Technology and Your Fleet - How to Determine What Fits Your Needs

From fire to the wheel to cell phones, humans have always sought new tools to improve the way we live. Recently, technology innovations and integration have been expanding at unheard of rates. In 1882, Thomas Edison opened the first central power plant, twenty years later only 16 percent of the U.S. had electricity in their homes. Meanwhile, in 1992, four percent of the U.S. population had a cell phone, 20 years later in 2012 that number had grown to 88 percent. Fueled by the ability to link various technologies together, the transportation industry has not been immune to the rapid growth of available technology. However not all technology makes sense for every fleet.

When looking at new technology for your fleet, it is important to pay attention to what will provide the best return on investment (ROI) and addresses the issues your fleet faces. For example, a regional carrier whose drivers are never on the road overnight and has no sleeper units, likely has no need for an auxiliary power unit (APU) to provide heating and cooling needs without idling the engine. Here are a few areas to consider when evaluating what technology can benefit your fleet:

 

  • Fleet type: A 2007 study by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administrationwas able to identify the most prevalent inefficiencies based on fleet type. Linking these common inefficiencies with your fleet type may help you address areas for improvement in your own company.
    • Private fleets:
      • Hours of service
      • Fuel waste due to excessive speed
    • Less than Truckload:
      • Waiting for unloading
      • Congestion delay
    • Truckload Carriers:
      • Waiting for unloading
      • Fuel waste due to excessive speed
    • Pick-up and Delivery:
      • Congestion delays
    • Cross-Border Carriers:
      • Waiting time - cross-border wait times (processing, paperwork, infrastructure/capacity limitations)
      • Congestion delay
    • Expedited Carriers:
      • Congestion delays
    • Public Sector:
      • Safety (crashes, noncompliance)
      • Intelligent Transportation Systems integration
    • Private-Sector Technology:
      • Waiting for loading/unloading
      • Poor routing, scheduling and out-of-route miles
  • Size: It matters. Small fleets may not waste much time managing paper log books, however that same task can be a huge burden for a fleet with 800 drivers. Alternatively, large fleets may have a harder time switching from one technological platform to another due to the widespread integration and greater infrastructure investment.
  • Fleet footprint:The geographical area of your fleet can impact the technology that best serves your need in three ways, distance from home base, state and international borders and environmental conditions.
    • Distance from home base: A small, local fleet operating in one city may not have the need for complex communication system; a simple two-way short wave radio may do the trick. Meanwhile, a fleet operating across country may benefit from cellular and satellite communication systems.
    • State and International Borders: Fleets crossing borders, whether domestic or international, face a whole different set of challenges than their state-based counterparts. These companies can cut time through pre-screened compliance systems and pre-paid toll passes.
    • Environmental conditions: Fleets operating in an oil field will have different needs than those operating on city streets. Infrastructure in remote areas is lacking and may add additional safety factors for consideration. Remote areas may call for satellite communication equipment versus cellular, and hazardous locations may require additional safety monitoring systems.
  • Driver requests: Listening to your drivers can have a huge impact on your bottom line. Drivers are the front-line troops of your fleet. Day-in and day-out they understand where new technologies can improve their jobs. Not to mention better technology may reduce your driver turnover and save you money. The 2007 FMCSA study also found driver turnover costs carriers $8,200 per driver.

 

When considering new technology investments don't be afraid to take your time, evaluate all your options and ask smart questions. If possible, network with other fleet managers to find out what is working for them and what isn't. Let us know on Twitter what technology you've recently incorporated into your fleet by mentioning @SpeedGauge in your post.

This entry was posted on February 4th, 2013 by jhubbard and is filed under Recent News & Updates.