Fleet Management Tools
By Marek Krasuski
Fleet Management systems have been in place for a number of years. As with any development, widespread acceptance was not always forthcoming. Initially companies wrestled with affordability, thinking that management hardware and software costs exceeded their financial reach. Affordability aside, users – mainly drivers – bemoaned the intrusion into their personal space. Many did not appreciate reporting systems with driver behaviour modules that recorded their every move. They resented being watched by electronic devices that report information back to head office.
Experience has shown that close monitoring of driver behaviour, as well as many other recording functions, pay dividends. For drivers, this is an effective monitoring tool that gives insight into driving behaviour that can lead to modification and enhanced performance. In all areas of monitoring there is evidence to show that management tools, specifically electronic on-board devices, yield significant savings. The North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE) released a study showing that fleets which have adopted reporting technologies and invested in driver training were ramping up fuel savings of $5,700 per truck up year. The study, which looked at 60 technologies and practices over a 10 year period, also noted an increased adoption rate of products and services.
Each truck builder has its own suite of electronic tools to communicate with service facilities and to tap into a host of relevant data to keep vehicles operating at optimal levels of performance. Volvo/Mack has partnered with Omnitracs Integrated Telematics to provide real time recording tools. Fleets using Volvo and Mack trucks are equipped with the tools to identify truck location at any time and monitor driving practices. Detailed reports and driver scorecards quickly and easily show where, when, and how long drivers have been speeding, idling, or visiting restricted locations. It also let’s head office know if vehicles are being used for non-work activities.
Omnitracs is a cloud based system which requires no additional hardware which means no downtime for any installations. The Volvo/Omnitracs systems include the following features: speed tracking, idle monitoring, real-time alerts via email or text message, tracked time spent at customer or layover stops, integration with existing Volvo Truck systems, and driver scorecards to assess individual performance. Corresponding benefits include reduced accidents due to speed tracking, lower fuel costs thanks to speed and idle monitoring, and better driving practices due to scorecards and assessment of driver performance. According to Volvo fuel costs are reduced by 0.5 MPG for every 5 MPH a truck drives over 55 MPH.
For its part Mack has recently expanded its extensive suite of uptime services with the rollout of Mack® “Over The Air”. Mack Over The Air enables remote software updates for powertrain components and vehicle parameters for Mack trucks equipped with Mack 2017 or newer engines. According to David Pardue, Vice President of Connected Vehicles and Uptime Services for Mack Trucks, “Mack Over The Air enables customers to ensure their trucks are operating at an optimal level without disrupting their schedules in today’s hypercompetitive just-in-time economy. This is just the latest step in our journey to provide industry-leading uptime for our customers,” Pardue said. More information on this vehicle software update is available in this month’s press release in the Vocational section.
To be sure, fleets need pay special attention to fuel costs as they constitute one of the three largest operating expenses. To this end management tools are essential for measuring the rate of fuel consumption and the need to undertake cost-cutting measures. Fuel monitoring systems, common among most fleet management providers, offer easy and effective methods of reducing costs and boosting productivity with information on exact fuel consumption measurements. Fuel reports identify which vehicles are operating at peak efficiently and which need to be retired. Fuel management software reportedly saves as much as 25 percent annually and 30 percent on idling expenses. As well, accurate measuring of fuel consumption greatly assists in calculating fuel tax reports. Many reporting systems include apps that calculate carbon footprints of all vehicles in a fleet, critical information that can aid in securing green contracts by demonstrating environmentally sound business practices.
In the wake of mounting compliance requirements such as the recent implementation of Hours of Service (HoS) and Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs), the demand for sound management tools is more pressing. There are packages available to help ensure conformity with ELDs as well as further changes expected to be introduced by the regulatory agency, FMCSA – Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. And aside from the many complaints by industry stakeholders regarding excessive regulations, fleets using ELDs prior to their mandatory use have reported significant gains.
