Follow your fleet
Advances in fleet management are usually led by technology and heavily influenced by innovations such as telematics. CLAIRE RENCKEN finds out how a couple of suppliers in this field are keeping up in this ever-evolving industry
Today’s sophisticated vehicle tracking and integrated fleet management systems allow fleet operators to reduce fleet costs by streamlining maintenance processes and procedures, reducing vehicle downtime, making informed maintenance decisions and managing driver behaviour.
Murray Price, MD of Eqstra Fleet Management, says: “Keeping a fleet of vehicles efficiently maintained requires attention to detail and a systematic approach, both of which are provided by integrated fleet management reporting and tracking systems. This technology helps fleet operators address operational challenges through a comprehensive array of vehicle performance and engine diagnostic capabilities.”
Together with maintenance history trends, down to component level, these combined systems enable fleet operators to eliminate paperwork via online service monitoring and intuitive data maintenance management features.
They set proactive reminders for oil changes, tune-ups and other preventative maintenance activities. They also control repair costs and extend vehicle life via automatic access to service records.
These systems monitor automatic engine diagnostic alerts to identify minor problems, thereby helping to reduce expensive roadside repairs. They also analyse comprehensive service record reports to improve fleet health and lifecycle maintenance management.
Some key elements of using technology for efficient fleet maintenance management include:
• Engine alerts – the system continually tracks the health of engines, and automatically notifies fleet managers of potential engine problems. These alerts enable them to take necessary steps to ensure that the vehicle functions properly and, as a result, reduce downtime.
• Maintenance scheduling – preventative maintenance procedures are based on manufacturer’s specifications, which are directly linked to mileage travelled. Regular odometer updates enable fleet owners to proactively manage scheduled maintenance, ensuring adherence to all warranty specifications. This reduces unscheduled maintenance and unnecessary downtime.
• Unnecessary driving – low mileage reduces the wear and tear on a vehicle, extends its operational life and reduces labour and repair costs. A fleet tracking management system helps monitor both unnecessary and unauthorised driving by routing vehicles more efficiently, tracking their locations, and monitoring off-hours usage. Many tracking systems come with GPS connection capabilities, which can further reduce vehicle mileage by providing drivers with accurate directions.
• Reducing idling time – one of the key fuel burners in fleet operations. By monitoring vehicle idle times, operators can set thresholds, which identify vehicles with excessive idle times and automatically shut down the vehicle. Customisable alert notices and reporting features provide data to set goals for reducing idling times and coaching drivers to achieve the desired results.
• Integrated fleet management systems – these provide a complete online service history of every vehicle in the fleet. Records are easily captured and updated and the system provides comprehensive reports, which provide the data required to analyse fleet maintenance problems and identify areas for improvement.
“As these effects kick in, less time will be spent on emergency or unexpected repairs and more work will involve scheduled maintenance,” explains Price. “As a result, labour overtime will decrease as vehicle breakdowns and unexpected repairs decline. Fleet technology systems provide the tools required to improve the entire maintenance process and to operate a fleet safely, efficiently and cost effectively.”
At the Bauma exhibition in September, MiX Telematics announced its global partnership with Iridium Communications Inc. – a market leader in mobile satellite communications, and provider of the world’s farthest reaching network comprised of 66 low-earth satellites.
The relationship extends the mobility offering of MiX Telematics to include a reliable, cost-effective and complementary global satellite communication alternative to terrestrial solutions.
Catherine Lewis, executive vice president of technology at MiX Telematics, says: “As a provider of information and related services for mobile assets, it’s critically important that we provide clients with important exception notifications and vehicle status updates regardless of where their vehicles are located.
“Adding Iridium as a complementary service offering helps us to broaden our value offering in the market, reinforcing our ability to deliver solutions that promote safe, secure and efficient fleet operations.”
She adds: “We’re pleased to be partnering with Iridium, a business that’s synonymous with market leadership when it comes to technology innovation. Our global leadership position in the premium fleet space and Iridium’s global business strategy represent a strong alignment.”
While mobile coverage across the globe is growing strongly, it is still largely immature in many rural/under-developed areas. Given that road transport is still a prominent – if not leading – mode of goods transportation, the need for full visibility of vehicle fleets at all times is higher than ever. Thus, a network that covers the entire earth’s surface is needed.
Bryan Hartin, executive vice president of sales and marketing at Iridium, says: “Through leveraging the Iridium network and solutions, fleet managers will be able to track and manage their valuable assets and personnel regardless of their location, including remote and rural areas.”
He adds: “Partnering with MiX Telematics increases our footprint in the industry globally. It will help deliver our products and functionalities using the Iridium network to areas that need it the most, such as in rural Africa. We look forward to making a positive impact on businesses worldwide.”
Another specialist in the field, Globaltrack, delivers sophisticated location-based asset monitoring information for a wide range of industries and applications globally. Through the use of the latest hardware and its uniquely developed Webtrack software, its customers are able to reduce costs and increase safety, wherever they are.
Globaltrack offers its clients the use of different types of hardware, dependent on the requirements and environment; including satellite-based hardware, or a combination of satellite and cellular.
One of the innovative solutions from Globaltrack is its fuel probe, which integrates fully with the Webtrack software. Fuel Probe gives accurate readings regarding fuel increases and decreases in litres. This information is used in the fuel module on Webtrack, to calculate your vehicles’ usage in kilometres as well as the cost per vehicle. A quick overview of your fleet’s usage against your own benchmark also helps in detecting discrepencies.
Says Globaltrack CEO, Pieter Smit: “Our fuel solution was first introduced 18 months ago, but when testing it on the market, although successful, we wanted to roll out a solution that works in a variety of situations with different variables.
“It took us 18 months and 26 versions of the fuel probe and the entire system before we could roll out to the market,” Smit concludes.