currently has 3.5 million drivers servicing their customer base of 93 million riders. Sustaining this kind of business with large amounts of data would pose a challenge and require digital sophistication, and big data has made it possible. Data such as customer and driver information, routes, payment processing, and vehicle performance are gathered and analysed using data analytics software, and fleet managers are able to identify patterns, drawing insights from information regarding fleet, manufacturers, and staff, which in turn influences business decisions.

Furthermore, big data analytics has been instrumental in keeping Fleet Management productive. Drivers are key players in the fleet industry, and the only way the industry or business can thrive is when the workers (drivers) stay motivated rather than overwhelmed. Because of the capacity of fleet managers to leverage insights from big data, they are able to schedule drivers for tasks, taking into consideration the frequency of their trips and the number of completed trips. This reduces the possibility of work overload and distracted driving, ultimately giving both the drivers and the end customers a positive experience.

  • Sustainability  

In 2019, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that the transportation sector was responsible for the largest share of gas emissions — a total of 27% — into the atmosphere. More than 90 of the fuel used in sustaining road vehicles is petroleum-based. Reducing carbon footprints has, therefore, become one of the major focuses of progressive and environmentally conscious fleet businesses. Telematics technology has impacted this sustainability goal by providing better insights into Fleet Management, such as fuel and energy consumption, vehicle idling time, and other related metrics. This information has helped fleet companies strategise better on route management, compliance with appropriate eco-friendly regulations, and even investment in alternative-fuel vehicles to reduce or stop emissions. 

  • Cybersecurity

As long as businesses are connected to the internet, they must proactively strategise against cyber attacks. Fleet businesses are especially prone to these cyber attacks because, using GPS and IoT sensors, a breach in one vehicle’s system could potentially put all other connected vehicles (and, therefore, the entire business) in danger. As a result, Fleet Management has evolved into taking advantage of technology to mitigate these risks. Today, several companies offer tech consultations and deliver customised software solutions to put fleet businesses several steps ahead of cybercriminals. In response, logistics companies have also created dedicated cybersecurity departments to manage cyber risks better.

  • Self-driving vehicles

While not yet in operation, the invention of autonomous vehicles has begun to raise a conversation about the possibility of extending the utility of these vehicles beyond personal purposes to commercial purposes. Self-driving vehicles, also called autonomous vehicles, are one of the most sought-after Fleet Management innovations of the near future. And while it may take a few years to achieve this feat for car-hailing services, fleet managers will not have such difficulty adopting autonomous vehicles for freight services. This is because long-haul trucks typically travel through straightforward routes on highways with more predictable traffic patterns. Therefore, it may not take long for AVs to become mainstream in the fleet industry.

  • Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS)

Following the disruption of personal transportation by ride-hailing businesses, the MaaS trend has also begun to break into the B2B fleets. As was established from the beginning of this article, the scope of Fleet Management has expanded beyond monitoring and maintaining company vehicles for the company’s internal logistics. Thus while MaaS majorly operates on the B2C scale in the fleet industry, there is an increasingly expanding market for B2B transactions.

In the United States, for instance, because of the increased demand for shipping brought on by e-commerce, over 70% of products distributed are shipped via trucks. This has resulted in yet another demand—for truck drivers this time. While the solution to this demand is not yet in full swing in the fleet industry, there is great potential for adopting ride-hailing technology to solve it. Just as passengers enlist the services of drivers from fleet companies to move them from one location to the other, businesses struggling to keep up with delivery demands could also enlist the services of available truckers on ride-hailing platforms to help make last-mile delivery of their products.

In conclusion, Fleet Management Technology and in essence, the systems that were created from them, are vital bits of technology that can mean all the difference in any business that runs logistics. This is why it pays to inform yourself with all you can about Fleet Management and which service provider best meets your needs.

Hidden Brains offers innovative Fleet Management services amongst other business improvement solutions. We are focused on bringing enterprise-grade solutions to clients far and wide. That is why we have developed this Fleet Management System to meet your fleet monitoring needs. Sound just like what you have been looking for? Then send us a mail to us at [email protected] to book a demo today!

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