Fleet Management Technology: Driving Freight Efficiency and Safety

The following article first appeared in Total Retail on March 24, 2022.

Prior to 2020, the gradual shift from brick-and-mortar to e-commerce shopping had already begun. The pandemic, however, accelerated this shift as more consumers elected to shop online. The U.S. e-commerce forecast had online sales growing by double digits — 17.9 percent year-over-year — in 2021. Online sales were forecast to reach $933.30 billion last year, accounting for 15.3 percent of total retail sales.

This meteoric rise in demand for products has contributed to tremendous growth within the booming trucking industry. Online retailers must keep more inventory in stock to meet demand. Drivers and fleets aren’t lacking for work, but they are increasing their reliance on fleet management software. That reliance is well-placed.

A range of technology solutions now exists to help fleets collect and use data and analytics to their advantage. To remain relevant and retain a competitive edge, fleets and trucking companies must continue to embrace technology that offers the ability to harness, analyze and use the vast amount of data generated by tracking devices and other tech.

Using Data to Gain a Competitive Advantage

Historically, fleets have struggled to gather and analyze the right data and use it effectively to drive improvements and decision making. Thanks to cloud computing, even smaller and midsize companies can access and afford cutting-edge fleet management software.

Today’s fleet management software enables trucking companies to leverage real-time, cloud-based software and data to:

  • decrease planning time;
  • optimize operations;
  • improve consistency; and
  • increase customer satisfaction.

Larger challenges accompany increased demand. Telematics and other fleet management software provide real-time information about individual driver ETAs and GPS coordinates. Route planning software helps managers and dispatchers organize, strategize, plan and assign deliveries based on need and even truck-specific attributes. This software, which accesses real-time data, also enables dispatchers to track accidents, construction and traffic flow — valuable information which allows dispatchers or drivers to adjust routes and update customers.

Fleet management software’s vehicle diagnostics can identify potential vehicle issues and assist managers with scheduling and tracking maintenance. These diagnostics also help reduce engine wear and fuel costs by monitoring fuel consumption and idling times. It costs an average of $1.82 per mile to run a truck — with fuel comprising 24 percent of that cost. Advanced software uses mapping fleet and telematics geofences as well as monitors vehicle idling time for fuel usage to give fleet managers the ability to control where drivers can refuel.

These tools empower fleet managers and dispatchers to plan the most efficient routes and offer other driver support. With access to software-generated driver performance analytics, fleet managers can update drivers about accidents, dangerous roads or changes to the weather. Trucking companies can also use the data to create, implement and enforce workplace protocols about driver responsibilities like loading/unloading, customer communication and rest times. It can also coach drivers who are facing hours of service (HOS) violations and safety and performance issues to help them improve.

AI and Back-Office Automation

Artificial intelligence (AI) helps transportation operations increase their efficiency. AI models — because they’re faster, more accurate and more consistent — are better equipped to analyze data points and reach conclusions than human operators alone. Automation has become a critical part of back-office operations because of its ability to increase the speed, productivity and consistency of employees and fleet operations, while reducing errors.

Every day dispatchers make data-driven decisions, such as recalling drivers back to distribution centers or terminals, adding or removing trucks from a delivery schedule, rerouting drivers, and more. Incorporating fleet management software with AI solutions to handle mundane, repetitive administrative tasks offers several benefits, including:

  • eliminating human error;
  • maintaining consistency;
  • using predictive analytics to find patterns and reach conclusions about load matching and route optimization, for example;
  • freeing employees to address issues and handle tasks better suited for analysis and problem solving by humans;
  • enabling key decision makers to find and pursue more opportunities for growth; and
  • empowering fleets to do more with less.

An Effective Solution

An expectation for greater efficiency, higher customer satisfaction, better service and more driver support has led to increased demand for and adoption of fleet management software. This tool allows fleets to leverage real-time, cloud-based software and data to decrease planning time, optimize operations, and achieve service-level commitments with higher percentages of on-time deliveries with fewer damages or errors.

Fleets across the spectrum, whether truckload or less-than-load (LTL) and final mile, need technology solutions to work as efficiently as possible — from anywhere, any time — to empower planners, drivers and managers. Trucking companies choosing to optimize fleet management, workflow solutions, software and the cloud will rise above the competition with better informed decision making.

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