4 Key Challenges to Managing the Expansion of Fleet Data

Business man looking at tablet with dataThe amount of fleet data created continues to expand at a dramatic pace.  Vehicles, phones, apps, cameras, and telematics devices, along with fleet transactions along the vehicle lifecycle like new vehicle deliveries, employee background checks, fueling, tolls, and maintenance all create a massive pool of data.  When you step back and look where global data creation is moving, statistics support that every human will generate nearly 2.0 megabytes of data every second by 2020, and that level will rise by almost 60% by 2025.  With the advancement of artificial intelligence (AI) and the continued evolution of the autonomous vehicle, these numbers become a reality of our daily lives in fleet quickly. These are staggering numbers to consider as you navigate the future of your fleet, its data, and the policies that drive it.  In actively engaging hundreds of clients to not only harness their data to drive cost savings but also consider the management of that data, four areas of focus arise.

Keeping Pace with Evolving Capture Points

As the number of sources of data surrounding the vehicle continue to climb, new capture points are introduced.  Fuel and maintenance transactions along with GPS devices traditionally have provided the bulk of timely data around the operation of the vehicle and continue to be the backbone of many fleet processes. However, with the rise of the connected vehicle fleets can access a more seamless way to capture even more data around the health and operation of the vehicle. More and more fleets are reviewing their 2020 vehicle selections to ensure a match of application, total cost of ownership, and integrated connectivity. Presently the majority of fleet drivers continue to expand their usage of smart phones and tablets to fulfill their daily job responsibilities.  The integration of this core business and mobile device data with their vehicle data unlocks productivity, safety, and new revenue opportunities with the clients’ end customers. Looking forward, this expansion of capture points will grow at a much higher rate, creating new possibilities.

Harnessing Employee Data

A typical fleet of 500 units may have well over 1,000 drivers interacting with the vehicles.  Measuring that interaction is critical every trip. Driver logs, identification codes, cameras, and facial recognition software all are playing a growing role in matching the vehicle’s operation to the employee’s actions. As an example, in 2017 The Electronic Logging Device (ELD) rule was applied to commercial vehicles, creating a shift from paper logs for hours of service to an electronic solution. This shift not only required drivers to change their logging habits, it also created real-time visibility to their activity, which historically was buried in paper logs.  Many field managers had to quickly adjust their focus on the stream of compliance data that impacted their daily operations. Driver behavior continues to be a growing focus. Traditionally, service vans and trucks were the focus as a light duty truck has around a 12% idle time, creating opportunities for fuel savings. More recent trends involve more vehicle applications, leveraging the use of driver scorecards to cash in on the large wins around safety and loss rates that produce 30%-40% improvements. Advancements in partial and full autonomous driving create an even greater connection of the employee in the overall model.

Redefining Organization Policy

Many organizations are challenged to balance visibility of data against the concept of big brother. Personal data and work-related data collide, creating organizational hurdles. We all leverage computers in our jobs, and with that comes a User Policy from your organization.  Proactive organizations are reviewing their fleet policies to outline the proper operation of a vehicle as well as clearly define the data capture and communication processes that are in place. More and more the stigma of big brother is giving way to safety and liability exposure, but with a focus on what is “Personal Data.”  Vehicles and phones can store and share personal data about the employee and their daily activity. This creates a need to manage daily data flow, and when vehicles are transferred to new drivers or sold how that personal data is protected or deleted is key. Phone and app usage are also major considerations to combat the distracted driver. Questions such as can the driver use certain apps in hands free mode, should certain apps be blocked, or can personal cell phones be electronically discovered are growing areas of policy review for organizations. Each technological advancement is yet another consideration for policy and security.

Making Data Consumption Actionable

With the overall growth and convergence of more data sources the need to a normalize the output to a fleet application is key. Having actionable data to respond to an opportunity is the first step, but leveraging that data to proactively take action is the goal.  As organizational data, vehicle data, and employee data come together, they must be distilled to match the organization’s structure and culture. This is ultimately how data will become useful so the fleet strategy process can come full circle and deliver the desired result, be it optimizing driver behavior, managing vehicle maintenance execution, reacting to collisions or other hazards, or just ensuring daily tasks are being completed as part of the employee’s job. How your organization consumes the data defines effectiveness.

As today’s fleet data landscape continues to evolve, proactive fleet professionals must navigate these challenges in order to effectively drive change and efficiencies in their fleets. Overcoming these challenges begins by looking ahead and asking a key question: “What’s our fleet data strategy for today and tomorrow?”

Dan Hannan serves as Vice President of Fleet Strategy at Merchants Fleet. He is a strategic thought leader for the fleet industry, driving client partnerships to identify cost savings and leveraging powerful fleet management technology solutions through peer benchmarking powered by Merchants TotalView. He brings industry leadership, strategic thinking, and process-orientation to the fleet business architecture that drives the Merchants Fleet client experience. Dan has over 25 years of fleet management experience. He held numerous Senior Vice President roles at GE Fleet and the Donlen Corporation in information technology, fleet operations, quality management, product development, strategic consulting, and sustainability.

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