By Marie LeMoine
Vice President, Fleet and Aviation Product Management, U.S. Bank
How many of us feel a little bit like Linus without a security blanket when we don’t have our smart phones? Like it or not, we rely on them for so many things, from keeping in touch with the kids to ordering dinner on-the-run to tracking our heart rate when we actually run.
Mobile technology is becoming every bit as ubiquitous in our professional lives, and that’s as true for fleet management as any other field, if not more so. New technology is coming online almost daily in the form of mobile apps, telematics, dispatch systems, mobile payments, gamification and performance dashboards. Just like we use our phones for everything at home, we’ll soon be using mobile technology—including, but not limited to, our phones—for everything related to fleet management.
Here are the top five ways mobile technology creates value for fleets. If you aren’t taking advantage of all five, it’s time you took steps in that direction.
- Lower Fuel Costs: Fuel prices, though not as volatile as they have been in the past, nonetheless remain a top expense, and not something that any of us can control. Mobile technology can help fleets manage fuel costs more effectively. It’s now possible to control things that weren’t controllable before, such as finding the best price on each route and not forcing drivers to search for fuel or services. Managers need not worry that drivers are going far out of their way to find a gas station or truck stop. They can even route drivers to specific locations where discounts have been pre-negotiated. This helps fleets to better forecast expenses. There’s less left to chance and fewer surprises involved.
- Reduced Maintenance Costs: The predictive aspects of mobile data can help fleets be more proactive versus reactive, keeping vehicles in good repair. By integrating data from telematics—a means of wirelessly communicating vehicle routing, maintenance and vehicle performance—and dispatch systems, which wirelessly show where vehicles are at any given time, fleet managers can amalgamate key information about the vehicle to better schedule preventive and proactive maintenance. Fleets can thus better control when and where maintenance and repairs happen and greatly reduce emergency scenarios.
- Fraud Protection: Real-time location information, combined with fuel card data, can indicate if the vehicle and the card are in the same location or if the card, driver and vehicle have been separated. The driver may not be aware of it; it could be a fraud situation, and the driver could be caught off-guard by not having a card at the next scheduled stop. It could also mean the driver has been hurt or is stranded without the vehicle or the card. The fleet manager can immediately check with the driver to ensure safety and then contact the fleet card provider and law enforcement as appropriate.
- Improved Safety: Technology can help prevent danger and respond to it more quickly. Voice prompts for routing, fueling locations and maintenance alerts from telematics, mobile apps and dispatch systems can keep the drivers focused on the road instead of fumbling with devices and trying to read information. Timely traffic information can divert drivers from accident delays, road closures and bad weather situations.
- Driver Retention: The continuing driver shortage puts high-quality truckers in the—pun intended—driver’s seat when choosing employers. Beyond pay and incentives, drivers often factor technology into their employment decisions. Fleets with the latest mobile technology can attract and retain the best and keep them engaged. Having connections through alerts, routing or even “gamification,” with performance dashboards or scorecards incenting desired behavior, appeals to many drivers and creates a sense of community in the organization. And it goes without saying that technology fosters better connections to their home life. It used to be that drivers had to go to a pay phone to stay in touch with their family and friends. Now they can keep in contact from anywhere.
Don’t Just Read It, Heed It
Technology’s capacity for monitoring and analyzing data is ever-expanding, while the cost is ever-shrinking. It’s more accessible and readily available today to fleets of all sizes, not just the largest ones. It’s important to understand, however, that it’s not just about getting more bells and whistles; it’s about applying them in ways that really do cut your costs and improve your efficiency.
Collecting data for data’s sake doesn’t do anyone any good. If your oil light illuminates and you ignore it, soon enough you’ll need a new engine instead of an oil change. Telematics, dispatch systems and tools such as the U.S. Bank Voyager® Mobile App open up access to all kinds of information that can make a huge difference in how drivers are routed, where they stop and when maintenance is performed—provided that information is acted upon.
Avail yourself to the best of today’s expanding array of technology choices, then use the information to improve the efficiency of your operations, the engagement of your drivers and the margin of your bottom line.
This commentary originally appeared in the American Trucking Associations’ Business of Trucking e-newsletter.
©2016 U.S. Bank MMWR 101424