Technology

Why Data Must Drive Your Operations To More Profits

Martin Romjue
Posted on October 16, 2017

(Getty image)
(Getty image)
 If you want to take the tech-geek image out of fleet telematics, then think of it like a tall layer cake. The more information levels you add, the more flavors it offers, and the more it can help your fleet operations save time, costs, and hassles.

With service-oriented commerce increasingly tied to mobile technology and instant communications, data takes an even bigger role in managing fleets. Telematics now involves more than dots of vehicles on a big digital map. Like synapses connecting in a brain, telematics can spur more informational links behind and among all those dots.

For Jason Dornhoffer, co-owner of United Private Car in Boston, fleet telematics slices up into at least three key data areas, or layers, that help his 20-vehicle operation: Fuel consumption, insurance liability, and driver performance.

“The numbers don’t lie. Reporting itself is what sells the product,” says Dornhoffer, whose company has used a system by Fleetmatics, A Verizon Company, for the last seven years. “You could run so many detailed reports, week to week, day by day, month to month, quarterly, or by chauffeur or driver.”

Boston operator Jason Dornhoffer says his Fleetmatics (by Verizon) system pays for itself many times over when considering improved fuel usage, better safety performance, and reduced insurance liability. (photo from United Private Car)
Boston operator Jason Dornhoffer says his Fleetmatics (by Verizon) system pays for itself many times over when considering improved fuel usage, better safety performance, and reduced insurance liability. (photo from United Private Car)
Dornhoffer estimates he saves up to 15% in fuel costs thanks to tracking purchases and idling and 6-8% in insurance premiums since he can identify risks and fine-tune chauffeur training. The company also monitors chauffeur driving habits and performance. Knowing vehicle locations and wait times also helps streamline use of affiliates during high demand periods, thereby saving more on farm-out costs.

“If you put all the data together, you can do rankings to see where chauffeurs fall in terms of driving, and it helps us make better decisions on how to handle repeat offenders,” Dornhoffer says.

The web-based Fleetmatics system comes with automatic upgrades, and like a cell phone contract, they are billed monthly per vehicle, Dornhoffer says. “You have to do a contract to get a return on the investment. It’s definitely paid for itself many times over. I don’t see how anyone in this industry can’t have some kind of GPS/fleet tracking.”

Contrary to some industry perceptions, tech-driven fleet management can give operations of all sizes, not just large ones, the critical visibility to better coordinate their remote workforce and vehicles, says Todd Ewing, director of product marketing for Fleetmatics.

“Whether running a small business with five trucks, or a larger enterprise with 100 vehicles in your fleet, the ability to see what’s happening with vehicles and field workers can help business owners make better decisions and deliver improved customer service, better operational efficiency, and drive valuable savings to the bottom line,” Ewing said in an email.

Todd Ewing, director of product marketing for Fleetmatics, a Verizon Company, says metrics-driven fleet management gives operators of all fleet sizes critical insights. (photo from Fleetmatics/Verizon)
Todd Ewing, director of product marketing for Fleetmatics, a Verizon Company, says metrics-driven fleet management gives operators of all fleet sizes critical insights. (photo from Fleetmatics/Verizon)
Cost Savings
Ewing echoes the ROI cited by Dornhoffer. Numbers from research firm Frost & Sullivan show fleet companies are sometimes able to see benefits with telematics within just a few weeks: 10-15% increase in productivity; 10-15% percent reduction in overtime; 20-25% percent reduction in total miles driven; 20-30 minutes of day/driver labor savings; 15-20% increase in vehicle usage; and 20-30% reduction in vehicle idle time.

Fleetmatics monitors data at every stage of a driver’s journey. Advanced monitoring extends from the vehicle to the customer experience. It’s then displayed on a simple-to-read customer dashboard so managers have a real-time view of vehicle locations, driver behavior, and traffic patterns. Then those insights can be used to help improve operations and boost efficiency.

