Next-gen fleet management more than tracking tech

Forget your notions of driver tracking. There are savings to be made!
28 June 2022

“American trucks” by Tim Zim is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

No fleet manager needs reminding that rising fuel prices are putting logistics companies under a tortuous amount of pressure right now. But no business wants to find the necessary cost savings by cutting its fleet size or reducing the number of routes it serves. Modern technology like Transport Management Systems (TMS) though allows fleets to unearth savings right across their business operations, while safeguarding drivers’ jobs and maintaining their route range.

On-vehicle telemetry, a combination of hardware and supporting software, has existed for around 20 years. It tracks vehicles, monitors driver hours and distances, and finds the most time-efficient routes. The problem with the older generation of on board telemetry is that it exists in a closed-loop system – a system that gives the same results to all its users. So, while it finds time-efficient routes, usually straight-line shortest-distance routes, it finds exactly the same routes (albeit with some allowances made for preferring freeways, motorways, Autobahns, and so on). Used unwisely, it can send out a ready-made traffic hotspot just waiting to happen.

Older technology, used to plot logistics companies’ routes, is static, meaning that traffic hotspots are either ignored (due to the lack of real-time traffic data) or cause on-the-fly re-routing when it’s too late to avoid negative effects on vehicles’ journey times. By the time Google Maps is aware of a problem, a fleet’s assets are often already stuck in a snarl-up or its secondary effects.

The most obvious impact of longer delivery times is on the business reputation of logistics firms. No one depending on a tight time window trusts delivery companies who constantly seem to be late because drivers are stuck in traffic. Clients consider it the job of the logistics company to get around traffic. Additionally, vehicle wear and tear is always greater in start-stop traffic, which results in greater maintenance overheads. The need for more sophisticated transport management systems becomes increasingly obvious.

Today’s next-generation transport management systems (TMS) help companies find unnecessary costs and avoid them. Near real-time routing changes can be automatically pushed to drivers’ mobile devices, ensuring that routes are always the most efficient, regardless of the time of day and prevailing road conditions. Smart route planning can find better delivery routes by considering road conditions that affect vehicles in minor ways. Drivers may report that roads in a particular area are often slow, or are rough and pot-holed, facts borne out by telemetry that shows slower progress for a few miles. Modern fleet management systems can compensate for these smaller preferences, with practical positive effects, especially at scale.

The latest telemetry-based TMS solutions also reduce the time drivers sit in cabs going nowhere, which cuts overtime costs and lowers the company’s monthly wage bill. Previous generations of transport management systems always had a bad rap from drivers. They were often seen as spy technology, used by management to check up on drivers. However, today’s solutions are based on maintaining the overall health of the business, rather than concentrating on its human element.

Logistics companies need to move the narrative of on-vehicle tracking systems forward, from legacy systems that track drivers to full TMS capabilities that track logistics economies. An unhappy workforce that feels unduly scrutinized rarely goes the extra mile for a company. But if drivers get to see that better route planning and vehicle management means they get to go home on time after a day’s driving, they will not only be better employees, they will also be more likely to engage with training and guidance on good on-road manners and driving style.

On the pages of Tech HQ, you’ll find several reviews of next-generation on-vehicle telemetry-based software and hardware. If you run a transport business or are a transport or fleet manager, it’s well worth flicking through the pages here to find a solution that would suit you. In the last five years, the technology’s capabilities have moved on significantly, and in hard times, capturing much-needed savings is well worth the investment in time spent at least investigating the possibilities.