The twenty-first century is here, people. Long gone are the days when data didn’t drive every part of an industry. The transportation industry is part of this. Schedules are tight, gas prices are rising, and more vehicles are reaching distant places. No longer can the logistics manager create and maintain a schedule using just a whiteboard. In this post, we’re going to discuss some basics and strategy related to tracking a fleet.
“How do I track my fleet?” That’s the question we’ll try to answer together. Remember that fleet management is the cornerstone of a successful logistics operation. It’s irrelevant to the size of the company. Whether it’s big or small, your organization can benefit from a proper management system.
Some benefits may seem small. For example, organizing drivers’ data, including their personal information and driver’s license details, may not look like much. Other benefits are obviously significant: reduced fuel consumption, GPS tracking, bad habits correction, and more. As you read this article, think about which specific benefits—big or small—matter most to you and your organization.
Fleet management includes many things. In essence, though, it involves all tools, actions, and techniques that allow you to manage the risks related to your organization’s logistics and transportation investments. It helps you improve efficiency and productivity in your operations.
Fleet tracking isn’t a new concept. It all started when companies began requiring multiple transportation vessels to finish a job. Back in the day, it was all about going from point A to point B. It then scaled up to more elaborate tasks, such as transporting equipment, delivering critical materials, and more. Logistics managers began seeing the need for proper management to help them reduce costs and increase production.
While generally attributed to road warriors, fleet management can also help air and water operations. Managing transportation efforts involves a 360-degree overview of vehicles, drivers, maintenance, costs, and more. All of those are essentials for the operation. Moreover, they’re challenging to scale up while doing so manually. That brings us to fleet tracking.
Let’s get to the good stuff. Fleet tracking is part of the logistics operation. Tracking a fleet relies on telematics to effectively monitor all the activities of an organization’s assets. An asset can sound vague. It refers to vehicles (powered or not) and workers out there in the field.
A good fleet tracking software should aim to provide real-time information. Whatever the conditions are, the fleet manager should be able to overview all metrics of the vehicles. Metrics can include:
And there can be many more metrics. Normally, any good software should provide template reports and the ability to customize reports on the go. Any tool you choose has to adapt itself to your organization. Needless to say, it should be user friendly and easy to customize and operate. After all, you don’t want any more complexity in an otherwise time-critical operation.
A key element of a good fleet tracking system is accessibility. State-of-the-art software is normally web-based, which makes it easily accessible on the go. Software also needs to offer a secure transport layer. In other words, the data needs to be encrypted end to end, which is a no-brainer in this day and age. Finally, most of the fleet tracking software out there should be vendor agnostic—meaning you don’t have to use the products of a particular company to benefit from it. The right fleet tracking system for you will be easily adaptable to any vehicle you manage, no matter the size, make, or model.
Expanding just a bit more on the point above, there’s also no need for expensive infrastructure. Most of the solutions out there are cloud-based. That means the company you hire takes care of the servers, the databases, and the legwork for you. Every company is different, so you’ll need to input the details of your fleet.
As we move past the basic concepts and evaluate different options, the picture may get blurry. Making a decision can be difficult. You’re not alone! The need for a fleet tracking software goes across many industries. Whether your business involves telecom, food service, or construction, you’re going to need a piece of software that has your back.
Judging or picking one type of software over the others is difficult. Although their functionality may be similar, there are several metrics to keep in mind that might help you make a decision. It’s always going to depend on your unique setup. Some differentiating points might include:
The best system for you is unlikely to be cheap. You’re paying for a Software-as-a-Service solution, and that’s never easy on the budget. However, it does vary a lot in terms of what each solution can offer. Normally these types of services are contract-based, and most will offer annual pricing. However, with some companies, you might be able to negotiate month-to-month pricing.
And that’s just software. You’ll also need to rent out global positioning system devices for the fleet. Those GPS devices will perform active (and passive) tracking. Companies may adapt their prices depending on how long you want to rent for. If your company’s on the smaller side, you might prefer a month-to-month deal.
A significant differentiating factor between different solutions is how accurate the reported data is. Specifically, how precise are the timing and the refresh rate? On the more expensive side of the equation are the apps offering a second-by-second refresh rate. However, your organization might do just fine with a more “breadcrumb-like” result—in other words, a slower refresh rate that costs you less. If you pair the slower rate with a robust mapping solution, you may not even notice the difference.
While it isn’t necessarily related to “real-time” response, it’s helpful to mention that a good fleet tracking tool should offer maintenance time-off capabilities without disrupting day-to-day operations. That is, it should allow you to proactively keep track of the maintenance the vehicles require. This is an essential tool for any fleet manager.
As always, reach out to the companies you like, and start asking the right questions.
How a solution adapts to your specific needs will probably be the make-or-break consideration in your decision. Personally, I’m quite invested in telecom-oriented features. So, in addition to vehicle tracking and preventive maintenance, I’m looking for inventory and parts supply. If you happen to be in the food industry, on the other hand, you may benefit more from tracking and servicing cooling equipment. Depending on your industry, you might also benefit from a tool that can serve multiple vehicle types at the same time.
Also, find out if the fleet tracking system can do an on-site evaluation of your needs. Of course this will make you feel special, but it also speaks very highly of the fleet tracking company’s experience.
Whatever your cup of tea might be, the solution you choose should adapt to your growth strategy and complement your strategic planning. It really stands out from the rest when solutions offer adaptive features based on your every need.
Choosing an easy-to-adapt tool isn’t a superficial decision. These tools aim to save you money and help you perform your job better. So don’t take it lightly when it’s time for you to choose the software, equipment, and companies you’ll work with.
See if the companies that interest you are willing to provide you with a free cost study analysis. This will help you figure out customized solutions for your unique needs. As I mentioned above, pricing and costs are definitely on top of the differentiating factors when it comes to picking a solution. So, having an option dedicated to saving money is always worth checking out. I did mention it should be free, right?
Deciding how to track your fleet is never easy. But the power is in your hands! It’s exciting to imagine all the possibilities and where your fleet is going to. It’s time for me to drive off, though. After all, we’re always on a schedule!
This post was written by Guillermo Salazar. Guillermo is a solutions architect with over 10 years of experience across a number of different industries. While his experience is based mostly in the web environment, he's recently started to expand his horizons to data science and cybersecurity.