Fleet Management Transformations and Challenges in the IoT & Telematics Era

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There’s no question about it: telematics and the Internet of Things (IoT) are here to stay. As trucking, delivery, taxi, rental, utility, commercial, and other fleet managers watch, interconnectivity via these technologies continues to grow at a rapid pace.

With this growth comes increased expectation and responsibility. Federal regulation in the U.S. now requires that commercial fleets use IoT devices to record their duty status. This ensures that drivers take necessary breaks to avoid fatigue, which is a leading cause of increased street and highway accident rates.

Soon, these devices may also be required for tracking vehicle compliance with environmental regulations, as reducing impact in the face of climate change guides government decision-making.

Current transformations in fleet management

In an effort to make the most of IoT devices and the telematics technology, which transmits vehicle location and diagnostics, transportation and other vehicle-dependent businesses are taking advantage of devices and software in ways that are transforming fleet management. Some examples of this include:

Increasingly detailed tracking

Gone are the days when GPS simply told a user their global coordinates. With telematics, GPS is paired with other components like the engine interface, accelerometer, and more. This enables tracking of routes, fuel use, and tire pressure, among other things, meaning that fleet managers can more easily discover the best routes, manage fuel consumption, and stay up to date on fleet maintenance needs.

More than just rerouting

When telematics and IoT devices team up, the real magic starts to happen. Live traffic information from other digitized vehicles can inform drivers of their best rerouting options. Vehicles which fall low on brake fluid can be directed to the nearest place to top off, or if necessary, a manager-approved location to drop the vehicle for maintenance, perhaps receiving a replacement to get back on the road.

Providing faster, better service

This same technology helps service delivery fleet managers  see which vehicles are closest to an emergency service call, and which vehicles are best equipped to handle that call. For example, if a plumbing business’s only Roto-Rooter is on a particular truck and someone needs it pronto, GPS and live traffic can provide the customer with a fairly accurate ETA, even if another nearby truck has to come pick up the tool before responding to the call.

Tracking that faster, better service

With IoT devices on board and telematics relaying information, delivered service providers such as our plumbers above can track more than just mileage, gas consumption, and time spent driving. Fleet managers can also see time spent idling and time on location. Special tools or services which demand one-time charges can also be tracked, making their addition to any existing recurring charges and hybrid pricing model easy.

Providing vehicle “lifecycles”

These technologies are also helping businesses which sell or lease vehicles, providing the fleet manager with a vehicle “lifecycle” generated from information gained by actual use. Understanding common issues with particular vehicle models and their best uses improve recommendations to customers and allow for sharing real-world examples of vehicle performance. Even other vehicle-dependent businesses can take a page out of this book.

Insurance companies rewarding safe driving

Many consumers are already familiar with the safe driving discounts offered by insurance companies for individual drivers. With IoT and telematics tracking the behaviors of commercial drivers, those reduced premiums are being extended to fleets as well. Both GPS tracking and driver habit tracking can reduce fleet insurance by up to 15%, sending the old “How is my driving?” signs the way of dashboard cassette players.

The rise of MaaS

Mobility as a Service (MaaS) is a relatively new concept. It refers to personal transportation’s move from car ownership to using car-sharing, ride-hailing, and other modes of transport manageable through an app or software. Still a rather new industry with a few experimental business models, the role of car manufacturers, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), tech innovators, and transportation service providers are still being fleshed out in this fresh and innovative space.

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Current challenges and solutions in telematics and fleet management

Despite all of these encouraging transformations, there are also plenty of challenges facing vehicle-dependent businesses today. From age-old challenges that IoT and telematics may be able to solve, to brand new ones presented by the technologies themselves, here are a few that fleet managers are working to overcome:

Driver shortages

A problem that would exist with or without IoT and telematics, the American Transportation Research Institute reported in 2018 that driver shortage is the biggest issue facing fleets. This problem only appears to be growing, as drivers leave for reasons like work-life balance issues, inefficiency, and untimely dispatching and planning.

Fortunately, telematics can help. By improving safety and communication, telematics can automate efficiency, route optimization, and dispatch and planning to meet drivers’ biggest needs.

Tracking & enforcing safe driver behavior

As mentioned earlier, driver fatigue is a leading cause of car accidents. While tired drivers are a danger to themselves and others on the road, there are also other poor driving practices which can negatively impact a business. Parking and speeding tickets, as well as costs associated with collisions, all cut into the bottom line.

Installed IoT devices can track and report driver behavior so that good driving can be encouraged, and poor driving addressed. Simply knowing that one’s driving behavior is being tracked can improve driver practices on the road, and the reports generated provide factual evidence to use in discussing safe driving.

Fuel price & volatility

Fuel prices will always fluctuate, and while predictions and forecasts abound, it’s generally accepted that fleet managers expect the unexpected in this realm.

The best way to handle this, of course, is to reduce overall fuel consumption as much as possible. From fuel management systems to finding the best routes and, you guessed it, tracking driver behavior, there are multiple ways IoT and telematic technology help alleviate the pains of volatile fuel prices.

Uncertainty around automated vehicles

Automated vehicles are taking headlines by storm, leaving fleet managers to wonder what to expect as these new technologies enable less driver involvement. 

Automated vehicles could go so far as to become driverless vehicles very soon, meaning less concern about logging hours worked, unsafe or inefficient driving habits, and human error on the road. What’s more, driverless technology means automating what would normally be manual input processes by drivers.

However, malfunctions and bugs usually reported by drivers would either require advanced software and sensors to monitor, or trained technicians in the meantime. Fleet managers would be wise to keep an eye on this developing industry.

Security concerns

Tracking vehicles and drivers with GPS does raise questions about security. What is sacrificed for the convenience of knowing exactly where every vehicle and driver is at any given moment? What happens if someone not affiliated with the company accesses that information, as well as information about what equipment or product is in the vehicle?

From a driver perspective: what if one doesn’t want to be tracked during breaks and time off while with a vehicle?

These concerns are not unfamiliar to those working in other cloud-based tech industries. Efforts to increase security against cyberattacks, especially when it comes to protecting personal customer information and financial information in general, are ongoing. While progress has been made, hackers continue to evolve their efforts, meaning this will be an ongoing battle.

Complex billing

With so many variables under consideration—ranging from whether or not there are drivers behind the wheel to what exactly a new MaaS business model will look like in a few years—it’s easy to understand how billing becomes exceedingly complex.

Many IoT and telematics leaders will find that the aforementioned hybrid billing–combining recurring charges with one-time charges based on mileage, time, fuel, and/or loads, is what works best. This requires a robust subscription billing platform that can handle multiple inputs and streamline the manufacturer-reseller-end user relationship.

As IoT and telematics change the face of transportation, it’s important to establish practices and partners that can handle the high-capacity and ever-changing needs of the industry. Fusebill is one such partner:  subscription management software built to handle even the most complex pricing and business models.

Fusebill is the Swiss Army Knife of billing“ – Chris Fowler. Co-Founder and CEO, ClearPathGPS

While there are many exciting developments and automations brought on by IoT and telematics, it’s clear that the technologies are not end-all solutions to challenges faced by fleet managers. Leveraging strong business partnerships and on-the-ground resources, however, can prepare fleet management teams for the big changes on the horizon.

Tags: IoT Telematics

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