“Vehicle-less” fleets, autonomous trucks, asset sharing – the face of the commercial fleet industry is changing. Knowing what will come next and how you should respond is integral for business success. But keeping up with the latest technologies is not easy: 4 out of 10 fleet managers in Europe say that just staying competitive will be challenging soon.
By 2040, the fleet industry could transform almost beyond recognition. Virtually all smaller vehicles are likely to be electric. Larger long-haul transport will transition to renewable and low-emission fuels. Many vehicles will be self-driving, with routine maintenance via software download and artificial intelligence enabling individual fleet vehicles to take themselves to an optimal location for refueling and overnight parking – ready for their allotted tasks the following day.
To prepare for these compounding changes, you need to develop fleet management software that helps your business:
- optimize fuel usage and prepare for the transition to new fuel types;
- introduce smarter fleet management strategies powered by real-time data;
- improve your maintenance schedule and reduce associated costs of diagnostics;
- benefit from greater visibility into logistics, trim administrative costs, and improve inventory management with big data analytics.
What is fleet management software? A definition for innovative companies
Fleet management software is pretty self-explanatory. It helps you organize and coordinate work vehicles from a central system. If you’re using a SaaS solution from some vendor, you can receive reports with varying levels of detail about your current performance, operational costs, and so on.
The standard set of features for fleet management software includes:
- Vehicle dispatching and scheduling
- Database management
- Route planning
- Vehicle inventory
- GPS tracking
- Cargo optimization
- Maintenance scheduling and optimization
So far, so good. So why would you want to make your own fleet management software? Because the insights from commercial SaaS tools are limited. The reports you receive may not offer you complete visibility into your operations. Most web-based fleet maintenance software lacks custom functionality tailored specifically for your business needs. Investing in software development always seems lofty at first. But in the long run, you avoid paying for functionality that you don’t need or getting locked in with an outdated service provider.
You should choose to build fleet management software if your company wants to retain 100% control over development, features, and the technology stack. In terms of the latter, consider adding the next two terms to your IT glossary.
Telematics and location-based services for fleet management
Telematics (telecommunications + informatics) is an umbrella term for the process of transmitting, storing, and receiving data from devices over a network. A telematics system consists of on-board hardware – an IoT sensor or a black-box style computer with GPS functionality, transmitting data in real-time or at set intervals.
Around 15 percent of vehicles now come with telematics installed as standard, and there are estimated to be 100 million telematics units in operation around the world
There are many advantages of incorporating a telematics system:
- Ensure employee safety by instantly detecting breakdowns, unsafe driving, or accidents
- Get day-to-day data on vehicle utilization
- Monitor a driver’s compliance with schedules, routes, and operating standards
- Optimize fuel consumption
- Use accumulated data to create an accurate preventive maintenance schedule
Location-based services enable fleet managers to collect and operationalize even more valuable data gained from on-board sensors. Connect external open-source APIs to your in-house system (for example, an API that provides real-time geospatial data) and feed that data back to on-board systems for smoother operations.
To sum up, there are many benefits of LBS and fleet telematics:
- Advanced route planning. Route planning powered by connectivity and analytics can increase operational efficiency by up to 25%. Assess the pros and cons of choosing certain roads based on real-time traffic data, toll costs, and current weather conditions.
- Preventive maintenance. Trim costs and eliminate operational bottlenecks due to breakdowns with preventive maintenance. By knowing which auto parts are due for replacement soon, you can optimize your maintenance supply chain and ensure that everything is available in the right place for immediate installation. This can improve your fleet availability by 10–30% and reduce inventory management costs.
- Improved fleet planning. More comprehensive data means that you can project the demand your fleet can handle at any given period. Plan better usage of all your assets, reduce your fleet size, or switch to asset sharing whenever you want to bump up your capabilities.
- Non-negotiable security and compliance for drivers. Your new system can proactively mitigate the risk of accidents by managing drivers and penalizing them for unsafe behavior. Receive instant alerts when one of your automobiles is on the road with an open door or violates a geofencing zone. An integrated software suite can also help you control vehicles remotely (if needed), for example to start the engine on command.
