The world of fleet management is changing, with paperwork potentially becoming a thing of the past and new technologies emerging to streamline how operations are run, stated several industry experts during a panel discussion at the Ontario Road Builders’ Association (ORBA) convention.
"In this industry it's not all about the shiny new piece of tin, it's about what technology can really drive to your business metrics," said Mike Ham, the vice-president of Canadian sales with Fleet Complete.
"Technology is an enabler. Technology provides information, data, details, metrics and it provides you information on how you actually run your company."
Bob Farrell, the vice-president of sales and operations with PinPoint GPS Solutions Inc., also stated new products are doing things like capturing data about what's going on out in the field, and taking that information back to the office to apply it to areas like payroll systems, timesheets, and job costing.
"There are a number of new technologies that are available," he said. "Some of them are embedded in the traditional GPS products, and I am talking about things like driver feedback that are used to condition the drivers or make drivers aware of their bad habits as they are occurring as opposed to after the fact."
During the discussion, Farrell, Ham and David Trott of Enterprise Fleet Management, highlighted how technology and proper management systems can save time and money.
"Vehicles are becoming better equipped with new technology. There's so much out there right now," said Trott. "When you're looking at new vehicles versus old vehicles there's limitless options."
Ham and Farrell discussed products that are in the area of telematics, which is the integrated use of telecommunications with information technology or the sending, receiving, and storing of information relating to remote objects, such as vehicles via telecommunication devices, explains the Fleetmatics website.
Ham told the audience that the telematics industry in 2014 has compounded growth of 15.3 per cent. Last year in North America there were four million devices equipped, he said, by 2018 there will be over 8.1 million.
"This technology is readily available, low cost, great performance, it will happen through you, around you, with you," he said. "Timely data is available to you. It must become part of the culture and how you run your company."
Safety and fuel efficiency are also important elements where new technologies can play a role, the panel explained.
According to Farrell, there is a driver feedback mechanism that is meant to reduce speeding, harsh braking, idling and in turn save on fuel.
"It's a safety platform. We all want our employees to come home at the end of the day," he says. "The information streams that we're able to generate help you to make that happen, providing you pay attention to them."
"One of the new things that's going on is there's a number of insurance companies that are coming to the table and providing discounts to people that utilize technology, are paying attention to their compliance and safety," added Ham. "That wasn't available a number of years ago and five per cent to you people are real dollars.
"Employees' time is expensive. Employees create the wealth of your organizations, they're also controlling your costs and they are controlling your revenues."
In some instances systems can reduce uncomfortable situations by giving drivers the facts, explained Farrell.
"The beauty of it was there wasn't one conversation between a manager and an employee," he said of an example where drivers were speeding.
"The system did the talking to the employees directly and the employees responded."
On top of driver behaviour, Farrell and Ham state there are ways to manage administrative matters using technology, such as automating hours of service and payroll.
"The technology validates when drivers stop and when drivers start," explained Ham. "We all know that without technology we're filling out pieces of paper, we're doing time clocks...and we're finding that there was anywhere between 30, and an hour to an hour-and-a-half per day, per driver that could be turned into powerful utilization and productivity."
Farrell stated these systems can be applied to almost every facet of fleet management.
"It's not just a GPS or telematic solution, it's actually one part of your total IT infrastructure and the concept is to move data seamlessly from its point of origin out in the field somewhere, back into whatever system is appropriate," he said.