Fleet Management Evolves From Track And Trace To Strategic Business Intelligence

Today’s fleet management solutions provide far more than just location data.

The past two decades have seen tremendous advancement in the functionality of GPS-based solutions. Initially a tactical tool used to get from point A to point B more efficiently, continued development has transformed onboard GPS units into robust mobile workforce solutions, providing a full picture of remote workers, vehicles, and equipment.

To illustrate just how revolutionary the technology is, recall the evolution of the mobile phone market. Once valued as a utilitarian communications tool to be used in case of emergency, mobile phones are now at the center of daily life — we use them for everything from making phone calls to paying bills and watching movies. Like the mobile phone, GPS-based mobile workforce solutions have evolved to serve at the heart of daily operations for field-based businesses.

GPS navigation units of the mid-2000s gave mobile businesses a powerful directional tool. Imagine the implications for a plumbing contractor whose crew no longer had to rely on print-out maps or stop for directions along the way to a job. From these roots grew the next generation of fleet management systems. They could translate crews in the field into dots on a map for managers in the office, illuminating opportunities to improve field operations. Savvy owners quickly gained a leg up on competition, as streamlined routing enhanced productivity without requiring more staff or additional vehicles, while reduced fuel usage greatly cut overhead. Adoption quickly increased as more businesses realized these benefits. According to research firm Aberdeen Group, 37 percent of mobile service businesses used such solutions to track crew location in real-time by 2012.

Next-Generation Business Intelligence
Increased adoption of business intelligence-driven mobile workforce solutions continues to position these technologies as critical assets for a wide range of businesses. In fact, the number of systems in use is forecasted to increase from 4 million units in 2013 to more than 8 million in 2018 in North America, according to research firm Berg Insight.

Savvy users no longer just track crew location and fuel usage — they utilize solutions to manage the bigger picture of day-to-day operations. Below are just a few examples of how emerging solutions play a role in mobile businesses’ daily operations:

Integrated Mobility and Invoicing: More than half of small business owners utilize mobile apps to manage their business, and the most common apps include GPS/ navigation and financial management, according to an AT&T and Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council technology poll. With fully compatible mobile versions, new field service applications put workforce intelligence at managers’ fingertips around the clock, and interactive, integrated apps allow field workers to automatically update and close jobs, and initiate invoice creation.

Regulatory Compliance: Over the next few years, it is expected that the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will issue further electronic logging regulations to better manage commercial driver safety. Smart solutions communicate directly with a vehicle’s engine to automatically log activity, helping businesses be compliant and mitigate accident risk due to overwork.

Preventive Maintenance: About half of the participating service-based companies in a recent Aberdeen Group poll indicated they had implemented a preventive maintenance model. Emerging mobile workforce solutions centralize this functionality, giving businesses the ability to set and view vehicle maintenance alerts within a single dashboard.

Crew Evaluation and Incentive Programs: Using advanced systems to reward top performers can help facilitate employee acceptance of fleet management. New solutions give businesses tools to evaluate crews based on safety hazards like excessive speeding and harsh braking, and productivity goals such as stops per day. Adopting a driver-focused lens rather than solely focusing on vehicles also helps owners recognize employees even if employees don’t always use the same vehicle.

From GPS navigation roots, fleet management systems have undergone a remarkable transformation, developing into advanced mobile workforce solutions that serve as an essential business asset. The technology is no longer a tactical, nice-to-have asset; it’s now truly an imperative source of strategic business intelligence.

By Jonathan Durkee, VP/product management at Fleetmatics.

November 20, 2014

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