A driver checking the details of his next stop on his phone. Low tire pressures from an overnight drop in temperature. Front brakes with only 22% of their pad life left. Any of these items by themselves might seem relatively harmless, but the fact is they often combine with other small issues, leading to much bigger problems for fleets. In the past, the correlations between such small details were difficult to discover for fleet managers, but the total connected vehicle space will soon have a new product to finally change that.

A revolution in telematics is coming that promises to provide fleet managers and drivers under their guardianship with far more relevant and actionable data than in the past, enabling them to turn mountains of problem-causing ingredients into manageable molehills that never materialize. With these upcoming advances in telematics, fleet managers will gain a 360-degree view of overall fleet and driver behavior no matter what make and model of vehicle they drive. There will be nearly limitless possibilities for not just lowering fleet hard operational expenses, but also the reduction of soft expenses like inefficient workflows, driver habits that increase labor expenses, and factors contributing to worker fatigue.

Telematics integrations enabled by the Internet of Things

Telematics isn’t a new technology at this point, it has been providing companies with fleets the ability to better forecast maintenance by gathering basic vehicle diagnostic data over the OBD-II standard for many years now. In recent telematics advances, more data point sensors have been introduced, providing fleet managers with much deeper insight than simple wear and tear part statuses and preventative maintenance forecasts. Now it’s possible to much more accurately forecast unexpected parts failures through benchmarking data, a major improvement as unexpected part failures are the most disruptive to the bottom line of all service issues because they affect not just equipment costs but driver labor costs as well. Paying an employee to wait in a broken-down truck is like setting a pile of money on fire, not to mention the ill-will it creates with the employee who might then have to work a longer shift to complete their work. As helpful as recent advances in the telematics space has been, a more complete view generated by a total telematics system has the potential to offer exponentially better returns on investment in the technology than ever before.

Before the advent of more advanced central control systems in vehicles, the boom in the “Internet of Things” (IoT) for consumer goods resulted in sensors and data transmitters being integrated into a plethora of in-home devices that connect with some sort of central hub like a cellphone or smart speaker like Amazon’s Alexa. We now have coffee makers that automatically turn on with the press of a phone’s snooze button, doors that lock automatically when leaving the electronic borders of a home, tiny keychain tokens that track keys and can even ring to assist in location, and cars with multiple cameras placed inconspicuously that are able to scan a 360 degree perimeter even in the rain at night. Because of this boom, the costs of the components that make all of this data connectivity possible have come down dramatically along with increasingly fast supply chains for ever-more integrations. Now, these technologies are starting to stream into the fleet management world to improve the lives of fleet managers, the drivers they are responsible for, end customers, and society as a whole.

Fleet asset protection possibilities

Protecting the movable assets that travel in fleet vehicles is also possible. Take for example a telematics integration like BeWhere, which utilizes low energy beacons to automatically track movable assets to better manage tools, equipment, inventory, and other non-powered assets. Fleets that have numerous onboard high-value assets stand to realize incredible savings with systems like this by reducing inefficient tool placement in vehicles, prevention of forgetting tools at the shop or customer location, tracking of inventory, and theft prevention. Integrations such as Quik Lokate utilize wireless Bluetooth sensors with temperature, light, proximity, door open/close, and humidity options which can greatly assist in product shrinkage for fleets in the food, beverage, and technology industries where inventories are more susceptible to environmental damage.

Of course, the most crucial assets to be protected using a total telematics system are the people driving fleet vehicles and those potentially affected by accidents with fleet vehicles. Integrations like the camera-based Mobileye Collision Avoidance System warn drivers of the risk of a collision a few seconds before it happens. The system works by continuously monitoring the road ahead and analyzing for the risks of oncoming collisions, unintended lane departures, tailgating, and pedestrian and cyclist hazards. The system can differentiate between vehicles, pedestrians, and cyclists, while also recognizing lane markings and speed limit signs. This all adds up to a fleet experiencing far fewer occurrences of harm to humans, damage to fleet vehicles, and even customer property damage.

Driver-centric integrations add even more value to data

The ability to measure and track nearly every asset a worker interacts with is a boon for sure,

but what may prove even more advantageous is the ability to detect driver habits that contribute to accidents and overall poor performance. The Guardian by Seeing Machines is a highly advanced real-time accident prevention technology, using sophisticated eye and face tracking software to detect driver fatigue and distraction. This device can provide immediate intervention through in-cab audio and vibration alerts to the driver. The system also provides fleet managers with daily and weekly reports along with notifications when drivers are at risk.

Additionally, the connected wearables market segment of the IoT revolution can be tapped to integrate worker biometric feedback into the data stream for even more granular data. Small biometric sensors can be easily embedded in unobtrusive wearables like wristbands. Think Fitbit, but for fleets. The implications of this are potentially massive. If companies can get a more detailed read on the true factors contributing to worker fatigue, for example, that insight alone could result in tremendous savings by leading to reduced insurance premiums, workers suffering from fewer overuse stress injuries and even better worker diet choices that help maintain steady energy levels.

Wearables can provide biometric feedback like blood glucose, blood alcohol content, and heart rate, but also can include accelerometers to measure worker movements in fine detail, such as time spent searching for tools in the work vehicle, average time waiting at suppliers or customers, or how much walking is done throughout their day. This provides a much clearer picture of the true factors leading to worker productivity loss. Perhaps stepping down out of the truck backward using a hand-grab leads to less fatigue than jumping down onto one foot first. The simplest of movements over an entire workday can at the very least add up to hours of lost productivity over time, not to mention workers’ comp claims from injuries. These devices bring to light such tiny optimizations with huge potential benefits.

The total connected vehicle – a true 360 view for fleet management

Of course, a multitude of sensors providing near-infinite amounts of data from both vehicles and workers is completely useless in raw form. What’s required is some serious computing power to crunch it into usable feedback that isn’t totally overwhelming to fleet managers and drivers alike. The new OneConnect vehicle dashboard by LeasePlan does just that. The OneConnect is a 360-degree fleet view tool that helps companies with fleets manage everything from maintenance and fuel costs to driver behavior, route mapping, and more. This central hub for processing information from an array of data sources regardless of vehicle make and model will be able to assist in finding unexpected links between data points that reveal new ways to optimize fleet costs and driver processes. Even more impactful is all of that data is aggregated and processed across a global network of many different fleets, enabling us to benchmark and implement the factors that contribute most to the bottom line. From a data science standpoint, this amount of data is far more statistically accurate, and hence, more relevant and actionable for companies in decision-making across the board.

Being able to discover connections never considered before is just one facet of new total connected vehicle telematics systems. The end customer also stands to enjoy a much higher level of customer service from companies implementing these systems. Shorter shipping times, fewer items lost in transit, less instances of forgotten tools or supplies that delay job progress, and more accurate arrival times for service appointments are merely scratching the surface of ways customers will enjoy superior levels of service. Overall, this technology enables a vastly improved experience for every stakeholder involved, from fleet manager to driver to end customer. Telematics has come a very long way already, but a sea change is approaching that will truly revolutionize fleet management in ways never before possible. Preventative maintenance planning can be entirely data-driven versus still using a discomforting amount of guesswork based on relatively unscientific tracking methods. Workers will be able to perform more consistently throughout the day instead of having as many peaks and valleys in their personal energy and performance. And most importantly, the occurrence of accidents will be drastically reduced. Millions of data points, generated by a multitude of sensors, all crunched into actionable feedback by a central hub will soon almost entirely prevent minor maintenance issues from building up to the point of problems.

Sources: Geotab, Automotive Fleet


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