Fleet Management and The Internet of Things: What You Need to Know

by:
on September 1, 2016

The internet of things (IoT) is not the future—it is now. And, of all the industries seeking to harness the power of internet connected sensors and devices, logistics and transportation are perhaps seeing the clearest and most immediate benefits to deploying this technology in their fleets.

It’s not just big companies that are utilizing IoT devices either—small companies too can find affordable software and hardware solutions that will improve how their fleets operate.

Let’s take a deep dive into it, shall we?

What IoT Is Doing Right Now for Fleet Management

IoT’s role in fleet management is pretty straightforward. It all starts with sensors and devices embedded in the vehicles and the data they are capturing. Depending on the type of data a fleet manager wants to analyze, they would need to equip their trucks with the appropriate hardware sensors. This can include:

  • Maintenance. Newer trucks equipped with embedded sensors can send signals when monitored parts are close to failure or are in need of a tune up. For example, sensors are often used to monitor each tire’s pressure level, allowing the driver or fleet manager to address the problem before it becomes a costly blowout. These sensors must usually be included in the truck and cannot be retrofitted.
  • Driver behavior. Beyond tracking time and physical location with traditional GPS technology, some IoT devices can monitor things such as a driver’s braking habits or how frequently they are drifting out of their lane. Driver behavior is often tracked with add-on, third-party hardware sensors.
  • Fuel efficiency. A fleet manager would also want to know how driver behavior is affecting fuel efficiency. As such, they would want to know long their trucks are idling, how quickly they are accelerating and decelerating, how fast they are going on average on top of actual consumption data and so on. Fuel efficiency can be tracked by both embedded and retrofitted sensors, depending on the make and model of the truck.

In general, every truck can be equipped with hardware sensors that track driver behavior and fuel efficiency, but in order to track maintenance, the truck will likely need to have those sensors already installed.

The data collected by these sensors is automatically uploaded to the cloud, where it can then be converted into useful analytics with traditional fleet management software.

How IoT Works With Fleet Management

 
 

Now that we understand how it works, let’s consider how we can use this data to make smarter decisions.

What Can the Data Tell You?

As data is collected in real time, fleet managers can use it to coach their drivers. Truck driver going too fast? Tell him to slow down. Burning too much fuel while idling? Tell him to turn off the engine if he’s going to be stopped for more than a few minutes.

In addition to real-time coaching, collecting this data allows fleet managers to make better informed decisions.

For example, some drivers simply drive better in certain vehicles along particular routes. This data could allow the fleet manager to assign the best drivers to the routes and vehicles they are best suited for.

Finally, using IoT sensors to capture data can lead to significant cost savings. Consider the fact that most trucks consume fuel at the paltry rate of roughly five miles per gallon.

With better data regarding how their fuel is consumed, even an additional mile per gallon through more intelligent fuel consumption can lead to massive savings.

What Software Vendors Are Doing

Huge news broke in the fleet management world when, earlier this summer, Telecom giant Verizon acquired fleet management vendors Telogis and Fleetmatics.

These are complementary pairings, indeed: Verizon boasts the best wireless network, according to some reports, and the acquisitions no doubt solidify the company’s place as a dominant force among enterprise cloud services for logistics firms.

While some fleet management companies are getting snatched up, others are playing catch up. In the past, there was no hardware to collect and send data back to the office; fleet management software was completely disconnected from the actual fleet.

To remain relevant, fleet management software vendors have had to improve and expand their pairings with IoT hardware devices. When shopping for new fleet management software, be sure to ask about any IoT integrations prospective vendors offer.

WorkWave’s route planning feature


So what does this all mean? We’re watching a major transformation in the trucking industry take place. Smaller trucking firms that aren’t adapting simply won’t be able remain afloat without giving serious consideration to revamping their back office analytics and how they are collecting data about their trucks.

What’s in Store for the Future?

We’ve written quite a bit about autonomous trucking in the past, and suffice it to say, it is the most logical conclusion for what the IoT-equipped truck will eventually become: intelligent robots on 18 wheels.

But before we get to that point, we can expect a few things to happen:

  • This technology will become cheaper and more integrated into new vehicles. This technology is advancing rapidly, so take it into account when you’re ready to make any significant investments into overhauling your fleet.
  • IoT data and analytics capabilities are quickly transforming from “nice-to-have” to “need-to-have,” even for smaller fleets. The cost savings are already proven in some cases, and the investment can be minimal.
  • New technologies such as the ones discussed here could help to drive overall operating costs down for distribution and logistics firms, making the industry significantly more profitable overall. Tied in with autonomous trucks, it’s likely we will see increasing disruption in this industry.

The good news is that there are more affordable fleet management solutions than ever available for small businesses so they can stay on top of a market that is in flux. It’s a boon for smaller businesses as niche software vendors race to acquire customers. This trend is driving software prices down and accelerating the capabilities of this technology.

Key Takeaways

Of course, not all IoT solutions for trucks make financial sense for small businesses to deploy. That said, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • If you’re only concerned about fuel efficiency or tracking driver behavior, there are relatively affordable hardware and software packages that are easy to set up and cheap to maintain.
  • If you’re in the market for newer trucks to add to your fleet, be sure to do your research on which makes and models already have IoT-embedded sensors. Even if you’re not ready to completely overhaul your backend analytics system and retrofit your entire fleet, incrementally modernizing your fleet can be a viable strategy.

What does IoT mean for your fleet? Are you using IoT devices in your fleet currently, and if so, what sort of returns are you seeing? Email me your thoughts at forrest@softwareadvice.com.

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