The emphasis on greater reliance on data-driven insights has shifted the partnership between fleets and fleet management companies (FMCs) from a purely service-based to more of a consulting-based relationship, where FMCs act as a strategic advisor in helping their clients make informed decisions, said Marty Kuhn, president of Mike Albert Fleet Solutions.
“As fleets become more connected and the volume of data they generate increases, fleets managers are looking to their FMCs to help them make sense of all this data, which is not easily readable and can be somewhat difficult to obtain,” Kuhn said. “So, they’re relying on us to provide a level of insight in actionable follow-ups on how to manage it. The ability to provide actionable insights from this has become a key value prop for all FMCs.”
Key Areas for FMCs to Focus On
Mike Albert emphasizes six important aspects in fleet management that the market indicates FMCs should focus on, Kuhn said.
- Telematics. This technology provides real-time tracking of vehicles, including their location, speed, idle time, and other parameters. The data can be used to optimize routes, reduce fuel consumption, and improve driver performance.
- Artificial intelligence (AI). It can predict, for instance, maintenance needs based on vehicle usage patterns, identify inefficiencies and routes, and provide recommendations for improving driver performance. “It provides actual insight that’s not readily known or readily available to a client,” Kuhn said.
- Predictive analytics. It uses historical data and types of machine learning algorithms to predict future events. For instance, it can pinpoint the usage and the wear and tear of vehicles, engines, or tires. “These vehicles are being used to generate revenue for clients. How do you balance that cost in the usage of the vehicles compared to the revenue that’s being generated by these vehicles?” Kuhn said.
- Cybersecurity. As vehicles become more connected, the risk of threats from digital attacks rises. “Fleets and FMCs need to consider solutions that protect against these types of threats and, most importantly, ensure the security of their vehicles and driver data,” Kuhn said. “Each individual state has very finite rules and regulations on the sharing of data and on personally identifiable information containment.”
- Fleet management software. It provides a centralized platform for managing all aspects of a fleet ranging from vehicle acquisition and maintenance to dispatching and route optimization. Modern fleet management software, which is cloud-based, can be accessed from any device and gives flexibility and real-time visibility into fleet operations. “Some of our larger customers who have thousands of vehicles with us are able to look on a map and have real-time visual snapshots of where all of their vehicles are, whether they’re delivering parts or delivering groceries,” Khun said. “It is increasingly important to have that level of sophistication in full view.”
- Dash cameras. The cameras help reduce accidents and false litigation claims brought on by these accidents, Kuhn said. “A lot of our clients have started to suggest that they think these will allow them to provide meaningful returns. Specifically, this type of technology improves driver behavior because they realize that they’re being watched. In addition, with supply chain for replacement parts being severely constrained, reducing accidents substantially increases fleet efficiency and reduces the total cost of ownership.”
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Kuhn said there’s a heightened focus internally at Mike Albert with considerations around when and where to make all these investments.
“You can’t necessarily do them all at the same time,” Kuhn said. “While everyone would like to be best in class, you have to figure out where, and when, do you make these investments. It really requires you to listen to the market and your associates who are manning the phones and have their finger on the pulse with the clients, and most importantly, understand the feedback coming from the usage of these types of technologies.”
Harnessing Predictive Analytics and Telematics Data
Properly managing a fleet requires having modern fleet management software, Bathe said. Mike Albert has its proprietary Overdrive fleet portal, which provides comprehensive data that fleet clients can access anytime.
Bathe points out the importance of aggregating and analyzing information covering multiple facets such as financial data, vehicle maintenance, compliance information, telematics, and dash cameras.
“One of the things we try to work on is making sure that we’re bringing actionable insights to our clients,” Bathe said. “There’s no way that anybody can wade through all this data and draw their own powerful conclusions. You must have the fleet management software with the predictive analytics built in, where it’s actually going through this data and bringing up only the exceptions, and maybe you can fine-tune it after that.”
With the fleet management software, Mike Albert can leverage machine learning to identify patterns and make predictions, so that fleets can run more efficiently, focusing on vehicle maintenance and vehicle health. That results in fewer interruptions in business and vehicle breakdowns as well as reduced total cost of ownership on the vehicle.
The usage of predictive analytics has increased, as it has become an integral part of the fleet management toolbox. Mike Albert has concentrated on leveraging the huge volumes of telematics, maintenance, and financial data to make predictions, Bathe said.
With the additional data being continually gathered and analyzed, Bathe points out the vast amount of information provided by built-in cameras and sensors in vehicles. “Each one of those can start to leverage AI. Are drivers properly slowing down when there are potholes and pedestrians? If I can start getting more data points, I can start doing a lot more predictions, as long as I’m building the right models.”
As telematics becomes table stakes for fleets, its data has created efficiencies in areas pertaining to maintenance, driver behavior, and vehicle usage, Bathe said. “You can harness the data, such as what drivers are getting done in a day, and then you can start to learn some of those patterns and educate the rest of your fleet. As we start marrying up more data sets, we can start to derive more efficiency out of our techs and the resources.”
Originally posted on Automotive Fleet