IoT Fleet Management: The Roadmap to Success1
Internet of Things

IoT Fleet Management: The Roadmap to Success

How regularly do you check on your vehicles for their maintenance? Perhaps not unless it’s broken or you think that it’s not running very smoothly.

This may be fine for you to have a single vehicle to check on. But for those having thousands of vehicles, logistic industries running fleets, even a slight difference in tire pressure can have a significant impact on the business that might end up costing a lot. And if maintained properly, it can save them thousands of dollars.

Maintenance is one aspect – what if fleet managers can optimize their entire fleet vehicles by monitoring driver and vehicle in real-time, optimizing fuel consumption, route management, increased safety, along with eco-friendliness?

 Well, all this would look like a dream if asked a few years back, but today, Internet-of-Things (IoT) has made it possible. Not only is it a reality, but many fleet companies are already leveraging IoT to streamline their fleet management operations.

Let’s check what it has for you, fleet managers!

Fleet Management: Challenges 

Efficiency is the most critical component of fleet management. However, most of the fleet managers log tasks manually and that consumes a lot of time and adds little to no value. 

Besides, they face various challenges such as:

  • Excessive time spent on fleet management tasks

Admin tasks such as invoicing and quoting, handling the admin dashboard takes a lot of time. In fact, according to TomTom’s global research, 49% of fleet managers spend approximately 1.5 to 2 hours on quoting and invoicing, 42% on identifying and dispatching the best workers for the job, 43% on expense management, and 40% on keeping customers informed. All this results in a staggering number of hours spent on non-core business activities.

  • High cost of fuel

Fuel is a major cost of businesses running fleets. Improper tracking of fuel consumption and the rising fuel price are some of the major concerns of fleet managers. TomTom’s study reveals that 34% of fleet managers agree that their company’s vehicles are consuming more fuel than necessary. The only solution to reduce fuel costs is fleet optimization.

  • Rising vehicle maintenance costs

Vehicle maintenance is critical to reduce downtime and prevent breakdowns. Even a slight tire knock-out can cause a huge deal if it’s not maintained properly. In fact, respondents in TomTom’s study revealed that their vehicle costs are higher than necessary. 

  • Relaying messages to the fleet drivers

Communication with your drivers relies on phones and network while on the road and thus was challenging. Miscommunication about the location, routes taken, asset conditions often led to increased expenses.

  • Delivering within the estimated time of arrival

Inaccurate estimated time of arrival often leads to customer disappointment and business loss. Customers want to know the accurate location of their package while on the road and IoT automation can help achieve it.

How IoT Revolutionizes Fleet Management

As a fleet manager, you often look for technologies and solutions that can help you meet safety standards and operate the fleets effectively. Here’s how IoT can help you with fleet management:

  • Remote Tracking

Smart fleet management uses telematics (telecommunication and informatics), an IoT application to allow fleet managers to effectively track vehicles’ location and assets’ movements. In addition, it provides two-way communication, i.e. it receives and transmits data in real-time, ensuring driver and vehicle safety and timely delivery.

  • Increased Fuel Efficiency

Fluctuation in fuel costs affect the transportation industry on a large scale and this is why sensors take a front seat in optimizing fuel. They gather data such as vehicle’s acceleration, braking, idling, and other experiences, and together encourage optimized routes, and optimal driver behavior. 

  • Optimized Maintenance Costs

To keep vehicles running, a timely maintenance check is necessary. However, IoT Predictive Maintenance predicts the damage or failure even before the scheduled maintenance check, and thereby, reduces the downtime by alerting about the vehicle condition.

  • Streamline Delivery Management

Online shopping along with the Amazon effect is changing the customer delivery experience. Customers want to know about the exact location of their product (Like Dominos shows the exact location of the order once it’s out for delivery.) Using GPS and RFID technology, fleet managers can automate the shipping time, track it every instant, and also control interior vehicle conditions such as temperature. 

Also Read: A Comprehensive Guide to IoT Inventory Management

  • Improved Safety on Road

Safety is of importance and a topic of concern for fleet managers. In 2017, road accidents led to 102 deaths per day, says the National Center for Statistics records, and costs employers an average of $60 billion every year. IoT fleet management can mitigate risks and promote safety on roads by collecting data such as driver behavior, vehicle acceleration, road condition. 

