It isn’t just big companies with huge fleets of vehicles that benefit from advanced monitoring and management technology. The transport and delivery fleets that small to medium-sized businesses operate can improve their operations, performance, and recordkeeping by implementing a fleet management system.

A fleet management system consists of several elements. Among them are sensors in vehicles, artificial intelligence for analysis, insightful reporting and monitoring capabilities, and communications functions. These all work together to provide a company with a comprehensive view of its fleet operations.

With fleet management systems, there are four areas where you will benefit: efficiency, performance, safety, and compliance. Here are details about what you can expect when you deploy a fleet management system.

1. Efficiency

When it comes to tracking your vehicles, monitoring their utilization, and planning and scheduling, a fleet management system can significantly improve your operational efficiency.

Fleet telematics and management have evolved into a comprehensive structure that allows you to know where your vehicles are; to determine whether they’re parked, idling, or moving (and how fast); to monitor scheduled and actual arrival times; and to transform maintenance from reactive to preventive. In real time, for instance, you can track the location of a vehicle or trailer as well as environmental data inside that vehicle or trailer, such as temperature and humidity.

You can reduce costs through near-real-time diagnostics that notify you if a vehicle is experiencing performance issues or needs maintenance. You can optimize your fleet schedules based on hours of service availability. And you can keep a close eye on driver performance, from both operational and safety standpoints. With telematics tracking, your home office can gain visibility so dispatchers know where all their vehicles are and where they are supposed to be at any given moment.

Need to easily and quickly notify drivers their job or route has changed? With the right fleet management system, you can deploy cab-mounted mobile tablets for instant updates about routes, traffic, appointment cancellations, and more. You don’t have to send texts to the drivers’ phones or call them, which can compromise safety.

Additionally, advanced fleet management technology can streamline your back office processes, replacing inefficient paper-based operations with electronic ones. It can also yield further savings by automating daily workflows and repetitive manual tasks such as scheduling preventive maintenance, tracking driver performance, and managing fuel costs. 

2. Performance

Better management means better awareness of and control over your fleet’s vehicles and drivers, so you can improve their performance and cost-effectiveness. That means knowing the status of your vehicles and how they’re being driven, diagnosing the performance of the vehicle’s engine and other vital systems, and managing fuel use.

A vehicle that is out of commission is doing nothing for your business. Maximizing the productive hours for those vehicles, and extending their usable life, adds to the bottom line. With sensors monitoring data such as fuel level, tire pressure, oil status, engine temperature readings, and brake wear, you can get an early warning about the symptoms that lead to a vehicle breakdown and proactively manage the situation before it gets worse.

Also, by tracking both vehicle status and driver performance you can enhance fleet fuel management and reduce fuel costs. One study showed that the average fleet vehicle spends about 25 percent of its working hours each day just idling. That wastes fuel, and so does inefficient driver behavior such as fast acceleration and speeding. Having the data to monitor idling and driver behavior gives you the insight to make changes and save money.

3. Safety

The safety of your people and vehicles is always a top priority. Fleet management systems can improve your drivers’ performance, let you communicate with them safely, and ensure they don’t put your drivers, vehicles or your cargo at risk.

With in-vehicle sensors you can monitor speed, erratic driving or lane changes, aggressive driving issues such as rapid acceleration or hard braking, unscheduled stops, excessive idling, vehicle accidents or breakdowns, and out-of-route miles. Having this data allows you to coach your drivers toward better behavior and make sure all your policies are being followed.

Drivers who know their behavior is monitored are also more likely to follow your policies, traffic laws, and industry regulations. The results? Fewer accidents and improved safety performance, with fewer liability claims, fewer traffic tickets, lower insurance premiums, and less concern about vehicles going out of service due to accidents.

Advanced fleet management systems reduce distracted driving and overall driving behavior by streamlining communications between you and your drivers.

Since most accidents result from distracted driving, it is critical to limit the potential distractions in the cab, especially phone use. A system with in-cabin cameras along with artificial intelligence can help clear your drivers if there is an accident. It can capture information such as mobile device use at inappropriate times, drowsiness, distracted eating, and other behaviors, including negative road behavior.

Using the management system to send in-cab notifications sent directly to drivers – and not via their mobile devices – is less distracting. These notifications can also be used to coach drivers in near-real-time, an approach that has been proven to reduce distracted driving events.

Finally, the use of geofencing – setting up geographic limits to where your vehicles can go – can help keep them out of non-approved geographic locations or areas under construction where there may be greater risk of theft or damage. Drivers can be notified if they venture into those areas, or are otherwise off their intended route.

4. Compliance

Regardless of the size of your fleet, compliance is a major concern. Staying in line with rules about the time that drivers can spend behind the wheel, the activity logs that are required, fuel tax payments, inspections, and other regulatory requirements is made easier with fleet management systems that incorporate electronic logging devices, or ELDs.

With ELDs, you can all but eliminate paperwork and the risk of human error. Accuracy in logs is assured and available instantly. It simplifies reporting, allows you to better monitor activity, and improve trip planning. Drivers don’t need to spend unproductive hours filling out the required information and can instead focus on what you hired them to do: keep your vehicles on the road generating revenue.

The use of ELDs can reduce inspection time by providing comprehensive logging data. This streamlines inspections and eliminates the need to deal with handwritten logs as you strive to verify hours of service and find any errors in your reports.

Whatever your company’s size, a fleet management system can provide a welcome and cost effective upgrade in how you monitor and manage your vehicles and the people who operate them.