Emerging Technologies In Fleet Management That’s Helping The Worrisome Global Supply Chain

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Emerging Technologies In Fleet Management That’s Helping The Worrisome Global Supply Chain
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The global supply chain is in crisis, and experts suggest that it’s only about to get a lot worse. From log-jammed airports in China dealing with strict government Covid testing protocols to the more than 120 container vessels on hold at the port of Shanghai-Ningbo – supply chain constraints are stacking up, and it’s being felt across the world.

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In the United Kingdom, the number of truck drivers has plummeted since the country decided to formally leave the European Union in January 2020. A letter by the Road Haulage Association to the British Prime Minister estimates that the country has a shortage of more than 100,000 qualified truck drivers.

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Over in the United States, the landscape doesn’t look any different. According to the American Trucking Association (ATA), in 2021 driver shortage reached a staggering 80,000, with estimates to nearly double by 2030.

From the backlog of deliveries caused by ensuing pandemic-related protocols, labor shortages, geopolitical tension, and the soaring cost of fuel and inflation - supply chain constraints are hitting every corner of the fleet management industry - globally and domestically.

Although it’s become impossible for fleet managers and logistic teams to control events that are out of reach, looking to become more efficient within their work through the use of technology, software, and the internet is becoming an almighty tool that can help resolve issues and manage issues within the industry.

Innovation in software development, and the Internet of Things (IoT), coupled with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and 5G capabilities, are now sparking a revolutionary movement in fleet management.

Truck and fleet companies’ performance and productivity are crucial to their success and the overall growth of their business. Looking to dampen these issues, fleet managers and logistic teams have found better turnaround with tech-related solutions than having to rely on traditional and outdated models.

Today, it’s possible to control, manage and track every challenge. From monitoring driver safety, routing, vehicle management and service, payments, fuel consumption, and driver management - solutions to survive are presenting themselves each day as the truck industry grows, alongside technology.

Let’s dive right into the emerging technologies helping fleet management cope with the worrisome supply chain issues.

Route Planning and Roadmapping

Not so long ago, a lot of the routes truck drivers took were based on GPS tracking and monitoring. That said, fleet managers would map out a route using GPS guidance, seeing which routes were the shortest to help with fuel consumption, and minimize driver fatigue.

But in a country as big as the United States, with more than 164,000 miles of highways stretching from border to border and east to west - outdated GPS models and tools could only help that much before managers and drivers would run into a problem.

Today, route optimization is less stressful, analyzing real-time data and information to execute precise and efficient route planning. Through the use of data collection and software integration, fleet management teams can see where routes can be shortened, and analyze information in a way that can help cut fuel consumption, costs, and time.

GPS tracking tools, with the aid of data management software, allow fleet managers to not only track a fleet or specific truck but also monitor its on-road performance. This gives them better real-time insight and guidance on how to cut delivery times, and ensure driver safety.

Fuel Consumption

For some companies with large fleets, fuel consumption and cost are perhaps one of the biggest burdens they may have. Diesel hasn’t been this expensive in decades, and some companies have seen monthly fuel costs increase to more than $1.5 million for about 35 trucks traveling roughly 120,000 miles per year.

For smaller freight companies and courier businesses, the rampant cost of fuel is not only hurting them financially, but also impacting the routes they’re able to take, and deliveries they can complete.

With software integration, fleet teams can assess fuel consumption on various routes and trucks at the same time. More so, it allows them to monitor which routes use the most fuel, where trucks can minimize the need for those routes, and quickly assess if fuel consumption on a certain fleet shoots up unexpectedly.

Although it’s possible to manually assess fuel consumption, allowing drivers to monitor their consumption through written logbooks can come with a lot of human error and inconsistencies. Software eliminates these instances, and provides more real-time data and tracking for fuel management.

Predictive Inventory Management

The pandemic created an opportunity for businesses and companies to expand their digital and eCommerce reach almost exponentially. But while the need for online shopping has increased, so have AI requirements to help monitor inventory and stock levels.

Back in 2011, Artificial Intelligence (AI) controlled around 3% of the total retail market. Today, those estimates are set to reach a 20% market share by 2023.

Yet, these estimates put both eCommerce stores, and truck delivery companies at the heart of the growth.

Managing inventory levels and controlling incoming and outgoing stock items can become a logistic and administrative nightmare. For fleet managers, it’s now easier to have better control over available items, to an estimated delivery time.

Connecting data points through algorithms makes it easier for fleet managers to monitor stock levels and analyze consumer trends. AI can analyze data a lot quicker, eliminating human error, but also alert logistic teams on low-inventory items to ensure they can make the necessary adjustments.

