Expert Fleet Management with Creative Vehicle Naming

Achieving Expert Fleet Management is the Goal

Expert fleet management is achievable, even in smaller companies where the fleet manager has a variety of other responsibilities. With that in mind, we put a lot of effort into training clients to get the most out of their telematics systems. A few tips and tricks can go a long way toward improving fleet management. Every now and then we see something that tells us they really got it! Today was one of those days.

What To Do When Devices Stop Reporting

The “bones” of your fleet management system are in the device or vehicle list. Fleetistics provides the Device Status Table to monitor reporting devices and easily submit a support case to efficiently resolve any issues. Often, when a vehicle is sold or undergoing a lengthy repair, the customer will remove it from the database. Customers should make a Group for vehicles/devices out of service so they can ensure they are plugged back in and returned to service. If a vehicle is to be sold, traded, or scrapped, the GPS tracker should be moved to another vehicle. Utilizing unique and telling device names and a date is a trick a customer recently used to stay on top of administrative changes taking place.

We always coach clients to keep their spares and unused devices listed in the database, and to name them in a way that tells them what they need to know. Here is a perfect example! Creative naming puts a ton of valuable information in front of the Administrator for Database #1 without ever leaving the vehicle/device list. That contributes to expert fleet management. In contrast, the Administrator for Database # 2 can see there are 3 devices not reporting but is not documenting the “why?” that results in action being taken.

Expert Fleet Management with Creative Vehicle Naming

Just imagine the many ways creative vehicle naming can be used to foster expert fleet management. In this short list of vehicles for Database #1, the Administrator is reminded to order parts needed, call the insurance agent, make sure certain vehicles are not used, assign projects to the mechanic based on most needed vehicles to return to service… all while maintaining a complete list of active devices in the database.

Let’s face it, we all have way too much to keep up with. The Administrator for Database #1 has come up with a simple telematics system “hack” that fosters expert fleet management in his organization. Something as simple as descriptive naming of vehicles is saving that organization valuable time and resources.

Vehicle & Asset Telematics

Electronic Forms

Mobile Viewing

Routing

Vehicle & Asset Telematics

Electronic Forms

Mobile Viewing

Routing

7 Costly Driving Habits that are Easy to Break

We All Have Costly Driving Habits

This post shares valuable information not only for commercial fleets, but for anyone who drives. We all want to keep our vehicles running well and far from the repair shop. A few things you may do out of habit, and never thought much about can be causing serious damage to your vehicle over time. Saving a transmission, braking system, or fuel pump from excessive wear will keep your hard-earned money in your pocket, and you in the driver’s seat.

Costly Driving Habits

#1 Ignoring an Unfamiliar Sound

Some sounds just get our attention more than others. A loud scraping noise is pretty alarming. Most drivers would recognize it as bad news and do something immediately. On the other hand, what about a subtle hissing sound? You may not even be sure you really heard something. Ignoring that sound is a costly driving habit.

Rather than let it go, take a minute to listen more closely. Lift the hood and see if it sounds louder. Ask someone else if they hear it too. Sure, it might just be wind noise, but it could be an early warning sign of something about to go very wrong. If you ignore it until that soft hiss turns into a whistle you could find yourself at the side of the road needing belts or vacuum hoses replaced.

#2 Resting Your Hand on the Gearstick While Driving

According to carthrottle.com and many other sources, this common habit can cause easily avoidable damage to your transmission. The constant weight of your hand or arm on the shift lever, puts pressure on the parts connecting below in the gearbox. That pressure causes unnecessary wear and tear and can lead to very expensive transmission failures.

Break that costly driving habit easily by keeping both hands on the wheel. You will find you have more control and may even react a little faster to potential hazards.

#3 Over-Revving a Cold Engine

Winter is here and vehicles may be very cold when we get in to drive. Newer vehicles with fuel injection systems do not require the same care as older vehicles did in this regard, but after reading a few articles on the subject, it seems prudent not to over tax cold vehicle components. Thermal expansion is a fact and precision parts operate best when they are at their optimum operating temperatures, so spending a few minutes to allow the engine to warm just makes sense. It also makes sense to warm the car before you get in for the sake of your own comfort.

This video shot with a thermal camera shows the warming of a frozen engine is very interesting and informative.

Costly Braking Habits

Your brakes may be the single most important system on your vehicle. Wherever you go and whatever you encounter, when you want to stop, or need to stop in an emergency, the brakes have to work! The alternative ways to stop a vehicle can be extremely unpleasant. There are 3 costly driving behaviors that are easy to break specific to how and when we brake.