Digital management tools have become more affordable in recent years thanks to diminished costs and leasing plans that avoid heavy capital outlays. And there are compelling reasons, beyond affordability, for their integration into any fleet. Robert MacKay of Fleet Harmony Inc., calls attention to their financial benefits. The absence of electronic tracking of parts, for example, can result in failing to submit claims for defective parts. “It is estimated that approximately. 5% of all new part purchases under $100 have a warranty that is never claimed. Most parts have at least a 30, 60, or 90-day warranty. And depending on your parts supplier, even electronics that have no warranty will often be warrantied for 30 days by your supplier. But tracking part purchases by individual equipment is so labour intensive and time-consuming using a manual fleet maintenance system that it’s not practical,” MacKay advised. Further, missed service schedules, the manual reporting of maintenance procedures, and the oversupply of unnecessary parts all consume more time and resources for fleets.
Daimler, maker of Freightliner and Western Star trucks powered by Detroit Engines offers several management tool options. Among them is Detroit Connect Portal. This is a one-stop-shop for all vehicle performance data gathered, transmitted and analyzed by Detroit Connect. The portal gives access to insights delivered by Detroit Connect Virtual Technician?. The Detroit Connect portal also provides access to new features such as Remote Updates, and Analytics, which have become recently available. The DTNA Connect Portal offers a full spectrum of online tools such as resources to complete repairs, purchase parts, submit warranty claims, spec new vehicles, or track the status of truck orders. Vehicle data available through the Detroit Connect platform enables easy access to real time information such as fault events and performance data, key metrics for assessing overall fleet health, fuel economy, and safety performance.
Of interest to many is the Detroit Connect Virtual TechnicianSM for Detroit powered Freightliner and Western Star trucks. According to the company, “fleets and owner-operators are notified within minutes when their vehicles experience fault events, the severity of the fault and when, where and how to best fix the fault. Virtual TechnicianSM helps make informed decisions to service vehicles only when needed. Time spent on diagnostics and in the shop is reduced and vehicle uptime is increased. Complete fault event details can be viewed via the Detroit Connect portal.” Detroit Connect also includes Analytics and Remote Update functionalities.
Exclusive to the new Freightliner Cascadia remote updates allow vehicles to receive engine and other powertrain electronic new information, meaning drivers do not need to stop the truck and physically connect to receive parameter or software updates. This streamlined process helps increase uptime and improve fleet efficiency. Optimal vehicle performance, therefore, is achieved with the help of Detroit Connect Analytics. This translates vehicle fuel efficiency and safety performance data into easy-to- understand reports. Because its fully automated fleets always have readily available insights and actionable data to make decisions to improve fuel efficiency and safety performance.
PACCAR, meanwhile, integrated the SmartLINQ remote diagnostics system to help manage fleets using the truck maker’s Peterbilt brand. This is a factory installed option that complements existing fleet management systems. This easy to use web based system monitors the health of each truck at a glance using a colour coded display that also knows each vehicles exact location. It provides information on which trucks are currently running trouble free and which need immediate attention. The system identifies which fault codes have been generated. SmartLINQ provides four levels of notification that prioritizes what needs to be done and when. Information is then transmitted to the preferred service facility to ensure parts and resources are ready when the truck arrives for servicing. Key data can be exported from the portal and used with other fleet managements systems to track service histories and other truck performance data.
Kenworth, another PACCAR company, relies on TruckTech+ Remote Diagnostics and Service Management to identify and receive operating metrics. Standard on every new Class 8 Kenworth, the system delivers instant notification of actionable engine and after treatment fault information so decisions can be made in real time. Once in the shop PACCAR’s proprietary “diagnostic reasoning” engine helps technicians accelerate fault guidance and diagnostics. According to Kenworth, “TruckTech+ Service Management allows you to manage scheduled and unscheduled service events in real time through a web portal that: Speeds communications and keeps everything organized – notes, emails, time and date-stamped activity, and electronic approvals; Eliminates error-prone data entry and the need to access multiple systems or portals; Centralizes and makes easily accessible all asset information – build, service history, warranty and product updates,: the company said.
International Trucks, Navistar’s flagship vehicle brand, uses OnCommand Connection to monitor vehicle movement and health. It monitors hundreds of fault codes, connects fleets with service centres, and makes informed decisions concerning fleet management. Indeed, an entire fleet can be diagnosed regardless of vehicle location. OnCommand® Connection is designed to keep vehicles moving through features such as interactive mapping, engineer-designed action plans and access to online portals through preferred interfaces, be they computers, tablets, smartphones or email.
Regardless of preferred choice, management tools can be tailored to specific customer applications. Important to most companies is a management toolkit that is scalable to need, currently and into the future as fortunes change.☚