AI software ensures that fleet managers can make use of predictive models that tracks not only inventory but also how changing patterns in the consumer market will require them to adjust their stock levels accordingly. They are now able to deep dive into a world of analytical tools that gives them better insight into the consumer market, and how they can become more resilient in the current supply chain.

Automated Fleet Maintenance

For fleet management teams, drivers and their fleets are at the heart of their business and their most valuable asset. Safe driving practices and fleet management such as maintenance and repairs are crucial to the longevity of a fleet's performance.

Automated fleet maintenance tools through the use of the Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G technology make it easier for team leaders to have precise data and information related to their fleets' overall wellbeing.

Fleet maintenance encompasses a variety of categories, but for the most part refers to licensing and administration, repairs, and of course fleet service.

As a small company, it’s a lot easier to control fleet maintenance with simple manual tools. For large delivery companies and couriers with dozens of delivery vehicles, keeping track of when a certain vehicle is due for a service or repair, or when to renew its license can be a challenging, and burdensome task.

To help avoid mundane tasks, and any costly surprises, companies are now looking to integrate IoT and 5G tools that can help them track and analyze the overall health of their fleet. Starting from when a truck requires routine maintenance, to the number of miles a truck has left on its current set of tires.

While it’s possible to help minimize workload and administration, it also increases the safety and road worthiness of trucks and ensures that drivers are kept up to date about their vehicles. More so, it creates a safer, more modern work environment for the fleet management team and their drivers.

Big Data

The modern world of business runs and operates on the premise of big data. From collecting customer information to understanding consumer trends and market indicators, big data helps the business understand its place in the current market.

Although big data requires a lot of machine learning capabilities and AI, it helps to deliver real-time information based on business requirements.

For the fleet management team, big data can help them analyze their team's performance and productivity, track KPIs, and monitor fleet management. Additionally, big data does not only find problems, it also looks to create solutions that can help minimize costs and reduce human-induced working hours.

These days, big data is more than just numbers and statistics, it’s a way for a fleet management team to understand how they can navigate the challenging market while being resilient.

Big data can encompass various aspects of the internal workings of a business, and in the trucking and freight industry, it’s almost become the lifeline that helps companies remain resilient in times of economic uncertainty.

Driver Behavior

For quite some time fleet managers could only access driver behavior and performance through their past driving and work experience.

It seemed that routine field testing could help fleet managers better understand their team's abilities and experience. But as technology evolved, so did its capabilities to help improve driver experience and behavior.

Yes, it’s at all possible to still monitor driver expertise through more traditional models, but if not incorporated correctly, there’s a chance it can hurt the operations and cost of the business.

Driver behavior-centered tools can help track how drivers perform when under a lot of stress, during long-haul deliveries, or how they handle emergencies.

Furthermore, these tools can also improve overall health and safety, which is a crucial aspect of any fleet management team. The better a driver performs, the easier it is for a business to operate larger teams and deliver quantities.

It’s also possible to incorporate both traditional and modern tools such as routine field tests that can now analyze driver behavior and emotional well-being, handling of heavy loads, and problem-solving capabilities.

Safer Fleets

If properly executed, the aforementioned can work in unison to help improve fleet safety and performance, overall, that’s exactly what the fleet management team is looking for.

A safer fleet does not only help minimize operations costs, but it also helps keep drivers safe and those around them. In addition, it ensures that fleets are well looked after and that routine service or maintenance is carried out when necessary.

Additionally, it helps to see where the company can reduce costs by monitoring fuel consumption and repairs.

The better a team incorporates software tools such as AI and IoT, the better their fleet will perform under high demand levels.

Technology and software-based tools help to lower costly risks. Still, more so, it ensures that the fleet management team can better understand and control the performance of the business, the fleet, and its drivers.

The Takeaway

Whether it’s big data, machine learning, or Artificial Intelligence, technology plays a significant role in the overall well-being of any business.

For fleet management teams, having to control dozens of trucks all at once while monitoring driver performance and fleet operations, tech, and software soon becomes a crucial aspect of the business.

Technology and software can’t replace the physical hands-on and human-based performance. Still, it can aid in increasing performance, productivity, and fleet safety, ensuring that the trucking industry can mitigate issues related to supply chain constraints.

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Ankur Shah is the founder of the Value Investing India Report, a leading independent, value oriented journal of the Indian financial markets. Ankur has more than eight years of equity research experience covering emerging markets, with a focus on India and South East Asia. He has worked as both a buy-side investment analyst for a global long/short equity hedge fund and a sell-side analyst for an emerging markets investment bank. Ankur is a graduate of Harvard Business School. You can learn more about his latest views on global markets at the Value Investing India Report. -- He can be emailed at AnkurShah47@gmail.com
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