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By: Willy Schlacks on November 9th, 2018

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5 Ways Data Streamlines Fleet Management

Blog Posts | Operating Insights

Fleet management has always been a data-driven industry. Assets generate an immense amount of information, but it wasn’t always possible to access it, let alone analyze it. In the past, fleet managers had to comb through handwritten logs and overstuffed filing cabinets to find the insights they needed to operate more efficiently. But now, thanks to innovative technology, there’s a mountain of information right at your fingertips. Easy access to data is reshaping the industry. Let’s take a look at how.

1. Collect accurate fleet data

It’s the foundation of fleet management improvement—collecting relevant data about your fleet. And it hasn’t been easy to do. Who has time to constantly monitor and take notes on every vehicle and machine? Definitely not busy fleet managers.

Even the data you have been able to collect on your own may not be entirely accurate or it might be basic—GPS location that requires a manual refresh to update. Inaccurate data can hardly be useful (bad data is actually oftentimes worse than any data at all) and while GPS is a great tool, basic machine location isn’t groundbreaking or that valuable when it comes to moving the needle in optimizing your fleet’s profitability

That’s where telematics comes in. Telematics hardware connects directly to your machine’s engine, collecting and transmitting data via the CAN-bus. It can collect all the data you can think of—and plenty you didn’t even know you needed:

  • Engine status
  • Fuel levels
  • Oil pressure
  • Machine runtime
  • Driver operating habits
  • Hours of Service/HOS (for vehicles subject to ELD rules)

Telematics software can then aggregate that data for you in a way that makes sense, serving up valuable and actionable insights. Software can generate graphs, identify trends and produce reports, giving you a comprehensive look at the health of every vehicle and machine in your fleet. Telematics is the difference between collecting incomplete, inaccurate data or factual, up-to-the-minute information in a way that’s useful for your operation.

2. Use GPS for more than machine location

GPS-tracked machines have become standard in the construction industry, and spending hours searching for a machine on a big jobsite is nearly a thing of the past entirely. But that’s not all GPS can do.

GPS provides real-time information on every asset, which means your technicians can drive right to the asset’s location instead of trying to track it down thus saving you and your employees time. It also means a reduced risk of theft, as a stolen machine can easily be tracked down. Reduction of theft clearly has monetary value in that you’re reducing your exposure to risk when you reduce the likelihood of theft and additionally, can yield you major insurance premium savings. Paired with a program like Google Maps, GPS can also help you dispatch more effectively, routing around traffic jams or hazards with ease.

And beyond that, this technology gives birth to other useful data and functionality like breadcrumb trails and geofencing. With breadcrumbs, you can track where assets have been, helping spot inefficient routes or wasted trips. Geofencing allows you to preset boundaries around jobsites, storage lots or work areas. In addition to allowing you to generate alerts if something goes out of bounds, geofences can actually help you track and even lower costs. For example, a geofence around your repair shop will tell you exactly how long an asset was out of commission, while a jobsite geofence will help you identify how long an asset was on a particular job.

3. Know exact machine utilization

Every fleet has at least one machine sitting in the corner of the lot that probably doesn’t get used that often. In the past, fleet managers could only roughly estimate whether utilization justified the cost of ownership. But telematics technology lets you calculate with accuracy.

Logging everything from engine runtime to days spent on-site, this data is easily mined to identify how assets are being used. Armed with this knowledge, you can make informed decisions about what to keep, what to rent out and what to sell.

4. Use data to reduce accidents and downtime

Heavy and powerful equipment is always at risk of causing a serious accident, so it’s important to find ways to reduce risk and liability. One of the best ways to do this is by keeping tabs on all your operators to ensure they’re driving safely at all times.

Telematics not only helps you track routes, but lets you create alerts for risky behaviors like hard braking, speeding, sharp turns. In addition to keeping an eye on your drivers with instant notifications of infractions, you can also track and log driving habits. Operator scorecards give you the data to identify and act on repeat offenders. In addition to improving the overall safety of your fleet, this knowledge provides the added bonus of reducing excessive idling, hard braking and over-acceleration to improve overall fuel efficiency.

Like wasted fuel and irresponsible driving, machine downtime is a preventable drain on your bottom line. It’s simple: if you can keep equipment up and running more, it will generate better returns. That’s where the power of maintenance data comes in.

Sensors and databases track runtime, engine status and service logs. Regular preventative maintenance can be automatically scheduled so your vehicles and equipment won’t miss another oil change. Even more importantly, predictive intelligence can spot potential issues before they become costly breakdowns. You’ll get alerts if an engine is running abnormally so you can get the machine serviced and back on the jobsite in record time.

5. Improve bid accuracy

Developing bids for any job is complicated and requires a lot of experience to do accurately. Overbid and you could miss out. Underbid and you run the risk of leaving money on the table, or even worse, cutting into your bottom line. Thankfully, technology gives you the data you need to solve this problem.

By accurately tracking and projecting usage, you can calculate your exact cost-per-minute for every asset, factoring in fuel consumption, transit time and labor. You can also spot inefficiencies and waste in real-time, so you can always be sure your bids are exactly where they need to be. More accurate bids can help eliminate confusion, build trust and win you more business.

Use big data to your advantage

There’s no denying the impact of technology on fleet management, and there’s no time to ignore or avoid technology if you want to stay competitive. One of the best things about these advances is the creation of a wealth of data that can be used for better decision making, improved efficiency and cost savings. And when you put all that data to work, your fleet—and your business—reap the rewards.

W illy Schlacks is president and co-founder of EquipmentShare, a construction technology company dedicated to helping contractors and heavy equipment owners increase the utilization of their assets. Driven by Track, the company’s proprietary telematics solution, EquipmentShare enables contractors to see critical equipment data, such as asset health and utilization.