Fleet managers at 21st-century trucking companies must deal with a variety of issues. Their job requires a lot of patience. But it also requires they keep their thumb on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. They must follow trucking technology trends, keep their recruiting and training efforts up-to-date, and provide a positive environment for their truck drivers and other workers to thrive.
That’s why we wanted to take some time to uncover the most significant pain points and technologies impacting enterprising fleet managers in the trucking and transportation industries. Nearly half of fleet managers surveyed indicated they were unsure how their ELD/GPS system was chosen and continued to use their current system out of convenience. Many fleets invest in big software systems only to find the fleet managers are confused. If they don’t buy in, rank-and-file workers won’t either.
As technology advancements continue to change the trucking industry, new, innovative fleet management systems are becoming more valuable than existing outdated GPS systems. Yet, at the same time, they also become more intimidating and complex. Furthermore, fleet managers are busy people and rarely at their desks to dedicate time to systems and process research. As a result, many find themselves overwhelmed with alternatives. What happens as a result? A way forward on technological change can be both difficult and time-consuming.
What Are the Common Pain Points?
We looked at several research surveys and studies to find what fleet managers struggle with the most. As such, we put a list together of common pain points experienced by fleet managers. After weighing all the options and putting the percentages together, here is what we found:
- 29% – Maintaining Uptime
- 27% – Managing Data Overload
- 16% – Controlling Operation Costs
- 13% – Analyzing Vehicle Health
- 15% – Focusing on Truck Driver Retention and Positive Interactions
There were some nuances in this data, however. For instance, motor carriers that reported utilizing advanced fleet management and maintenance software found data overload to be the biggest roadblock. Maintaining uptime was also a problem for trucking companies utilizing advanced systems.
On the flip side, trucking companies that reported having no maintenance software referred to high operation costs as their number one problem. Larger fleets with over 300 vehicles also struggled with operation costs, while smaller fleets with more than 50 but less than 300 vehicles stated that maintaining uptime is one of their biggest struggles.
Some additional pain points include a lack of actionable and reliable data, part availability, supply chain delays, fuel management, and vehicle service scheduling. Addressing these concerns comes with collecting the right data, from work orders to vehicle sensors via ELD, and preventative maintenance.
It is more important to gain predictive insights from the troves of data average fleets generate. This will highlight the most important issues to look at. For example, insights that are detecting failures before they occur can alleviate additional downtime caused by increasing part shortages. They do this by emphasizing the severity of issues, which allows technicians to order parts in advance.
How Fleet Managers Handle ELD and GPS Device Usage
Aside from the obvious use case of location and truck driver tracking, fleet managers are using them for an array of reasons. Research has revealed that the next most common uses for ELD and GPS devices include advanced reporting, better route optimization, accident management, better data organization, and better operations and administration.
When asked about their current fleet maintenance processes, it became very apparent that many trucking companies still don’t utilize fleet maintenance software or systems. Up to 28% of trucking companies surveyed – more than 1 out of 4 – are not using an advanced fleet maintenance software solution. The problem? They should be.
Because alternative methods of tracking maintenance are generally more time-consuming and prone to human errors. And when you aren’t utilizing a paperless solution, these processes can leave quite a long paper trail. Could it be that fleets that state they struggle with high operating costs are not effectively using fleet management systems?
It’s important to note that even small trucking companies, who may still be using spreadsheets to track information, can still benefit from using fleet management systems. Small operators gain from:
- Less frequent and costly breakdowns.
- Ensuring faulty parts are replaced before a breakdown occurs.
- Enhanced safety features and compliance outcomes.
- Better real-time route optimization.
- Better decision-making based on actionable data points.
What to Look for in Fleet Software Systems
Whether they were asked to evaluate fleet management or maintenance software, many fleet managers reported confusion. While there are a lot of different systems to choose from, some features should be considered standard in newer systems. Many advanced fleet management solutions now utilize AI algorithms and machine learning precepts to obtain and act on real-time vehicle data. Fleet managers should be able to access vehicle insights in one easy-to-use place.
Many fleet maintenance systems can directly integrate with popular telematics and GPS systems. If you are spec’ing a system that does not, you may want to keep looking. Interoperability with other popular and widely used technology systems should come standard. Proper communication between systems should allow fleet managers to keep their data insights organized and all in one place. Normally, these providers will have the data stored in the cloud.
Here’s an interesting statistic. According to the aforementioned research, 22% of large trucking companies surveyed reported creating their own fleet management platform. This way they can program customized features according to their business need. Still, designing and deploying your own fleet management system can be a daunting task. Not only is designing your own system time-consuming, but it can also be very expensive as you often need to hire outside help to handle some of the technical details.
By contrast, outsourced maintenance software enables trucking companies to make more accurate predictions. It’s much easier when you have dedicated technical and data science teams. They can manage algorithms that would otherwise take years to create. This is how you save both time and money.
Consider Important Features When Investing in a New System
Fleet managers know that they can use software and maintenance platforms with top features such as user-friendly interfaces and easy-to-read data dashboards and colors. There also needs to be a certain level of AI-driven automation. Managers should not have to spend an inordinate amount of time programming functions when the system could automate such processes.
You also want to ensure you have a high level of control over the structure of the system you use. That way you won’t get upsold on features or aspects of the software that you don’t need. There needs to be workflow integration with the rest of your internal systems and the operations. A platform worth your hard-earned money should have these attributes. Whether you build it yourself or hire a third-party company, keep this in mind.
Comprehensive fleet management systems should also have dashboards and user panels with bright colors and actionable data front and center. Fleet managers and other interested parties should be able to access the data they need quickly using widgets or buttons. It should be very similar to smartphone usage.
Relying on Predictive Maintenance is Key
In modern times, many trucking companies have adopted a very regimented preventative maintenance program to ensure unexpected downtime does not occur. And while strict PM schedules do a fairly good job of maintaining overall fleet health, manual schedules are no longer optimal. They simply are not the best way to manage your PM needs.
Instead of relying on preventative maintenance, smart fleet managers make the shift to predictive maintenance. Predictive maintenance has emerged as a data-driven maintenance method that proactively detects problems before they result in downtime. Predictive maintenance insights have become a vital tool in optimizing fleet operations. If you want to prevent unnecessary downtime and on-road breakdowns, you need to predict the breakdown before it occurs.
By applying new systems, AI prediction, and raw vehicle sensor data, fleet managers can get a handle on operation costs. Because if there is one consistent factor that fleet managers point to as a thorn in their side, it is operating costs. Fortunately, by utilizing advanced fleet maintenance and management systems, they can rectify the problem. They will receive the right insights upfront, overcome data overload, and significantly decrease overall operating costs.