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Minimize Fleet risks while optimizing your ops

According to a market research report, currently around eight million GPS/wireless devices are used to manage fleet vehicles, trailers, construction equipment and mobile workers across US. According to the “2016-17 U.S. Mobile Resource Management Systems Market Study”, by 2019, this market will expand to more than 14 million units. The annual hardware and service revenues will grow to nearly $4.7 billion! The use of commercial telematics solutions is expanding at a rate of 15-20 percent per year. However, the trucking sector’s rate of growth is projected to exceed the local fleet market because of the recently issued regulations requiring the use of Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) by interstate trucking fleets for monitoring driver hours of service.

How do these figures impact vehicle & fleet management?

Well, if you want your business to be among those with a competitive edge and be part of the ever growing market and increase profitability, optimizing your financial and administrative operations is essential, and now is the time. The complexity that develops in the logistic operations of fleets management can be tremendous in today’s world of technology.

The power to aggregate, analyze, and take action on data collected from a wide variety of vehicles and assets in one integrated application is of great  importance to the fleet manager. To have a finger on the pulse of the tracking system can bring in several benefits and thus help minimize risks – which come via reckless drivers, idling drivers, speed violation, fuel wastage, long hours of driving etc.

We wrote in our previous blogs about the kinds of technology that are used by the vehicle and fleet tracking organizations. The newest entrant is the use of how mobile and cellular networks can help manage vehicle & fleet management and even help in tracking ambulance services, an essential component within the healthcare industry.

Optimizing Fleet Management operations

Emerging technologies in social telematics now provide end-to-end fleet management technology which includes solutions like real-time engine reading, mobile integration, cloud computing . This  combination  leads to  increased efficiency, improved driver safety and enhanced ROIs. According to a study, vehicle maintenance costs companies between $1,000 and $3,000 per year for medium-duty trucks, and nearly double for heavy-duty trucks!

Crucial information such as in-depth engine diagnostics capabilities, real-time snapshot of every vehicle on the road, can now be delivered directly to mobile devices anytime, anywhere. This empowers better and enhanced decision making and the need to design effective strategies.

Smartphone or tablets with efficient and effective apps, helps fleet managers easily run teams as efficiently as from the desktop and/or even better.

Further, did you know that according to a recent study, fleet vehicle tracking can also help you reduce your labor costs significantly – save an average of $5,484 per employee per year by utilizing GPS technology!

 

Moreover, alerts  on  the mobile can help fleet managers get better insight  and run the service smarter more efficiently.

  • Important events are instantly updated as part of alerts
  • Idling, speed violations  help you monitor and act fast
  • Reduce hardware & operational costs
  • Reduces administrative costs- paperless logs can be easily maintained on phone using an app stored on cloud

Efficiency and speed are of paramount importance in fleet management and mobile devices can be effectively employed to get that competitive edge and reduce costs too. Mobile devicess also help simplify the lines of communication, and their decreasing costs on one hand and increasing computing power make it ideal  for business owners to leverage their power  and keep on top of the business activities at all times.

 

 

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Choosing the right tracking technology for vehicle/asset management?

In our earlier blog we had given an overall picture of the Global Positioning System (GPS) – its features and benefits employed in vehicle & fleet tracking management.  The question that comes up for many fleet managers is, ‘which of the many available tracking technologies can be employed to provide a better service?’

There is no ‘one-size-fits all’ solution. Until the specific requirements and business needs are not studied in detail, finding an appropriate technology is extremely difficult. Additionally, it could turn out to be a costly and time-consuming affair.

Here is an overview of some of the basic features of location devices employed for tracking vehicles, fleets or assets:

  • GPS is known for global coverage but often hindered by what is known as the line-of-sight issues, i.e. from high rise buildings.
  • RFID is very reliable for indoor locating situations or when it is feasible to have tag readers in close proximity. However, it has limited range and requires costly readers limiting its applicability to low-volume applications.
  • Real Time Location Systems (RTLS), is enabled by technologies such as location-enabled Wi-Fi/ Wi-Max. Excellent for very specific geographical areas such as campuses and office buildings. This however requires full-scale deployments for it to make an impact. This technology das been expensive till recently but is showing signs of a consistent drop in prices. It has growing adoption in manufacturing and enterprise segments; and areas such as sports, retail and Livestock management.
  • Tag-to-tag RTLS systems are not expensive and pretty accurate for specific uses like industrial and yard applications. Although employed indoors, they do not suit all indoor applications

The importance of defining clear requirements

Depending on the context, use cases, or operating environment, trying to integrate a device and enabling tracking and management services can be a very tricky affair. The context may be fleet tracking, navigation purposes, social networking, asset management, or mobile resource management.