“A fleet management solution such as Fleetmatics REVEAL can help customers lower fuel costs, rein in overtime pay, optimize routing and minimize vehicle wear and tear to save money,” Ewing says. “At the same time, optimized routing and increased visibility can help drive end-customer satisfaction and efficiencies, which means more jobs done in a day and happier customers, which ultimately serve to drive revenue.”

The most common way limo fleets can eliminate unnecessary costs is by reducing excessive idle time, says Jenny Shiner, marketing communications manager for GPS Insight, in an email. “Due to the nature of the business, there tends to be a certain amount of idle time considered acceptable. It’s when idling surpasses that acceptable threshold that limo fleets start to accrue high fuel costs. Many fleet managers and owners would be shocked at how much fuel is wasted due to excessive idling. Some customers have reported saving hundreds of thousands per year through this metric alone.”

Safety
On-demand telematics reports allow limo fleets to receive applicable information about their vehicles such as upcoming maintenance and unauthorized usage, Shiner says.

“The number one report used by GPS Insight customers is the posted speed report, which displays violations based on the speed limit of the road a vehicle traveled on. This report helps fleet managers easily pinpoint violations and use the information to coach drivers on safer practices.”

At Fleetmatics, safety on the job is critical and should be instilled as a mandatory practice regardless of company size, especially for businesses with fleets, Ewing says.

“Often, limo companies lack the staff they need to be able to supervise drivers with a dedicated safety director or fleet manager. By understanding where vehicles are and how they’re being driven, limo company owners and supervisors can address very specific incidents of speeding, harsh braking, etc. and be able to coach the driver on areas where they can improve, resulting in a safer fleet for drivers and passengers.”

In only a few weeks, fleet telematics improve driver behavior and decrease the number of safety incidents.

GPS Insight’s Jenny Shiner cites the advantages of fuel savings, especially when reducing idling time. "I think any business with a company vehicle can see value from using this technology in some capacity." (photo from GPS Insight)
GPS Insight’s Jenny Shiner cites the advantages of fuel savings, especially when reducing idling time. "I think any business with a company vehicle can see value from using this technology in some capacity." (photo from GPS Insight)
Customization
There are many custom arrangements possible through a software-focused telematics provider, Shiner says. GPS Insight tailors its approach to tracking software. “Our philosophy is all businesses are unique, so providing a one-size-fits-all software wouldn’t be right for everyone. All our solutions can be tailored to a specific business, fleet size, and role within a business such as fleet management, dispatch, maintenance, and more.”  Shiner says no minimum fleet size is needed to benefit from telematics.

“I think any business with a company vehicle can see value from using this technology in some capacity. With that said, I would recommend using the right solution based on how many vehicles a business will be tracking and the type of challenges they are looking to solve.”

Telematics providers may offer several solution tiers designed with different fleet sizes and business models in mind. This ranges from offering simpler fleet intelligence like real-time vehicle locations, simple dispatch, and driver behavior monitoring, to powerful solutions that provide highly customized fleet data best used by larger, more complex businesses.

Ewing of Fleetmatics says his company works with every customer to determine the pain points, and give them the quickest and easiest path to achieving their goals. “Whether they have just a few vehicles or 50, we can determine what solutions they need to control cost and drive up productivity and safety.”

Advances
Two areas where fleet telematics is advancing are in use of video and apps.

As connected vehicle technologies evolve, vehicle manufacturers will begin to build cameras and other hardware and software at the factory, Ewing says. “Since the vehicle is already connected, footage can be sent to the cloud in real time, helping to increase safety, promote advanced driver assistance (alerts in the cab), and to reduce liability as the camera records events in real time.”

Fleetmatics also collects and analyzes data to see how a fleet has performed in the past, how its performance compares with similar businesses (benchmarking), and how its drivers are performing across different vehicles, Ewing says. “This data and analysis can be accessed by business owners and fleet managers using any iOS or Android device. Business owners are rarely behind their desks, so it’s important to give them the information they need while on the move.”