#4 Excessive Downhill Braking

Of course, you want to brake when necessary, but riding the brake pedal when driving downhill is a common costly driving habit. Continuing to do it will overheat your brake components and wear them out before their time. Instead, try slowing down some before you crest that hill, take your foot off the gas, and downshift to slow the engine. If you pick up too much speed, brake as needed to slow the vehicle, but don’t keep constant pressure on the brake pedal.

#5 Frequent Hard Braking

Sudden and frequent braking often go hand in hand with distracted driving. Both are costly driving habits. A driver that is aware of what is going on around him (or her) has more time to react. They can more easily swerve safely to avoid an obstacle or decelerate slowly rather than brake at the last second. In any case, breaking the hard braking habit pays off in fewer brake repairs and replacements as well as fewer collision incidents and stressful close calls.

#6 Not Using the Parking/Emergency Brake on an Incline

Those of us who mainly drive in the flat lands may not know this, but you should always engage the parking/emergency brake when parked on an incline, AND it should be engaged before you take your foot off of the main brake and put the gear shift lever into the park position. As a side note, if you drive in a mountainous region you also need to curb your wheels. Communities like San Francisco routinely issue citations for not doing so.

The reason for using the parking/emergency brake is pretty simple to understand. Automatic transmissions have a device known as a parking pawl that prevents the transmission output shaft from moving when your shifter is in park. It looks like a pin that engages a notched ring. When these parts are worn, you will notice the vehicle moves a couple of inches forward or back after you put it in park. According to AAMCO, when you set your shifter to park before setting the parking or emergency brake, the entire weight of your vehicle rests on the parking pawl device. Over time it becomes weak leading to premature failure and very costly repairs.

#7 Emptying the Tank Before Refueling

Costly Driving Habits

This is an easy costly driving habit to break once you accept that you are not saving a dime by filling the tank later rather than sooner. The fuel that you pump into your vehicle at the gas station contains some impurities all fuel does. Over time, these impurities settle to the bottom of your tank. Again, this may be more of a concern for older vehicles and colder climates than newer vehicles in the south, but it still applies to all vehicles over time. When you burn the fuel at the bottom of the tank, those impurities (including water) can be pulled into the fuel pump and engine. Enough water will stall the engine. More important, the last thing you want are impurities getting trapped in critical moving engine parts.

Top mechanic’s recommend to never run the tank dry. Certainly refuel before you are below 1/10 or under 2 gallons. Others say to keep no less than a quarter tank at all times. This is so the fuel level does not go below the level of the fuel pump within the engine. They say when the fuel level is below the fuel pump, the fuel pump generates more heat causing it to wear faster than normal.

Why not start off the new year by breaking those costly driving habits? Your wallet and your vehicle will thank you!

How STEER Tech Can Save Time and Money

Guest Post submitted by Joshua Tohn, STEER Tech, LLC

Return on Investment – Automate Repetitive Tasks

Return on investment begins with innovation. What are humans good at? Problem solving, communicating complex issues, critical analysis, and creativity. We hire people to do hard work efficiently. The better job they do, the greater the impact on the business. So why do personnel spend so much time doing mundane and repetitive tasks? Sure they can do them, but that’s not where employees are the most valuable.

Fleet management is always looking to optimize fleet operations without compromising the safety of the team or the equipment. Tasks like juggling vehicles in a parking lot or getting them refueled are important to any fleet, but are a waste of human talent. With that in mind, it raises the biggest question of them all: If it’s a waste to have humans do these mundane tasks, then who (or what) should do them?

Introducing STEER Tech

Whether we like it or not, automation is becoming a core aspect of our world, fleet operations. Factories are installing more and more robots if they aren’t already mostly automated. Companies are on a sprint to automate as many different tasks as possible. Often little consideration is given the humans that are diminished by the new equipment. As this wave of automation sweeps over the world, we need to ask ourselves, what is our relationship to robots? Are they an attempt to replace us? Better yet, can we design autonomous equipment to be an extension of human talent? Ideally, automation should increase the return on investment in our human resources.

STEER Tech has found and leveraged the middle ground between the use of automation and the retention of valuable employees. Robots shouldn’t be designed to replace humans, but support them. Many relatively simple tasks like cleaning, parking, and transporting vehicles are necessary to the operation of fleets. At the same time, they are a waste of human talent. With the input of autonomous vehicles, fleet operators can focus on the critical work actually tied to the job.

