The ongoing digitalization of everyday life has significantly changed how people live and work together, as well as what standards of living they expect in today’s modern world. To ensure their products and services meet the ever-increasing customer expectations, businesses must not only automate their existing processes but should also innovate, rebuild and redesign their operating models to enable performance tracking and stakeholder insights for better-informed decisions.
Supply chain management is no different. Irrespective of whether they serve a local or international clientele, businesses involved in freight logistics and transportation require efficient technology-based software or solution to: schedule and track their shipments; register and monitor their personnel’s driving behaviour; and reduce operational costs, whilst maintaining a positive customer experience across all touchpoints.
This article will describe what a fleet monitoring software is, as well as what its core modules and functions are, and discuss current trends in the fleet management industry.
What is Fleet Monitoring Software (FMS)?
As the name implies, a “fleet monitoring software” is a comprehensive, cloud-based platform that helps businesses track and monitor their work vehicles from a central information system. In doing so, the software provides:
- End-to-end supply chain visibility in real-time;
- Vehicle and employee safety through data metrics such as speed, temperature, engine idle time, fuel consumption, distance travelled, speeding, harsh braking, harsh acceleration, etc.;
- Vehicle telematics to plan, monitor and optimize cargo load and driving routes; and
- Compliance with government regulations for vehicle acquisition, driver license, insurance, etc.
What are the core modules of an FMS?
Video telematics is a human interface device that saves and records the information received from a vehicle’s sensors and displays it on a fleet dashboard at the hub or central location. This visibility of real-time data helps the fleet manager monitor and manage all aspects of fleet operations remotely.
The routing module of an FMS collates key event data and insights received from the telematics device and helps the manager make logistics decisions based on the geographical location of the vehicle, miles driven, duration of in-between stops, engine revolutions, speed, etc.
Asset tracking – Through both active and passive radio frequency identification (RFID) systems, a GPS locator beacon pre-installed in the FMS dashboard ensures continuous live tracking of a vehicle’s whereabouts even in poor reception areas.
Geofencing – This feature gives information on the times a particular vehicle starts and ends its journey; how long it has been idle for; and how long it has been on the roads during off-duty hours.
Route planning & optimization – Metrics such as departure and arrival time windows, vehicle location history, fleet idle time during lunch break, vehicle cargo-carrying capacity, and mileage, along with detecting outliers in data (possibly due to unexpected traffic jams, road accidents, etc.) help fleet managers decide the most cost-effective and fuel-efficient route for a given destination.
Fleet managers make use of the fuel consumption analysis algorithm in an FMS to monitor the fuel tank of a running vehicle and generate ad hoc fuel management reports. This, in turn, results in a reduction in fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance costs.
Remote Fuel Tank Level Monitoring – The fuel control system stores all the data on fuel level, fuel refilling history, temperature, live location, etc. A fleet manager can use this information to:
- identify points in a route where the fuel consumption increases;
- catch unnecessary purchases, or theft/misuse of fuel;
- ensure haulage truck safety; and
- reduce hidden costs of vehicle depreciation.
This module keeps track of vehicle maintenance, components repair and replacement, and random emissions inspection. When the vehicles are always kept in a proper running condition, drivers reach their destinations safely, and goods are transported without any delays or hassle.
Vehicle Diagnostics – For optimal upkeep of a vehicle, it’s important for a fleet manager to be fully aware of what needs to be fixed, and how often. These days, all haulage and freight vehicles come equipped with diagnostic ports or sensors, which when complemented with the fuel control system, monitor the overall mechanics of the vehicle. This enables the fleet manager to look for visual and audible signs and symptoms of a foreseeable vehicle malfunction, diagnose it, and fix it, even before the vehicle hits the road.
Service history recording – This saves all the records of diagnostics, repairs, and replacements a vehicle has gone through over a given period of time. The fleet manager can then use this information to analyze vehicle maintenance costs, depreciation costs, and make an informed decision about optimal fleet utilization, retirement, and cargo allocation.
Scheduled maintenance alerts – The software sends out timely notifications and sets reminders for when a vehicle is scheduled for an oil change, engine tune-ups, and other vehicle maintenance chores.
The drives management module keeps an up-to-date record of fleet drivers’ licenses and their driving behavior. This gives the fleet managers full control over the driving habits of their personnel and makes sure that they follow the road safety protocols while fulfilling their predetermined service level expectations at the same time.
Driver profiles – Regardless of whether a fleet runs intercity, or is limited to within a city only, it’s always good practice to have all the information related to driver licensing, validation, as well as fitness assessment tests, etc. stored on software. This way, a fleet manager can always keep tabs on when a driver’s license is scheduled for renewal, and if he has taken and passed a medical examination.
Driver behaviour monitoring – Data metrics that record how slowly a driver drives through corners, or how quickly he accelerates, or whether or not he keeps a safe distance before braking, are critical to ensure that the vehicles run smoothly, deliveries are made on time, and the drivers achieve their benchmark performance goals.
This functionality allows a fleet manager to manage their fleet’s workload and shipment/deliveries volume, and as a result, utilize their resources in an effective and efficient way.
Scheduling and dispatch – An FMS that gives real-time status updates on delivery in progress and driver schedules helps a manager set optimal work shifts and delivery timelines for their staff. As a result, drivers do not feel overworked or fatigued or drive aggressively to finish a delivery on time, in case of a high workload.
Document management for fleet compliance policies – An FMS stores all the necessary documents such as fleet insurance, travel itinerary, records of stopovers during the trip, fuel purchase receipts, etc. All this data can be used by the accounts team to generate quarterly tax reports and do a comprehensive cost analysis at the end of each fiscal quarter.
Cargo optimization – By carefully logging the internal and external dimensions (volume, weight, etc.) of shipping containers, an FMS helps the fleet manager determine the most fuel-efficient, and hence, cost-effective cargo load a particular vehicle can carry.
What is the future of fleet management?
Although there are still quite a few businesses that find it hard to embrace the paradigm shift to a technology-based fleet monitoring and management solution, it’s important to understand how useful an FMS can be in improving fleet efficiency and reducing costs.
Here are a few trends in commercial fleet management one can expect in the coming years:
5G Technology – The rising availability of 5G technology together with Artificial Intelligence (AI) integrated seamlessly into an app-based FMS will enable companies to keep their drivers informed of any potential road hazards or unexpected emergency situations, call for the nearest roadside assistance provider, and/or make ad-hoc changes to the route, without any delays or downtime.
Telematics – With advanced features like predictive data analytics tools, and robust application programming interfaces (APIs), a fleet manager can track and review the performance of their vehicles and drivers in real-time.
Electric and autonomous vehicles – The adoption of electric and autonomous vehicles, along with solar-powered fleet tracking devices are another technological advancement that can help the fleet industry reduce costs associated with vehicle safety, and improve productivity by increasing driving hours.
To summarize, from driver scheduling, order dispatching, and visibility into fleet operations, to vehicle diagnostics, fuel tracking, and driver behavior monitoring, FMS provides a cost-efficient solution to all the fleet maintenance needs of a business.