These days, everything is connected. The internet is more powerful and accessible than it’s ever been; we average 24 hours per week online, and almost one-third of the global population owns a smartphone. But it isn’t just human beings that are hooked into the worldwide web – an increasingly diverse array of devices are getting their chance, too. This phenomenon (connecting ‘things’ to the internet) bears the refreshingly simple name ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT).
By allowing physical tools and devices to ‘talk to’ internet-based applications, the IoT is empowering people and businesses to automate practices, simplify communication, and analyze data to improve performance.
In the home, this might take the form of something as simple as using your smartphone to dim the lightbulbs, or asking Amazon Alexa to play your favourite song.
But for businesses in the transportation industry, the IoT is more than a convenient shortcut or a fun diversion – it’s integral to everything they do.
So integral, in fact, that according to the experts, the global IoT fleet management market might reach around $17 billion by 2025, growing at a rate of more than 20% along the way.
So what is the role of IoT in fleet management, exactly?
How are fleet owners and operators around the world using it to promote safer habits in their drivers, bring more value to their customers, and reduce their impact on the planet?
Let’s take a look.
Fleet management and IoT: at a glance
Fleet management is the process of maintaining control over a fleet of commercial vehicles.
That could be a small fleet of taxis covering a particular neighbourhood, a group of delivery vans operating across a city, or an arsenal of long-haul trucks traversing the length of the country.
No matter how big or small your fleet is, you’ll still need some way of monitoring it.
That means making sure drivers are doing their job properly, keeping one eye on fuel spend, and having all of your vehicles on the radar, at all times.
How do you do all this?
By connecting to the IoT.
Remember, the IoT requires two main components to function.
One is hardware (a smart light bulb, for instance).
That’s the software (for example, the app through which you can control the bulb’s brightness from your smartphone).
Connecting to the IoT allows the hardware and the software to talk to each other, and for information to be processed, analyzed, and transmitted in real-time.
Fleet management is no different.
So what does the hardware consist of?
1. GPS trackers
These are fitted directly into your vehicle’s engine management system; allowing you to track where your drivers are, where they’ve been, and how they got there.
These are simple cameras that allow you to monitor what’s going on inside and outside of your vehicles, while they’re out on the road.
For hygiene reasons, fleets transporting perishable goods will need to ensure that the temperature inside the vehicle stays below a certain level.
Vehicle-based thermostats ensure that food and drinks get to their destination, without expiring on the way there!
4. Driver behaviour sensors
Activities such as harsh braking, accelerating too quickly and speeding all have an impact on a business’ bottom line, reputation, and vehicle lifespan.
Sensors help you cut out bad driver behaviours, and safeguard your fleet’s good name.
5. Your phone!
Your drivers will need smartphones to input data regarding job completion and hours of service.
And as for your office team, you’ll require phones, tablets, or computers to process all the information coming in from your fleet management system’s hardware.
Which brings us to…
You can install fleet management hardware to your heart’s content, but if there’s no software to unpack all the insights it provides, you won’t get a shred of value.
Fleet management software helps you keep your drivers in the loop; informing them about traffic conditions and live route updates.
And, via its connection to the IoT, this software is also what allows you to access all the information that the sensors, cameras, thermostats, and trackers are providing from out on the asphalt.
Moreover, it’s how you’ll take the road’s raw data and turn it into insights that’ll scale up your business.
But what are those insights, exactly?
And how do they all add up to equal big benefits for your fleet?
The benefits of IoT in fleet management
1. Collect data in real-time
The IoT allows for fleet management to be ‘active’.
This is an industry term, meaning that data is transmitted from the hardware to the software in real-time.
With an active system, you’ll get fuel usage breakdowns, crash reports, and live dashcam video footage at your fingertips, as events unfold.
Active systems refresh data as quickly as every 30 seconds, too – so you’ll never be more than half a minute behind developments.
And if you think half a minute is long, consider the alternative – a ‘passive’ fleet management system.
With this one, the name kind of says it all.
Data is recorded and saved, sure – but you won’t be able to actually view it until it’s uploaded to your system when the vehicle arrives back to base.
Active is better than passive – and it’s all thanks to the IoT.
2. Encourage better driver behaviour
Driver idling, speeding, harsh braking, and route deviation are all bad behaviours… but any fleet manager would admit they occur far too frequently for comfort.
Thankfully, the IoT can help you mitigate the effects of bad behaviours on driver and vehicle safety; not to mention the corrosive effects a speeding ticket or a bit of road rage can have on your brand image.
When a driver goes rogue, the IoT means you’ll be able to identify the behaviour in real-time and take steps to notify or warn the driver accordingly.
Most fleet management software also promotes safety through live ‘driver leaderboards’.
These rates your drivers across a range of metrics, acting as a reward system for good driving.
This ensures you can effectively incentivize your best team members, and easily spot any room for improvement.
3. Cut down fuel and operating costs
Bad driver practices aren’t just harming your reputation for safety – they’re also cutting into your bottom line.
Drivers leaving the engine on while away from the vehicle is a bonafide budget-buster, while poorly-optimized routes can cost you both time and customers.
Here’s where the IoT comes in.
With real-time fuel usage reports and advanced route planning tools, you’ll know exactly how much is in the tank – and how to get the most out of it.
4. Stay ahead of vehicle maintenance
IoT-enabled fleet management software collects both run-time and usage data from your vehicles.
You’ll be able to set up mileage limits for individual types of vehicles and receive alerts when these are reached – meaning you’ll know exactly when it’s time to service each vehicle in your fleet.
You’ll also be notified (in real-time, of course) about any potential accidents waiting to happen.
This means sidestepping the cost and hassle of having to deal with issues further down the line and helps you satisfy your drivers, your customers, and the insurance guys that your fleet is 100% up to scratch.
IoT: The future of fleet management
To summarize, the IoT’s role in fleet management is both proactive and reactive.
Live updates allow you to respond immediately to stamp out inconsiderate driving, correct inefficient routes, and save yourself some cash on wasted fuel expenditure.
On the other hand, adopting IoT-powered fleet management software demonstrates a proactive desire to ensure the compliance, safety, and good condition of your staff and vehicles.
More importantly, embracing IoT signifies an intention to meet the future halfway.
Equipping your fleet with IoT-enabled fleet management technology tells your clients, employees, and the world that your business is ready to combat the challenges of the 2020s by capitalizing on its opportunities.
Basically, adopting IoT for your fleet is a no-brainer.
So if you only have one lightbulb moment this year, make sure this is it.