Autonomous Parking

STEER Tech creates autonomous parking kits that are retrofitted onto existing fleet vehicles. The science is innovative, but the result is simple. When a vehicle using a STEER Kit arrives at a parking lot, the driver just gets out and goes right to work. The vehicle safely navigates to an available spot and parks itself. The kit doesn’t impact the vehicle’s usability at all, it is just a couple of low profile sensors and a small computer that can be installed in less than a day.

Autonomous parking is useful for consumers, but the use cases expand dramatically when applied to fleet operations. A single operator can remotely move self-driving vehicles around a parking lot, send them to garages, have the vehicles meet drivers at the door, and report back a variety of diagnostics information, such as fuel levels and vehicle health.

The STEER Kit is an extension of the employees, saving them the wasted time walking around parking lots, finding the right car with the right keys, reducing the risk of collisions and damage to the vehicles, and most importantly, turning every vehicle in a parking lot into the most vigilant and alert driver. With over 50,000 crashes in U.S. parking lots per year, having the safety net of an autonomous car will provide return on investment simply by avoiding accidental damage.

The Dollar Value of Efficiency

In the same way your GPS tracking system pays off big by helping you to reduce idle events and aggressive driving habits, savings are found when the cost of brief but frequent wasteful events add up over time. It only takes a couple of minutes to park a car, right? How much does that really cost?

First, assume approximately 260 workdays in a year. If one employee spends ten minutes retrieving the vehicle, and ten minutes parking the vehicle every day, you end up with 86 hours a year spent just parking and retrieving vehicles. Next, assume an 8-hour shift, that would add up to over 10 working days lost a year. That could easily cost the company over $1,500 per employee per year depending on salary and benefits. How many more job sites could someone visit in 10 days? How many more deliveries can be made? That is where we find substantial return on investment.

Finally take those 86 hours (or 10 working days) and multiply them by how many employees are parking and retrieving those fleet vehicles. 10 people = 860 hours. It’s easy to overlook how expensive the time spent parking cars is. Ultimately spending what could be productive hours on parking is just money thrown away. Parking a car does nothing to generate the company revenue. Certainly it doesn’t save money. On the other hand, autonomous vehicles, applied in the right way, recoup the loss without putting employment opportunities in jeopardy.

STEER Tech vehicle

The Future of Fleet Management

The world is headed toward a future of near-universal automation. We need to ask ourselves: What will our relationship with automation be? With technology like the STEER Kit, the answer is a harmonious future. Tools like this are not a far-off Jetson’s style future and they are available now. Integrating them as powerful extensions of the employee contributes to making a company more successful. Employees have more time to focus their skills and knowledge on the real work, supporting the team with every step.

The future of fleet management is one of automation. Imagine a team member steps out of the office and the vehicle they need for the day is there waiting for them. One operator can summon and send the right vehicles to the right places when they are needed. Done safely, done right, and with no hassle or delay.

To learn more about this innovative technology, email Steer tech.

What’s New In MyFleetistics Analytics

Have you clicked on Analytics lately?

New Safety Dashboard

Fleetistics is always working hard to improve the toolset we provide our clients in the MyFleetistics portal. Going beyond GPS tracking for fleet vehicles, MyFleetistics brings a variety of tools and views to the data our GPS tracking devices collect. One of our most recent additions is the Safety Dashboard under MyFleetistics Analytics. Driver Safety data is crucial to Fleet Managers. Accessing it quickly in an easy to use format saves you time and money. The Fleetistics Safety Dashboard provides users the most important information without the normal steps required in the GPS system.

Initially, managers can motivate drivers to improve safety by posting this information where drivers congregate in the workplace. Ultimately they can set goals and track the improvement together. We like to say, “Manage by exception and recognize by performance”.

There are several design elements used to make this dashboard pop with “at a glance” information. First, the top row displays the total number of safety exceptions in very large print. Next, there is a breakdown of the 5 performance indicators that are included in that total. Below are charts. First, we display the 5 assets with the fewest safety exceptions (5 safest drivers). Next, a chart shows the 5 assets with the most safety exceptions (5 most at-risk drivers). Finally, there is a graph of total exceptions by week. As a result, you can easily see if both positive and negative trends. One quick look at the dashboard answers three very important questions.

  1. Who gets a pat on the back?
  2. Who needs to have that safety chat?
  3. What driving behaviors should be discussed in reviews and driver meetings?