IoT Fleet Management: Technologies 

Fleet management powered with IoT devices is economical and made default by government mandates such as the ELD mandate in the United States. Currently, IoT in fleet management works on three main technologies:

  • Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID): It helps control and track products
  • Global Positioning System (GPS): It helps obtain real-time information on location
  • On-board diagnostics (OBD II): It provides information on vehicle maintenance and driving conditions.

Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology comprises wireless microchips (“tags”) that are installed on objects and emit radio waves. A reading device, i.e. an RFID reader, detects the waves from the tags, tracks the object, and transmits the collected data to the cloud for further processing. It is the most widely used technology due to its data holding capacity which is far better than barcodes. 

Another technology transforming real-time tracking and navigation is Global Positioning Systems (GPS). GPS links to the vehicles via trackers/sensors to obtain real-time information on the vehicle’s location and routes. 

While GPS helps in navigation, on-board diagnostics help in identifying the vehicle problems. It is one of the most important components of the IoT-based fleet management system. A widely available version of the technology, OBD II obtains information on vehicle maintenance and driving conditions through a device plugged into a vehicle’s OBD II port (every passenger vehicle sold in the US over the past 20 years follows OBD standards.) 

Once connected, the device reads data from a wide number of vehicle sensors including engine speed sensors, oxygen sensors, voltage sensors, and everything in between. It then transmits the collected data to the cloud where it is further processed and turned into valuable insights. This valuable data then informs the fleet manager about the vehicle, failures, or any engine-related problem, weather conditions, etc. 

In addition to these technologies, sensors and new connectivity technologies are also on-demand. For instance, sensors can be attached to nearly everything whereas RFID has certain limitations, and thus, using sensors, managers can track nearly anything in a vehicle by collecting any type of data. 

How an IoT based typical fleet tracking system works

  • On-vehicle sensors including RFID, GPS, OBD II collect location data.
  • Then, the data from all sensors is periodically sent to the local gateway over a mobile data connection as the vehicle moves.
  • The gateway sends the speed, location, direction, and other variable data to the network for processing. The processed data is sent to a secure application server in the cloud.
  • The application server converts this raw data into valuable patterns and sends clear and concise reports and alerts on the movement and safety of the vehicle to the driver’s or fleet manager.

In short, the three technologies (RFID, GPS, OBD II) combined with IoT together form a smart fleet management system.

Advantages of Adopting IoT Fleet Management

IoT offers a wide range of devices like vehicle tracking tools, rear-view cameras, driver mobile apps, to provide a seamless experience along with:

  • Remote Monitoring 

IoT fleet management provides real-time data of the vehicle, road and weather conditions, driver behavior, asset condition, etc. This data helps fleet managers to optimize their delivery.

Also Read: IoT Asset Tracking: Benefits, Technology, Use-Cases

  • Task Automation

IoT fleet management allows fleet managers to automate various processes and trip planning. For example, if a vehicle breaks down, an instant notification can be sent to the nearest tow and repairing service provider. Or if the weather conditions are not favorable, notifications can be sent to drivers along with a rerouting plan.

  • Efficient Fleet Operations

Fleet operators can move to the cloud for their daily operations and track fleets anywhere, anytime on any device. They can integrate smart fleet management solutions with their existing ERP systems to help management make informed decisions, or a dashboard to view fleet-wide data.

  • Cost Optimization

The IoT-based fleet management system helps transportation and freight businesses to mitigate risks and traditional ways of operating fleets. It allows fleet managers to communicate with the fleet operating staff in real-time along with feedback and training whenever required. Another way fleet management helps optimize costs is by making sensors and connecting devices available at economical prices. 

  • Enhanced Engine Performance and Efficiency

Previously, fleet operators didn’t have tools and technology that would help in monitoring vehicles’ engine performance as well as fuel efficiency. But now, with a digital tachograph* that records complete data with respect to vehicle’s utilization, they can enhance the performance and efficiency by making accurate and profitable decisions. 

*Digital Tachograph is a device installed on a vehicle that digitally collects its speed and distance, together with driver’s activity (selected from different modes).