- Increase the level of service. By leveraging real-time traffic and weather data, your enterprise can get more accurate ETAs, divert trucks from congested roads, and make sure that drivers maintain pre-developed routes and schedules.
How beneficial has telematics been in managing your fleet?
Fleet management software features
To attain all the commercial benefits outlined above, add these product features to your list of requirements:
- Data-driven dispatch management dashboard. Get a 360-degree view of your fleet distribution and current vehicle locations, programmatically create optimal schedules, improve routing, and manage available orders. Assign drivers to specific vehicles based on comprehensive profiling and current availability. Bonus point: add automatic scheduling for standard orders.
- Real-time routing. Connect location data to your system to review your asset locations, calculate and optimize ETAs, and send instructions to drivers.
- Vehicle inventory database. Collect comprehensive data about your fleet: usage per selected period, average fuel consumption, service availability, and planned maintenance. Ensure that your licensing and registrations are always up-to-date. Receive automatic notifications for RUC, WoF, and CoF due dates.
- Scheduled maintenance. Streamline warranty management and repairs and mitigate downtime. A predictive maintenance system that takes into account telematics and location data can notify you about vehicle failures before they occur and reduce maintenance planning time and costs.
- Geofencing. Gain additional visibility into your operations. Automate mundane processes such as timesheet verification for drivers, reconcile client accounts faster, prevent vehicle theft, and receive online alerts whenever your vehicle reaches an important destination: depot, customer site, etc.
- Proactive driver management. Ensure that your drivers take timely breaks by clocking in the driving time automatically. Remotely assess the behavior of individual drivers to reward safe drivers and penalize those that speed. Gain more insights into how your workers operate, match that information with additional data about fuel consumption and traffic conditions, and have your analytics system suggest the next steps for optimizing your employees’ performance.
- Real-time business intelligence and reporting. Leverage big data analytics to crunch all incoming information and translate it into actionable business insights. Uncover low-value processes, gaps in asset use, and the little things worth optimizing for bigger returns.
- Fuel monitoring. Collect real-time and historical data on your fuel consumption and CO2 emissions. Using analytics, turn that data into actionable steps towards greener driving.
- Custom integrations. Make sure your software seamlessly integrates with other back-office products and customer-facing apps.
By choosing to create fleet management software with location-based functionality today, you also prepare your business for the future arrival of (semi-)autonomous trucks.
Autonomous trucks will roll out in four waves
How to estimate fleet management software development costs
To get a ballpark budget for a fleet management software development project, factor in these expenses:
- Software integrations, licenses, and premium APIs – There are always open-source alternatives if you need to cut costs. Ask prospective partners for tech stack recommendations prior to signing a contract.
- Legacy architecture re-platforming – Implementation of new tools and services may require structural changes to your old systems.
- Data transmission and storage – Telematics and LBS systems will dramatically increase your need for data storage and processing. Account for a cost increase for cloud services as well as new roaming and connectivity fees for mobile data (cellular, satellite).
Rising data requirements for Internet of Things (IoT) applications
Bonus tip: Hardware devices and sensors for fleet management come in different sizes and at different prices. Some also require vendor installation services (free or fee-based).
Start writing down a comprehensive list of requirements. Follow a top-to-bottom approach, breaking down larger categories (e.g. analytics dashboards) into individual user stories.
As a < type of user >, I want < some goal > so that < some reason >.
To get a comprehensive set of user stories, schedule discussions with different staff members and ask them to share their product ideas. Reverse engineer features from various products already on the market. Watch demo videos, review user manuals, and browse product descriptions to get a better sense of what popular solutions can do. Finally, schedule a consultation with a development team experienced in the automotive industry. Tap into their knowledge to refine your list.
To remain competitive, automotive companies need to accept new technologies. Postponing your decision to digitalize or upgrade your IT systems is deliberately sabotaging your future success. Location-based services paired with IoT create a host of new opportunities for fleet managers, from creating better routes to optimizing fuel costs and individual driver performance – and even future-proofing your business for the automotive industry 2.0. Self-driving vehicles and semi-automatic fleets are already on the roads. The question is this: Will your company benefit from the upcoming innovations or struggle to play catch-up?
Get in touch with an Intellias LBS specialist to receive more information about incorporating telematics and location-based services into your fleet management software.