Fleet professionals are harnessing the power of telematics in order to make day-to-day decisions, as well as plan for the future.
Cutting expenses and extending vehicle lifecycles have never been more important, or more difficult than it is now. Current market conditions, coupled with high fuel prices and ongoing supply chain challenges are stretching the resources of today’s fleet professionals.
The question is, how can fleet managers measure all the variables, and be sure that they’re monitoring all the critical KPIs? Many have decided to leverage the power of telematics in order to access the vast amounts of data their fleets are already generating.
“When you have Shell telematics, you instantly get access to things like a vehicle utilization report,” says Sasha Arasteh, E-mobility, and Services Manager–America, Shell Fleet Solutions. “That’s going to tell you which vehicles you’re using the most, which ones you’re using the least, where you have an opportunity to reallocate resources, where you have an opportunity to reduce idle times, all of which is a great cost and fuel economy savings opportunity.”
Arasteh says that a telematics report can give fleet managers access to information on a number of different levels. “You’re going to have instant access to those critical reports that first tell you where your opportunities are,” she explains, “and then, using that data, coupled with the actual mapping and GPS technology that tells you where your drivers were and where all your vehicles are located, you can address other parameters, including route optimization, scheduling, and a more efficient plan of action.”
One of the more innovative approaches to monitoring vehicle reliability leverages the power of telematics in combination with geofencing. Kathryn Foster, Director of Strategic Services at Holman explains: “Our vendor network is geofenced, so we know when vehicles are down for a maintenance event.”
Knowing when vehicles are in the shop for repairs allows Holman to keep track of how often a particular vehicle has a problem. If it happens too often, Holman can bring that to the attention of their customer. “We can have a conversation about what might be the issue,” Foster adds. “Are they keeping that vehicle too long? Is it the wrong application for that vehicle? These are questions we can address because the telemetry tells us that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed.”
Preventing a problem before it happens is the holy grail of fleet maintenance, as it can help fleets avoid big repair bills. This type of preventive maintenance is the next step in the implementation of telematics technologies and is possible only because of the massive amounts of data collected with telematics.
“Until about five or maybe three years ago, the focus was really on preventive maintenance, where we would schedule regular oil changes, regular tire rotation, etc.,” says Derek Grover, VP of Technology & Operations, Jim Pattison Lease. “But now, things are starting to shift towards predictive analytics or maintenance.”
Grover says this is a proactive, rather than a reactive approach to vehicle maintenance and upkeep. “If you look at a large telematics company that is anonymizing this data, they can have a pretty good idea about where and how frequently the pistons are going to need to be changed, for example, taking into account where the vehicles are being driven and how they’re being driven. They can then compare that will other vehicles they’ve been tracking that operate in similar conditions, and are being driven in a similar way.”
Comparing data from perhaps thousands, or even tens of thousands of similar vehicles can help fleet managers determine what kind of preventive maintenance might be needed before a part fails. “This would be overwhelming if you didn’t have the power of a telematics platform,” Grover adds. “But using machine learning and artificial intelligence, predictive maintenance is a reality nowadays. So if you do the preventive maintenance, based on data, then you can avoid a potential roadside breakdown.”
Artificial intelligence, Grover explains, is able to do what humans simply can’t. “It looks for patterns of behavior within the data that a human would never be able to catch,” he adds. “It benchmarks your fleet’s data against other similar patterns of behavior or road conditions or use, and then it can tell you that you will probably have a breakdown at X kilometers.”
Predictive models are quite accurate, Grover concludes, just as long as the data input is strong enough and large enough. However, this is still a new technology, and not everyone is ready to embrace it. “People aren’t fully convinced,” Grove adds. “When I compare predictive maintenance to telematics, it’s probably where telematics was about 10 years ago. People are going to need a bit of time to get used to it.”