  • Driver Behavior Management

IoT helps fleet managers monitor driver’s behavior – whether they are adhering to operating standards, following defined schedules and routes or not. IoT sensors for fleet management provide data such as the frequency of engine ON/OFF, braking, accelerator, and even sleep pattern. It can also help drivers’ stay awake by sending real-time notifications based on the eye movement data collected by image-processing tools. Moreover, with Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), fleet managers can have a record of drivers’ driving hours and therefore, adhere to DOT guidelines.

  • Improved Decision Making

Another reason for sticking to IoT-enabled fleet management solutions is that they provide fleet managers with actionable insights from across the fleets. For instance, it provides valuable insights about drivers’ driving patterns, analyzes routes, average delivery time, and all the fleet-related insights that help in streamlining business functions. Technology such as Telematics also improves decision making power by monitoring assets and trucks, identifying the problems, and providing analytics that ultimately suggests potential solutions.

OBD II system integrated with IoT-enabled devices supports predictive maintenance by sending early malfunction warnings to fleet operators so that they can perform repairing and servicing tasks much before the damage occurs. 

Good Read: IoT Warehouse Management: Moving towards Smarter Technology

IoT Fleet Management: Potential Use-Cases

The potential of IoT applications is as wide as the industries around and maybe more. Here are the IoT solutions available for Fleet Management.

  • Driver Maintenance

By using OBD II technology equipped with IoT, fleet managers can collect valuable data about drivers’ behavior and help them make better decisions while on the road. Specialized devices such as image recognition can help in detecting driver drowsiness, or external devices such as Stopsleep fixed on a driver’s finger, ActiWatch on the wrist, or Warden in the seatback that checks the driver’s physical condition while driving and generate an alarm if the driver is feeling drowsy or is in a state that’s dangerous for the trip. The IoT sensors can also help companies monitor actions such as how often a driver idles, brakes, drifts out of lanes, etc., planning measures to help drivers be efficient and safe on the road. 

Do you know that top car manufacturers like Mercedes and Volvo are developing built-in safety systems that monitor steering behavior and notify drivers on detecting changes?

  • Vehicle Management

Vehicle management means the longevity of vehicles while managing the budget. And this can be achieved with IoT that generates important data about vehicles, its failure, and parts that need to be repaired so that all these can be maintained before the vehicle breaks down. 

  • Environment-Friendly Options

If you’re a Go Green team fan or believe in protecting the environment, invest in IoT fleet solutions that reduce assets’ idle time, ensure burning of fuel only when necessary, optimize routes and monitor driver patterns. It also helps in reducing carbon footprint and staying compliant and environmentally friendly.

  • Fuel Monitoring

Besides driver monitoring, companies can use IoT sensors to monitor fuel levels, detect leaks or efficiency issues in the vehicle, alert managers about potential maintenance needs, and more. 

HID Global identiFuel system, for instance, uses RFID- enabled tags to collect vehicles’ fuel information. 

  • Loss Prevention

By detecting the conditions within the vehicle, sensors can alert fleet managers about potential product loss or theft. They can also help fleet managers with maintenance needs. For example, if the temperature in a refrigerated truck rises too much, it could damage the products or result in an issue. This can be taken care of with sensors alerting the fleet managers. 

Predixion Insight from Intel is one of the successful examples of preventive analysis systems. The system receives data from sensors including tire pressure, hydraulics, and other elements. After collecting the data, the gateway then analyzes it for immediate alerts or passes it to the cloud for valuable insights. 

  • Predictive Analysis

Monitoring systems such as driver monitoring, fuel monitoring, loss prevention systems together can be used in predictive maintenance along with sensors to monitor engine, tire pressure, and other vehicle movements that can aid in upcoming maintenance. For example, sensors identifying the slow braking of the driver combined with GPS location could indicate an issue with the braking system or terrain problem. Fuel usage combined with engine reading may show up the problems with fuel efficiency. By analyzing the data collected from various components, predictive maintenance can predict when a vehicle needs maintenance and thus can allow fleet managers to cut down on their maintenance cost. 

Conclusion

IoT is evolving constantly and so are its applications. Many industries are already leveraging IoT for their business operations and fleet management and transportation industry is one of those. If you’re into logistics or any fleet management business, this is the right time to move towards IoT as it is more efficient than a traditional vehicle tracking system.

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