The Fleetmatics REVEAL Field App provides mobile workers with a variety of capabilities through a clear and simple-to-use app. REVEAL customers can push routes to the field in real time enabling mobile workers to connect to turn-by-turn directions on their mobile devices. The application also provides mobile workers with direct access to their performance metrics, allowing them to track their progress and benchmark against the rest of their team.

SURVEY STATS: How Telematics Works For You
In a 2015 Bobit Business Media survey, 59% of fleets said productivity was a major benefit of using telematics — falling just ahead of decreased fuel consumption and improved routing. 92% of respondents, which included more than 1,000 commercial and government fleet responses from fleets of all sizes, said telematics had good effects on their fleet. Fleets also saw an average of a 12% decrease in labor costs, showing how increased productivity can lead right to the bottom line. Surveyed fleets also cited an average 10% decrease in fuel consumption with some respondents citing up to a 40% decrease. For accident costs, fleets cited an average of a 21% decrease. Nearly 37% reported improved vehicle maintenance through their telematics system.
Source: Automotive Fleet Magazine

(Getty image)
(Getty image)

SIDEBAR: Busting Down Unforeseen Costs
A few years ago, United Private Car of Boston had a chauffeur assigned to an as-directed run who was waiting at a hotel in Boston for a client, says company co-owner Jason Dornhoffer.

Fleetmatics spotted him taking a trip to the next town over not on the itinerary. The chauffeur didn’t respond to a dispatcher’s requests. After 15-20 minutes, he drove back to the hotel. Later, upon repeat questioning from the dispatcher, the chauffeur admitted he saw his girlfriend for a personal matter while on the job.

Since his actions violated company policy, he was fired. When the chauffeur filed for unemployment, the company was able to provide telematics screen shots as proof, along with his signature on the company policy agreement. He was denied unemployment, thereby saving the company money.

Telematics data analyst Zack Schmiesing helps insurance companies mine detailed data to establish accurate fleet safety performance. (photo from Verisk Insurance Solutions)
Telematics data analyst Zack Schmiesing helps insurance companies mine detailed data to establish accurate fleet safety performance. (photo from Verisk Insurance Solutions)
SIDEBAR: Safety & Insurance Factors Reign
At time of rising fleet insurance costs, the use of telematics to document vehicle operations and safe driving practices can help operators reduce their liability and premiums.

Even businesses with near-spotless loss-run records can be subject to higher premiums and would benefit from a detailed telematics tracking, says Zachary Schmiesing, director of commercial lines telematics and IOT for Verisk Insurance Solutions in Jersey City, N.J. Verisk is an analytics company specific to the telematics space that works with different tech and data providers to aggregate tele-data for their customers. Many automotive and fleet insurance companies use their data to assess safety performance of their policy holders.

Many insurance carriers are having trouble making a profit because of liability related to commercial vehicles, Schmiesing says. That’s why many fleet companies are seeing higher insurance rates and costs, even if an individual business has not had losses.

“One of the ways insurers are trying to right the ship is through the use of telematics technology that provides the additional level of knowing where the drivers are, how far the trips are, and that every individual is running in a safe and risk adverse method,” he says.

Assured of such telematics transparency, insurance carriers can then work with their clients to provide rate discounts based on the quality of the operating and driving data.

“The approach insurance companies are taking is to index and score drivers, and the fleet overall,” he says.

Devices now provide not only regular GPS locations, but acceleration times via accelerometers, geotagging of drivers, and data captured through gyrometers that measure angular speed. “We’ve heard anecdotally about accident reduction rates of 30% or more,” Schmiesing says.

Ways operators can apply telematics data include: Feedback and coaching for chauffeurs and drivers, circulating safe driving practices among staff, and using data to incentivize chauffeurs and drivers to compete for rewards bonuses or gifts for best safety performance ratings.


Related Topics: cost efficiencies, fleet management, fleet tracking, GPS, GPS Insight, saving money, Telematics, vehicle technology, Verizon

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