Fleet management has benefited exponentially over the last decade from advances in technology.
GPS, telematics, fleet tracking, MVR monitoring, fleet management software and more have all provided fleet managers with deeper, more actionable insights. Operating costs have tightened, profits have boosted, compliance has streamlined, fleet operators have remained competitive and driver safety has improved.
But things continue to change.
Autonomous vehicles, 5G networks, wearable tech, advanced telematics, augmented reality, mobility as a service and electronic vehicles are all set to impact fleet management in the coming decade.
Let’s examine how.
Safety is a key element in pushing fleet management technology. The COVID-19 pandemic caused an increased focus in this area, be that in cleaning regimens, or driver physical and mental health. Answers have come in driver well-being programs supported by in-cab technology data. Combined, these improve safety, from spotting bad driving habits to checking drivers are mentally fit to drive. Other technologies for improving fleet safety are wearable tech for drivers, advanced telematics and (semi) autonomous vehicles.
While not a technology, the pandemic affected fleet management and its use of technology. It pushed fleet operators, fleet managers and drivers to adapt to evolving circumstances.
The changes included upscaled health and safety procedures, cleaning routines, social distancing and wearing PPE, which all became standard to keep drivers safe.
A rise in demand and e-commerce also became the norm, resulting in a huge increase in shipping, both to hubs and last-mile delivery. This forced fleets to upscale and pivot.
Remote fleet management also became a new norm, as the fleet manager was required to work from home, having to learn to track their teams and work through software rather than face-to-face.
These changes continue to impact the fleet industry, many becoming the new normal.
Wearable Tech for Drivers
An item looked at by fleet operators is the use of wearable technology by drivers. Smartwatches offer a two-way solution, as they can give drivers important information with minimal distraction. They can also send back important data about drivers’ well-being to fleet managers, such as health information on fatigue and stress levels.
Combined with telematics systems, wearable tech creates a more detailed data picture of the driver’s safety.
Telematics continues to be a core technology in fleet management and a key tool for a fleet manager, providing real-time updates and an ocean of data on locations, vehicle status and driver behavior.
(Semi) Autonomous Vehicles
This is a big-ticket item in fleet management: the driverless, autonomous vehicle, be it a car, a van or a truck.
The accepted scale of vehicle autonomy is known as the SAE scale, which has five (or six) levels of vehicle automation. While the technology exists today to have Level 5 driverless cars, the legislation, acceptance and trust in the concept working on public roads are several steps behind. We are currently at about Level 2 “Advanced Partial Automation” or Level 3 “Conditional Automation”.
So, while the 40-ton driverless vehicle is still a while off, semi-autonomous vehicles are with us.
Radar, automated braking and all-around camera systems are now common in modern vehicles, making them safer vehicles for both the driver and those around the vehicle.
At an operational level, technology will impact fleet management in the areas of mobility as a service, remote fleet management, voice commands, electric vehicles and augmented reality. In all these areas, the key benefits are flexibility, efficiency and safety.
Mobility as a Service (MaaS)
While MaaS is a massive opportunity in our near-future personal mobility, it is also becoming an element in B2B fleet management. The acceptance of ridesharing as both a service for users and a revenue source for vehicle owners is seeping into B2B fleets.
For example, the majority of products in the United Sates travel by road, and more than half of fleet operators are having difficulty finding drivers. To solve this combined issue, fleet managers could use on-demand services akin to MaaS.
B2B MaaS drivers could move products when businesses run out of in-house resources, and drivers could rent out their services to complete last-mile deliveries.
While this won’t replace traditional fleet operations, it is becoming a viable element.
From efficient vehicle loading to safer driving, Augmented Reality (AR) has a massive role in fleet management.
Already in use in parts of the US air force, AR guides staff who wear smart glasses in maintenance, repair and inspection tasks. This works to reduce errors, omissions and other mistakes, as well as speed up the task rates.
For drivers, AR can help with training, building route familiarity and simulating incidents. This makes the driver more cognizant of the situation and safer on the road. Additionally, AR can deliver enhanced and updated route information to the driver, making them more efficient in their operational tasks and safer.
AR also helps with the loading of vehicles. Scanning and loading every item is a time-intensive and complicated task. With AR glasses, loaders know where every item needs to be inside the vehicle, and drivers then know where every item is when making deliveries – speeding up tasks and reducing errors.
As with autonomous vehicles, Electric vehicles (EVs) are a big item in fleet management technology.
Environmental, sustainable, legislative and commercial factors are driving the move to EVs. Amazon operates a growing fleet of electric delivery vans, and other services are following suit.
While these vehicles are similar to drive, they are not the same. Plus, the maintenance and support needs are different. For example, roadside assistance is different for EVs in tasks as simple as wheel changes.
So, while the move to EVs will only increase, there is a set of new tasks and knowledge that fleet managers have to master.
Alexa, Cortana and Siri make tasks simpler and support safer multi-tasking. Adding these connected services to vehicles gives drivers and fleet operators more communication and support tools. Voice commands can order route replans, find new destinations or update HQ staff, removing the need for the driver to take their hands off the wheel or their eyes off the road.
This advancement makes for more efficient and safer operations.
Remote Fleet Management
The pandemic had a huge impact in this area, with fleet operators required to rapidly pivot to remote fleet management solutions. This meant moving to cloud-based fleet management software, investing in mobile communications and a cultural shift in management methods.
Technology helped to make this adjustment, as telematics has been supporting a remote workforce for years. The main change has been for depot and HQ staff.
As the pandemic recedes, the question will be how fleet managers change. Will they revert to their old methods over time, stay remote or be a hybrid of the two?
Whichever the choice, the pandemic has proved that technology can support it.
Data is now a key element in fleet management, or rather the increased amounts and availability of it. Fleet managers can now measure, analyze and inform on any part of their fleet’s operations thanks to the amount of data that they have. This will change further with new technologies and considerations coming into play, as 5G, IoT, big data & AI and data security will all have an impact.
The 5G network is a game-changer in the way the connected world works. Speed, number of connections and uses will all increase when the network is more wide-spread and operational.
IoT and the Connected Fleet
A connected fleet has become possible thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT).
It brings safety and efficiency for the driver and the fleet operator, but more than that it has changed data collection from a passive activity to an active one. This makes the fleet manager more aware of the real-time situation and better able to take proactive action when needed.
Cybersecurity and Data Security
With the increase in data, fleets become more tempting targets for cybercriminals looking to steal data or cause disruption. It’s imperative to protect your data, as any flaw or breach in the system can lead to commercial and safety issues.
Data security has thus become a concern for fleet managers. They now need to look for and spot potential threats and actual breaches, as well as know how to handle them if in fact they do happen.
Being good at data security is a commercial advantage for both customer trust and fleet operational efficiency.
AI, Big Data and Machine Learning
The final point on fleet data is how with big data, fleet operators can use AI for insights on improving their operations.
Technology has delivered this capability to even modest-sized fleet operators. They can now interrogate their data for patterns and learnings on their fleets. This can deliver cost savings, improved safety and better customer service.
The Future of Technology and Fleet Management
As the amount of data and range of sources continue to grow, fleet managers need technology solutions that can aggregate it all in a way that’s both insightful and actionable.
To learn more about how you can leverage SambaSafety’s telematics solutions to get more out of your vehicle and driver data, download our free infographic below.