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Fleet Management: Part Art, Part Science

May 11, 2015

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“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” -Yogi Berra

Fleet management is part art, part science. Recent developments in the industry have made it more science and less art for sure. There are a lot of very complex decisions to go into the daily operation of a fleet. Hundreds if not thousands of complicated and difficult decisions must be made every day: Should you switch to the new Euro vans to replace your aging box vans and medium-duty trucks? Should you extend the lifecycle of your vehicles? Should you avail yourself of the latest offerings from your friends at your fleet management company? Is your driver safety program up to snuff? But, there’s one decision that should be pretty easy: Should your fleet implement a telematics and safety program?

Our most recent surveys show that only about 30 percent of the fleets in operation in the United States are currently using a telematics program. Even fewer have a formal safety program. There are many reasons fleet managers cite for not taking part in a telematics program, from “we can’t afford it” to drivers’ concerns about “Big Brother” watching their every move. But, the statistics don’t lie. Fleets using telematics and safety programs are finding incredible savings in dollars, lost days, and lives.

Telematics has become a lot more than just following dots on a map and making sure drivers are where they’re supposed to be. Today, driver and vehicle monitoring can provide a modern fleet with a steady stream of Big Data that can be used to ensure a fleet is operating in the safest, most secure, and most efficient manner possible.

A proper program can tell you whether your drivers are speeding, hard braking, hard cornering, following too closely, if they are early or late, and, of course, whether they are where they’re supposed to be. It can tell you who your problem drivers are before they become a big problem. It can also help you identify vehicles that are under- or over-utilized, or vehicles that are in need of maintenance.

The breadth and depth of choices in the safety and vehicle tracking field are impressive. There are fleets that are successfully using basic dots on a map vehicle tracking to radically improve their day-to-day operations. There are also many fleets that are using complicated monitoring systems that track thousands of data points every day for every vehicle and every driver. Some of these systems can provide real-time feedback to fleet managers’ supervisors and, more importantly, drivers. That feedback can be used for coaching driver improvement risk management.

And, most importantly, it can save lives.

In the past decade vehicle tracking has evolved from a simple program that service and delivery fleets could use to properly direct drivers into a must-have sleep and driver safety program. We are rapidly approaching the point where the lack of a telematics program may put your company in a precarious position legally.

Think about the next time one of your vehicles is involved in a serious accident: Do you want your CEO to be sitting in front of a plaintiff’s attorney trying to explain why you didn’t have any vehicle or behavioral data on your driver, even though most fleets in a similar situation would be able to provide such information?

There are many very difficult decisions that go into managing a fleet today. Instituting a telematics and fleet safety program shouldn’t be one of them.


  1. 1. Allen Mitchell [ May 12, 2015 @ 12:25PM ]

    Sherb, I also believe fleet management is a blend of art and science, but having spent a career in the field, I am leaning upon the art more than the science. The science is the foundation of fleet management, whether it be IT systems or telematics. The art comes in when one must make prudent decisions with the data provided by the scientific elements.

    Most decisions share a blend of the two aspects.

    The art is demonstrated when personnel performance is documented. Certainly there are scientific performance indicators, but the judgment arises when those data are interpreted and other mitigating circumstances may enter (I.e. Taking shortcuts to have minimal repair times).

    I also suspect that the career perspective changes over time. One may start out more with a scientific bent, but as the career progresses, more seat of the pants decisions can be made with some confidence. Especially when one has seen the same behavior or results in the past.

    The scientific aspect tends to take on more importance as technology improves, because one is bound to keep up with it or be left in the dust.

  2. 2. João Reis Sim~es [ May 19, 2015 @ 10:21AM ]

    To take good decisions in technical áreas science is fundamental. Managing drivers and other staff is a diferente área that must be supported on experience, what we call good-sence but was refused by Descartes, because it is accumulated along our life of work.

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Sherb Brown

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Sherb Brown is the vice president and group publisher for BBM's AutoGroup. Sherb has covered the auto industry for more than 12 years in various positions with Bobit Business Media.

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