Since the turn of the millennium, fleet management has been undergoing a quiet revolution following the advent of telematics. Fleet managers now have information at their disposal that previously they could only have dreamed of. This is part of a wider, rapid transformation of in vehicle technology, with the so-called 'connected car' - expected to account for three-quarters of all car sales by 2020.
So just how are fleet managers making the most of this technological shift? And how has the connected car and telematics impacted fleet management?
Safety and maintenance
According to a 2014 study from Lex Autolease, excess insurance payments cost UK businesses more than £26m a year. It's no surprise, then, that fleet tracking is so popular among companies as a mechanism to improve fleet safety.
Connected cars are typically equipped with a wide range of devices that capture information on driver behaviour and rapidly convey this to the fleet manager, allowing them to understand and improve driver performance through personalised training programs.
What's more, the knowledge that the standard of their driving is being closely monitored has a psychological effect that positively impacts driving behaviour. Knowing that dangerous driving will be identified creates an environment where drivers are likely to drive more carefully - which in turn enhances the safety of other road users.
The connected car is also helping fleet managers stay on top of vehicle maintenance. Having the ability to automatically capture odometer readings is enabling many businesses to automate service scheduling, reducing administrative time, unplanned maintenance cost and vehicle downtime.
Planning and workflow
The increasing connectivity of fleets has also greatly enhanced managers' ability to plan and monitor workflow, by creating less fragmented views of fleet activity. With the ability to track connected vehicles in real time via GPS fleet tracking, enables fleet managers to deploy resources more effectively and respond to customers' needs quicker. Routes and journey times can now be analysed in fine detail, delivering a better service to customers as well as cutting costs on fuel. With the increasing demands across the service industry and with internet sales forecast to top £60bn in the UK this year, the importance of vehicle connectivity is going to continue grow.
It's not just road transport services that are using telematics to improve workflow. The heavy construction sector is using equipment connectivity to enhance utilisation across job sites and optimise maintenance schedules. Service fleets are deploying closed loop job despatch, routing and proof of delivery solutions that enhance customer service, and sales organisations are automating their mileage claims processes, reducing many hours of administrative process.
The connected car has changed the way that we think about fleet compliance. The capability to integrate technology is raising the standards of policy implementation and governance and is reducing the administrative burden.
One technology that is becoming widely adopted is automated vehicle safety checks. This simple technology provides drivers with a mobile device that outlines the safety checks that need to be completed and the capability to submit to management that the check has been carried out and whether faults were found. This simple tool has helped many fleet managers provide auditable evidence of adherence to vehicle safety policy without the challenge of manually collating information.
Over the coming decade, internet connectivity will continue to change not just the way we drive as individual motorists but also the way firms oversee fleet management. With the connected car now going mainstream and fully autonomous cars continuing to linger on the horizon, fleet managers have to be prepared to take advantage of the major opportunities that now present themselves. The benefits, as firms the world over are already seeing, are many.