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A Quick Guide to Interpreting Fleet Data to Improve Operations

Today’s fleets are increasingly connected. They help unlock insights that were largely unavailable a decade ago. However, it can get overwhelming if you have vast amounts of information and need help interpreting fleet data.

Here are some fleet data analysis tips you can apply to get the best results when trying to enhance operations.

Apply a Risk Management Approach

Your fleet will inevitably introduce some elements of risk. Fortunately, knowing how to make sense of the data will empower you to reduce accidents and improve driver training methods. Better awareness makes it easier to mitigate issues that could harm profits if left unaddressed.

Doug Marcello is the chief legal officer of Bluewire LLC and a trucking defence attorney with more than three decades of trial experience. He recommended starting by understanding what data can and cannot tell you about risks.

“Risk can be divided three ways. There are the ‘known knowns,’ those things that you know — the data is there, and you can get it if it's available. Then, there’s the ‘known unknown,’ variables out there that we know exist, we just don't have data on them right now. For example, when an accident occurs, we know that key elements include medical bills, the geography of the accident and the nature of the claimant and the injuries they suffer. But we don't know this before the accident occurs.”

Marcello continued, “The last one to know is the ‘unknown, unknown.’ Those are things that we cannot predict, cannot anticipate, in terms of the potential for risk. What we want to focus on is [the data] that defines the ‘known knowns.’ This is information that we now have available, so you can take advantage of it for risk mitigation [before an accident] to protect yourself afterwards.”

Marcello recommended fleet managers first identify their data sources. Then, they can evaluate which pieces of information directly connect to better fleet safety. What elements might suggest unsafe driving behaviour or other risks? High speeds, hard braking and not wearing a seat belt are three possible things fleet sensors could track.

Look for Ways to Streamline Fleet Data Analysis

You’ll be more likely to overlook meaningful findings if using numerous tools to extract all the necessary insights. Amanda Schuier, the senior vice-president of Quality Transport, found herself dealing with data overload. She became frustrated by accessing 36 dashboards to get a full picture of her company’s fleet. That inefficient process drove her to look for better options and use her experience to offer suggestions to others.

One of her tips was to make a list of all the must-have features in a data dashboard. After that, you’re in a good position to streamline a current setup by focusing on products that address most of those needs.

Another suggestion is to initially limit the number of analyzed metrics. Decision-makers at Quality Transport started by focusing on revenue per mile per week and safety violations per month. After that, you can choose to scale up if the necessary resources exist.

Keep in mind that your goal is to uncover the “why” factor behind tracked metrics. If you see that fuel economy has worsened over the last several months, try to figure out the potential causes. Increased idle time and poorly optimized routes are two things that can make fleet vehicles less fuel-efficient. Drivers may also need more training to learn techniques that support better gas mileage.

When you make active efforts to streamline how, why and when you collect fleet data, you’ll be more likely to notice trends that deserve attention. From there, you can take what you’ve learned and use it to develop operational enhancements.

Link Fleet Data to Company Goals

Interpreting fleet data can become complicated if company leaders have not taken the time to connect the chosen statistics to organizational goals. Taking that approach should help everyone get on board with a data-driven initiative because they can see it will make the company stronger overall.

Sara Sweeney, senior product manager of the connected vehicle division at Wheels Inc., recommended starting with some of the more obvious data points first, especially if you’re new to fleet data analysis. “Look at data relative to initiatives such as safety, productivity, cost and compliance,” she suggested.

Sweeney continued, “Some frequently monitored data points can include fuel consumption, frequency and timing of vehicle maintenance, and driving behaviours including harsh braking or idling, to not only ensure safe driving but also avoid related consequences of unsafe driving like collisions and additional wear and tear on brakes and tires. This is really the tip of the iceberg but a good place to start for a new user. The results are fairly immediate, and a positive financial impact can be seen quickly.”

Understand What Steps to Take for Improvement

Fleet data analysis becomes largely useless if you don’t commit to making positive changes for the aspects within your control. For example, the data might show that many of your trucks break down too frequently and that it’s past time to invest in newer models.

Alternatively, your statistics might show that traffic congestion is a significant factor preventing drivers from getting where they need to go on time. One possibility in that situation is to purchase route-optimization software. Walmart uses a type with artificial intelligence algorithms. It assesses various factors to determine the fastest ways to get customer orders to their destinations.

Rishi Mehra, director of operations and strategy for Trimble MAPS, also recommends automating some aspects of a driver’s job to make it easier for them. Mehra clarified that one option is to assist them with the last-mile approach to facilities.

“If the driver misses the entrance to the facility, the detour and having to drive those extra miles and come back has been a key source of accidents or damage to property in cases where the driver feels lost. Every location of a shipper, every terminal, every rest area has a geofence.”

Mehra continued, “Taking the GPS directions of a driver’s vehicle, you can automatically trigger some of these arrival and departure events and not require the driver to manually do things. Once you automate some of these pieces, the driver just has to focus on the load itself.”

These examples show there’s no one way to make routes easier or more efficient. Fleet managers should pursue targeted options based on the specific issues they want to address within their companies.

Start Interpreting Fleet Data More Effectively

These suggestions provide actionable ways to improve fleet data analysis. The company representatives who apply them can then look forward to using the associated insights more confidently to make meaningful gains.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over three years experience writing articles for the tech and industrial sectors. Subscribe to the Revolutionized newsletter for more content from Emily at
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