Using Fleet Telematics: How to Avoid the Data Overload
By continually aggregating and correlating massive amounts of individualised data, telematics offer up the promise of a new frontier of fleet management, providing opportunities for deep operational visibility and insight, developing new standards of industry best practice and higher standards.
However, although the wealth of data now on offer, and the potential for logistical reform, is by all counts a huge advantage to the industry, the sheer amount of data produced can often obscure its own clarity, leading to missed opportunities and even less oversight than before.
In theory, as the data is being generated by the vehicles themselves, and combined with its actual and predictive maintenance data, the idea is that fleets can proactively preempt arising issues, such as targeting replacement schedules on a vehicle by vehicle basis instead of a generalised replacement date. However, when spread across a fleet of a hundred or a thousand vehicles, that each vehicle is constantly generating vehicle data points, the saturation of data can render itself useless. Leaving your fleet vulnerable to missing out on vital information and thus, open to potential lawsuits, logistical mismanagement and fiscal losses.
As technology continues to advance, there is no doubt that the problems of ‘big data’ will be effectively reduced with each new software update.
In the meantime, through developing effective management strategies and technological protocols, you can reduce the data noise and mine out valuable information and key actionable insights.
Compile Data into a Single Central System
One of the major challenges of big data, especially as your fleet size scales upwards, is that you are gathering data from multiple sources and locations simultaneously. As a result, trying to sift through it all to find a specific data category, becomes a logistical nightmare. Subsequently, lost data, and as a result, improper analysis becomes problematic as the size of the mass of data can be impenetrable in terms of following patterns and trends.
Aligning all your data points in one central location, ideally, in a specific software tool – sorry excel, you won’t cut it here – is one way to avoid all the confusion and frustration. With your entire fleet information in a singular system, your data becomes easier to maintain and draw insights from, to locate and access.
It also makes it a lot more difficult for you to lose track of data, giving you a more accurate picture to represent your fleet movements and removing the need for that awkward conversation with management when a piece of data has fallen through the cracks.
Complimentary equipment software that is cloud-based allows data to be shared from a central source and imported into other devices, meaning your field reporters, or drivers, could enter supporting information, to broaden the picture provided by data and provide a complete story.
Automate Vehicle Data Collection
If your system of vehicle data collection is manual, not only are you making life incredibly difficult for yourself – especially with major fleets – but most likely, you’re unable to capture all the data points possible. Using telematics can save you time, effort and money by simply automating the data collection process.
Fleet management systems will automatically update fleet data like odometer readings, fuel purchases, and parts and inventory and provide you with a real-time picture of how and what your fleet is doing. Essential for scheduling more fiscally and logistically responsible repair and maintenance plans.
External data can then easily be pulled into this central location with third-party integrations. Due to their primary use, these systems have expansive data storage capabilities, allowing you to organise all your fleet vehicle information and collected data.
Your time is precious, so use it wisely by giving yourself the opportunity to work with your data, instead of just inputting it.
Take Small Bites
If you’ve not gathered by the moniker, ‘big data’ can be very overwhelming. Like the food at a Las Vegas buffet, the data points keep piling up and although you want to try and digest them all, with the size of your plate, it becomes impossible. Often, important data points are left on a to-do list that stretches out over weeks and months and acts like a domino effect, where more and more data keeps getting added to a list and continues to get ignored.
One way to stop this seemingly endless cycle, and actually get round to seeing some of your data, is to commit to a certain timeframe where you process the fleet data in small amounts.
Even if you only devote a few minutes a week to review fleet data instead of a day every few months, you’re dividing your fleet data into more manageable sizes and, with a smaller cross-section of data to study, you’re more likely to pick up on outliers and trends.
Frequently reviewing your data allows you to engage with how your fleet is currently operating, not how it was operating three weeks ago, giving you the time to address any present issues before you lose significant time and money, and avoid a nasty surprise later on in the quarter.
After all, telematics only gives you half the story, it will tell you when a van is consuming more fuel than usual, but it might not be able to give you a clear idea why. Maybe a component is broken because regular maintenance hasn’t been performed or outside influences are at play, regardless, by picking up on these issues as they are occurring, your investigation is more likely to result in clear, effective resolutions.
Automate Fleet Data Analysis
Automating your fleet data analysis can save you, even more, time, as well as providing you with results with more clarity, specificity and relevance. Most fleet management software and telematics systems will generate a variety of reports for you, and give you the space to access them with real-time results – empowering you to catch problems as, and when, they happen.
Reports that telematics systems can automatically create and update for you include:
- Average operating cost per mile
- Cost per meter
- Service costs compared to fuel costs
- Monthly service costs and fuel costs
- Vehicle meter readings
- Total cost trend
- Average vehicle fuel economies and cost per gallon