MyFleetistics Analytics Safety Dashboard

Odometer, Exceptions, Device Status With One Click

MyFleetistics Analytics reports are designed to filter through the data and display what you need to know in a clean and simple visual format. Additionally, reports are searchable and sortable to help you easily identify the issues you need to look into. Your GPS tracking system then provides the reports and tracking details needed to support the conclusions you come to and the decisions you make.

Odometer Analytics

Simple odometer analytics help Fleet Managers to ensure vehicles are not underused or overused. Odometer readings are part of the data you will find in many fleet GPS tracking system reports, but it becomes more usable when isolated in a more meaningful format. The odometer graph makes it easy to see which vehicles are accumulating miles much faster than others. As a result, it is easy to identify where transferring the workload to other vehicles would be beneficial. Who wants to run out a new vehicle warranty faster than necessary? Likewise, it can expose vehicles that may be making unauthorized trips.

Exceptions

Above we looked at total exceptions on the safety dashboard. The exceptions dashboard drills deeper into the details that show which driver or vehicle is generating what exceptions. Managing individual driver behavior with training and incentives for improvement pays off. Even more, identifying and discussing weak areas increases safety awareness and lowers risk.

If you would like assistance accessing the many features in MyFleetistics, visit our training resources page or call us at 855.300.0527.

Integrations that Drive ROI

There are two primary ways to integrate GPS Tracking data to drive ongoing return on investment. The first, and most often used is analytical integration. Second, and often overlooked is visual integration. Let’s take a look at both.

Analytical Integrations

Application programming interfaces (APIs), allow you to compile data from multiple sources. An API is provided by many GPS vendors. Some vendors add additional fees for their API service and others do not. Likewise, some providers place limits on what data you may access and how frequently you can make requests. In contrast, others make all collected data available and allow more frequent API calls.

Using the API you can integrate data from your GPS tracking system with data from other applications you use. Combining data and directing it into custom reports brings the information you need to the surface. Additionally, you can format and display the data the way you want to see it. We have one client that developed a custom interface to view his tracking data using the API. He does not use the user interface provided with his system at all.

Integrated exceptions graph

Another great example of analytical integration is the Device Status Table in MyFleetistics. It is integrated with our internal support ticketing. This allows our clients to quickly identify vehicles that have not reported. Additional data indicates if the device is powered. It only takes one click to open a support ticket, and it is all viewed on a single screen.

Device Status Integration

The Value Proposition

The API allows you to use the data collected by your tracking system in other applications. Location, speed, and duration details add additional value when combined with data from other sources. Some common examples are listed below.

  • Planned vs actual routes
  • Identifying customers that have not been visited recently
  • Isolate stops that were too short or too long based on an associated work order
  • Understanding on-time vs early or late stops to improve customer service.

Engine status data and faults directed to your vehicle maintenance software ensures all faults are reported. Unsafe driving events reported directly to the applications used by your Safety and HR Departments saves time over entering events manually. More importantly, it ensures safety records are complete and up to date.

You can also use the API to automate tasks. For instance, when a new customer or vendor order is entered, a custom developed application can automate the dispatch by sending a text message through the integrated application. Other examples are syncing customer locations with the closest vehicle when dispatching and assigning training to a driver that has too many unsafe driving events.

Visual Integrations

Visual integrations allow us to consume more information faster. A quick look at a “heat map” of customer stops speaks volumes. It will quickly reveal a territory that needs another driver assigned as well as an area that has too much staff already committed. Put that side by side with a “heat map” of profit dollars generated and you get a deeper understanding of where it is most valuable for drivers to be.

GIS overlays allow you to see infrastructure in relation to the location of your assets. For a Fire Department, the location of fire hydrants in relation to trucks on the map is very helpful information. Likewise, for an oil well service company, well locations on the tracking map allow dispatch to easily see available assets relative to service locations.

Visual Integration Improved Using a Shapefile Import Tool

For Geotab users, the GIS Shapefile Import Tool allows you to import zones from GIS shapefiles. This creates a zone with the exact perimeter you see in a GIS map overlay. As a functioning zone in Geotab, you can create exception rules for events related to the zone. Examples are entering, exiting, driving too fast inside the zone, stopping too long or not long enough in the zone, and much more.

Visual integration using shapefile import tool

Both analytical and visual integrations are beneficial in a variety of ways. The key is understanding what pieces of information you have that when combined reveal something more. Think about all of the times you have asked a question and your manager or supervisor responds “I don’t know.” You may want to start keeping a list of those questions because if you are asking, there must be some value in knowing. Starting with a clear question, the sources of information that can be integrated to reveal the answers are easily identified.