For instance, inbound and outbound logistics in the global supply chain demand intricate scheduling and is known to impact business operations. In this context, an integration of two to three systems seems logical. For example, a mix of GPS mapping systems, which is, linked to the RFID systems to track the asset to the dealership. Thereafter, it is linked to the operational and financial systems. This has many  benefits. The various modes of tracking are suitably practical in the logistics chain, it provides visibility for inbound, outbound scheduling and helps to achieve operational excellence.

Using mobile phone as a tracker

Today with Smartphones being used by businesses to interact and deliver on the go services to customers, where speed and efficiency is of paramount importance, the need is to ‘go mobile’. The trend now is to run applications on cell phones to enable the mobile workforce. This bring down redundancy in the types of devices being used and enables faster deployment.

Trying to replace the hardware with new devices and integrating them with the legacy workflows and processes can prove to be a costly affair. Today, the mobile devices come equipped with Assisted-GPS, Wi-Fi or cellular locating technologies, which enable better location tracking. Thus, one single technology can be turned on to support location-specific fixes in one environment, and another technology can be used for changed condition (environment).

The mobile is thus seen as the most ubiquitous of all devices. Even though, GPS signal can be lost indoors, but a GPS-enabled cell phone can be located indoors via cell/wifi signal, resulting in precise tracking.

This works well with non-vehicle-centric applications (non moving). This can also bridge the outdoor to indoor location gap. The indoor tracking has so far been the domain of the RFID and RTLS systems. The mobile phones are now intruding on that duopoly.

Using vehicle installed devices

The most reliable tracking for moving assets (vehicles on road), is provided by vehicle-installed devices that connect to ECU (engine control unit) and are linked with GPS as well as Cellular data.

These devices provide reliable information. The vehicle information is paired with location info from GPS and transmitted real time over cellular network.

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The business system decision-maker needs to understand and articulate their business needs, be aware of the conditions under which they operate and be cognizant of their in-house technical skills. For out door operations, where the assets are moving, the vehicle installed devices are most suitable.

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Fleet Tracking – The innovation effect of GPS

Today Global Positioning System (GPS) has become ubiquitous. From being employed merely as a navigational aid, GPS is now employed in tracking everything from personal vehicle tracking to fleet management, asset management and now even extends into improving driver behavior!

GPS tracking grew out of a military need- the accurate positioning of threat launch carriers like subs and aircrafts & cruise missiles and was known as Navstar Global Positioning System, or Navstar GPS, or just GPS (more on its history and timeline can be read here & here). Although, President Reagan first pushed for its release for civilian usage after an aviation accident, it was President Clinton who ordered the downgrade for civilian usage by turning off the special feature termed as Selective Availability (SA). SA degraded the signal by roughly 100 meters by slightly altering the satellites’ clocks, which ensured the security interests were still protected.

This powerful technology has changed our lives just within a decade of it being in the civilian space. Its application is now widespread, the technology is well entrenched in all spheres from military to transportation, science and even agriculture and livestock management.

In the transportation domain, GPS fleet-tracking software can:

  • Locate vehicles
  • Set up routes and give directions to assigned destinations
  • Monitor vehicle conditions
  • Track fuel consumption and mileage
  • Identify maintenance and equipment issues
  • Accident tracking & roadside assistance
  • Anti-theft service
  • Time clocks, attendance tracking with custom reporting, real time alerts
  • Geofencing

There are many more features and use cases. The effective deployment of these features can lead to reduction in operating costs!

In addition to tracking vehicles, the fleet monitoring technology can also improve driver performance and enhance safety. The advanced vehicle devices, correctly programmed can log everything from speed to driving patterns and aggressive maneuvers (such as sharp turns, jack rabbit starts, over speeding and hard braking), besides recording idle times and alerts about events like speeding or veering off-route.

This can be used build a ‘driving profile’ for the fleet staff. This helps in improving safety, accountability and is an excellent tool for driver training and rewarding good behavior.

Tracking can today be done via cellular network providing data in real time; via Satellite, especially for those fleets that travel outside the cellular range, albeit expensive when real-time satellite is employed; & what is known as passive tracking which provides periodic rather than real-time updates. Fleet Management & Asset Tracking are the most employed across most businesses that deal in the transportation of not just goods- perishable or otherwise, but also delivery and with competition gearing up, efficiency and effective fuel consumption & mileage to get the most out of the business is being harnessed.