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Monday, October 7, 2013

Too Much GPS Data Can Inhibit Fleet Management Reporting

Managing data well is the main game in fleet management today. Companies need to tread carefully because excessive administration of vehicle use can quickly lead to staff communication problems and waste.

At the same time, the massive amount of information that is being generated by Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers in vehicles can lead to organisations having too much data and not enough answers

GPS is a US government-maintained satellite navigation system that provides location and time information in all weather conditions, anywhere there is an unobstructed line of sight to four or more GPS satellites. The system assists military, civil and commercial users around the world and is accessible to anyone with a GPS receiver.
Depending upon the position update rate, a fleet of 50 cars equipped with GPS can generate a huge amount of data, including information about the location, speed, performance and maintenance situation of vehicles. Distilling this information down and making good use of it is often a reporting challenge, according to the director of research and communications at the Australasian Fleet Managers Association, Ken Thompson.  Too much data can be as much of a problem as too little data - since a fleet manager needs to review and understand the implication of the data - such as where a vehicle has been, and where it has stopped as well as how fast it has been moving.  Redundant data can make this analysis a significant challenge.
Thompson says GPS-generated data is particularly effective in monitoring vehicle efficiency and safety.
He says some organisations put GPS sensors into vehicles that are commonly used in remote locations so they know exactly where the vehicle is at all times.

“GPS is also used to monitor the speed of vehicles – if staff are working on unmade roads and are limited to a speed limit 40 kilometers an hour because of the roads, a connection can be made through the GPS to tell the organisation the speed limit has been exceeded,” he says. “If you have a vehicle that is carrying valuable material, for instance, you can geo-fence that. You can set parameters about the physical area in which it can operate. If the vehicle moves out of the area, then a report is sent to the organisation.”
Automated management systems are now widely used to co-ordinate vehicle maintenance and driver education.
Using fleet telematics companies can work to ensure that the right ­vehicles are used for specific tasks, and that costs and ­accident rates are reduced, by introducing reward recognition for good performance.
Speaking at a recent meeting of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply, Malcolm urged fleet operators to encourage the discussion of fleet and driver performance matters at sales meetings. Employees can also be tested on road rules and provided with driver education awareness updates with online tools, he says.
Online risk management tools are an effective way of reducing accidents and gathering data to identify problem areas around company cars. But employers who think they can simply install a flashy intranet system and then forget about their duty of care responsibilities are mistaken. Risk management tools help organisations assess risk. But under Australia’s occupational health and safety regulations, the responsibility remains with the employer.
To protect themselves from potential litigation, employers need to combine online education with one-on-one driver training, including refresher training, and have measurable processes within a written policy that applies to all employees.
“One of the most powerful driver education tools is private coaching,” Malcolm says. “Drivers sit with a coach who observes them, and asks why they are drinking coffee while driving, or why they are following too close [to the vehicle in front].”
Automated maintenance management systems are also having a significant positive impact on the bottom line.
Technological changes in once-overlooked maintenance facilities and regional fleet centers are spreading through the entire enterprise, leaving productivity and profitability improvements in their wake.
Some parts and pieces of today’s maintenance management solutions have been around for decades.
What is changing the game when it comes to impact is the integration of various technology tools to create a seamless flow of asset management data that has the power to move maintenance from a reactive function to a predictive-based function.
For the past decade, the focus of fleet managers has been on taking all the different sources of maintenance-related data – including data from on-board vehicle sensors and motor industry supplier systems – and aggregating them.

The entire order-to-delivery process is being automated in many fleets. The aim is to join up all the dots so that everything from bills for material, to the maintenance work order, to the mechanic in the shop, to parts inventory management, to accounts payable is integrated. Thompson says the use of GPS is allowing certain transport operators to embrace a truly predictive maintenance world. He says public bus operators in the US use GPS to monitor how many times a bus door is opened. The gathered information is then deployed to pre-plan the maintenance and tire-change programs, according to whether a bus route involves frequent or infrequent stopping.
The great advantage of predictive maintenance regimes is that logic can be applied to data to create probabilities of failures. In doing this, fleet asset utilization is kept high.

Some information in this report was provided by the Financial Review