Whatever happened to paper maps that no one ever knew how to fold? Paper road maps may be one of the best examples of how technology has completely changed at least one aspect of driving for personal cars and fleets. Thirty years ago, maps were available free of charge at service stations.
Self-serve gas stations took maps from a complimentary commodity to a commercial product. Still, without a map, it was easy to get lost. Today they no longer serve a useful purpose for any person or vehicle equipped with GPS. GPS has changed fleet management forever, but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
Technology has been driving vehicle diagnostics for years, yet experts suggest that the technology train is nowhere close to pulling into the station at the end of the line. For instance, remote diagnostics are already complementing onboard diagnostics. The evolution of diagnostics is already headed toward downloadable software that automatically corrects issues without the driver having to drive to a service location. Similarly, onboard electronic logging devices (ELDs) may be considered a diagnostic generation tool, not for the mechanical operation of the vehicle per se, but for data analysis that leads to more efficient driver and vehicle strategies.
GPS is much more than just a tool to eliminate the use of paper maps to get directions. Even without additional enhancements, global positioning technology instantly communicates road conditions that permit drivers to change routes depending on current traffic issues. Currently, congestion is typically tracked by pinging cell phones and onboard GPS. Accidents are spotted by 911 calls. It is reasonable to expect that vehicles will be equipped with more direct push notifications and suggestions for route changes in the near future.
It remains to be seen how direct communications from fleet management may be streamlined, but telemetrics could improve to the extent that no communication is needed directly from dispatch to the driver. It could all take place based on computer-based data analytics transmitted directly to the vehicle.
The combination of diagnostics, directions, and disintermediation will continue to drive economy and efficiencies at multiple levels.
Competing or collaborating?
Given the foregoing, greater efficiencies should be anticipated. More than that, efficiency will be driven and affected by both competition and collaboration.
- • Competition. Technology will not change competition; it will make competition more aggressive. The leaders who embrace emerging technologies should also be the most highly competitive. Laggards should expect to be breathing the fumes of the technologically driven.
- • Collaboration. Collaboration and incorporation of multiple modes of fleet deliveries may affect efficiency by reducing unnecessarily wasted times. The image above conceptually illustrates how this could happen. Does the photo indicate competition between delivery vehicles and drones? Or is it a potential collaborative situation in which vehicles do not have to leave their main route to make small package deliveries? It is not a giant leap for mankind to imagine launching local delivery drones from a vehicle. The drone would be guided by GPS to the delivery point and return to the vehicle to deliver yet another package.
Cost reduction is nearly always a product of efficiency, but there are other technologies at play that should impact the economics of fleet management.
- • Safety. This is an era in which safety is highly regulated. Emerging technologies consider safety, not only within the context of regulations, but also within the context of emerging needs for new measures that have never existed before. In fact, improved safety will be a continuing feature for the commercialization of fleet management technology. Improved safety ultimately results in cost reductions that keep companies profitable. Safer operations often enjoy reduced costs of insurance.
- • Size. Expect advancements to reduce the size of fleets because of increased efficiencies. Where those efficiencies reduce the need for equipment, both capital and operating expenses can be reduced. Greater workforce efficiencies should result. The entire combination of the effects listed should contribute synergistically to expand your business. If managed properly, workforce reduction should not have to equate to layoffs, but rather to a more efficient use of the personnel you have.
- • Supply. More efficient delivery systems should translate to more widespread availability. The best-managed fleets will use data-driven analytics to maintain supply and demand to drive optimal revenue and profitability.
- • Staffing. Psychometrics is already being utilized to making hiring and talent management decisions. It is reasonable to expect that much of the time-consuming, face-to-face processes used to manage personnel requirements could be replaced with similar technologies.
Apps and Automation
It is impossible to predict how virtual reality apps and automated vehicles will affect fleet management, but it is almost a certainty that the effects will exceed most expectations. Seeing where technology will take fleet management is nearly impossible, as is any attempt to predict the future. However, the view from here is extremely positive. Look for more definitive information on the future of technology and fleet management coming soon.