There can be no doubt that – regardless of sector – fleet managers and the mobile workforce operations they oversee are under increasing pressure. The rise of online shopping and on-demand services with rapid delivery has created new customer expectations across all industries, at a time when organisations must also improve efficiency and environmental performance.
Do we need new ways of working?
The people responsible for managing fleets of company vehicles have always been open to new ways of working. You can’t manage more than a couple of vehicles effectively using pen and paper, and technology has reached a point where organisations of any size can now deploy sophisticated mobile workforce management systems quickly and cost-effectively.
Fleet operations are being transformed – thanks to technology
Thanks to new technologies such as artificial intelligence (A.I.), automation and collaborative platforms, and more established tools such as vehicle tracking and paperless job-scheduling, fleet operations at organisations large and small are being transformed.
Vehicle tracking and A.I. Combining vehicle tracking with A.I., for instance, has transformed scheduling and routing, allowing jobs to be allocated automatically to the most appropriate mobile resource based on their location and capability.
Intelligent routing allows customers to be given a precise arrival window and maximises the likelihood that the right person will arrive on time with the right tools for the job.
The potential for live tracking information is huge
We blend it with other data sets to analyse driving behaviours, for instance, and issue alerts when drivers are about to exceed the time they are allowed to be on the road. It can even be used to corroborate the accuracy of drivers’ timesheets and expense claims. This technology is also reducing the environmental impact of fleets.
While smart, real-time routing ensures drivers take the most efficient route based on the latest road and traffic condition reports, analysis of driving behaviour can help people understand how they can drive more efficiently. Silentnight, a BigChange customer, has saved 400,000 litres of diesel a year by doing this.
Closer collaboration between partners
Another example of how technology will drive the future of fleet management is collaboration. Over the last decade, we’ve seen the emergence of a collaborative economy in which organisations of all sizes work with partners to boost skills, scale and service.
Companies like Deliveroo, Uber and Airbnb are revolutionising their respective sectors by providing platforms for buyers and sellers to exchange value quickly and conveniently.
And as we are seeing with the likes of Ocado and Morrisons, organisations with vehicle fleets are also looking to share their resources and assets.
Collaboration makes sense
Sharing people and vehicles spread the cost of capital expenditure and lead to better utilisation of assets. The challenge of working in partnership with third-parties, however, lies in making these partners part of the team.
Many of the industries we work with, from transport and logistics to the likes of construction, waste management and plant hire, make extensive use of sub-contractors.
The process of managing these relationships, however, is dogged by inefficiency. Each job can require extensive communication and lengthy paper trails to ensure everyone has the information they need.
The use of the cloud and applications that can be deployed to a wide range of mobile devices makes it increasingly possible for organisations engaged in this kind of collaborative activity to work together in perfect harmony.
Rather than relying on paper trails or retrospective bulk data transfers to share information between disparate systems, organisations can work from the same system regardless of their existing hardware.
The move towards autonomous vehicles
With everyone is singing from the same hymn sheet, companies can allocate jobs to partners at the click of a button, provide all the relevant information and job sheets, manage billing automatically and update all parties on progress in real time.
From A.I. to autonomous vehicles With fleet management becoming more automated, data-led and A.I. driven, it is not a huge leap to consider the role that autonomous vehicles might play in the future.
Clearly, the providers of autonomous vehicles must keep showing that they can be operated safely and responsibly, however, many of the technical hurdles that might prevent their deployment have already been overcome.
The sensors and computer systems that read the road and manipulate the steering, acceleration and braking of driverless vehicles reside in the vehicle itself and still require fine-tuning.
Yet the platforms and tracking technologies needed to provide the back office with oversight of their operations and the ability to manage these fleets remotely already exist.
The future of fleet: (In a nutshell), think tech and smarter working practices
Ultimately, the future of fleet management will be defined by ever-smarter technology and working practices. However, thanks to vehicle tracking, the cloud, A.I., automation and collaborative working practices, we are already seeing a glimpse of the dramatic improvements to customer service, operational efficiency and environmental performance they can deliver.
As these technologies are developed further and become more widely deployed, their impact will be enormous and fleet managers will be increasingly recognised as the superstars they are.