I am hard pressed to think of an industry not significantly affected by technology in the last decade, and there is no end in sight. New developments in cutting-edge areas such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, self-driving vehicles, and much more promise even more changes to come. Most of us can’t imagine what our own industries will look like a generation from now.
Fleet management is no exception, but while we might not be able to envision everything that’s going to happen 20 years down the road, there are plenty of tech tools available right now that can help fleet managers be more efficient and get more return on their equipment investments. We have to embrace technology and take advantage of its benefits or risk being left behind by the competition.
As someone who has been around a landscape business for years, I know the thing that drives equipment owners the craziest is watching a good piece of machinery sit idle in the yard. Whether it’s because work is slow during the off-season or it is a specialized machine that just isn’t needed for current jobs, we see it as a lost opportunity—and lost money.
A close second in the frustration category is needing a piece of equipment and not having one available. The company might have only one or two specialized machines available, and if they are in use, be forced to turn down work or schedule it for later than the customer wants.
These frustrations are so infuriating that my husband, his brother, and I started a company to solve the problem. DOZR is an equipment sharing platform where owners can list their idle equipment for rent. It’s pretty similar to the way people rent out their unused rooms or garage apartments on Airbnb. We even handle transporting equipment and provide insurance to protect owners in case something happens to the machine. It’s easy and helps people with surplus equipment and those who need short-term rentals by giving them access to a machine without spending big money for something they don’t frequently use.
If there’s one thing you can start doing now that will pay big dividends in the future, it’s using data to make better decisions. Using trailer tracking tools is a good place to start. You can collect data on vehicle utilization, productivity, idle time, loading and unloading times, and so on. Owners see how full their trailers are—or how empty—and even monitor whether increases in sales in particular regions correlate to different trailer graphics.
The biggest benefit to trailer tracking is that it makes maintenance more predictable and helps avoid times when trucks are out of service. Software attaches maintenance records to a trailer so managers know when service happens or when routine maintenance and inspections are due. They identify trends in a vehicle’s performance to help determine when a trailer might be nearing its end of life and replace it without an interruption in service. Tracking also makes it easy for drivers to find the right trailer in a yard so they don’t waste time looking for their load.
When it comes to moving goods from one place to another, the route to get there has a big effect on the profitability of the trip. GPS systems already make a huge impact on drivers’ ability to take the most efficient routes from point A to point B, but dynamic routing software can go even further.
Instead of just recommending the shortest route, dynamic routing technology can notify a driver of an unexpected traffic backup or crash. It can integrate with weather data to avoid a snowstorm. For drivers making multiple deliveries, it increases route density and decreases the distance between pick-ups and drop-offs.
Shorter distances and more efficient routes save drivers time and reduces fuel consumption, two of the biggest expenses for every fleet owner. What customer doesn’t appreciate more predictable delivery schedules? That adds up to better service, happier customers, and an improved reputation for the business.
Driver performance is another area where getting comfortable with data can pay big dividends. Drivers are arguably the biggest variable for any fleet owner. Bad driving burns more fuel and creates costly safety problems. Using a combination of vehicle performance data and in-cab cameras gives owners the information they need to identify problems and proactively address them.
Bad habits such as harsh braking or acceleration, rolling stops, or speeding can be addressed before a crash or ticket happens. Sometimes a little refresher training is the difference between life and death. Understandably, drivers might not be comfortable with a camera watching their every move at first, but this isn’t only about catching bad drivers. The data also helps spot the good drivers who might not have otherwise been recognized. Now owners can reward the good as well as correct the bad, helping retain drivers at a time when high turnover and driver shortages are expensive issues in the industry.
These are only a few examples of the tools that can make fleets more efficient and profitable. I have no doubt that by the end of the year there will be dozens more examples to add to the list—and only more in subsequent years. The number of tools can be daunting, so owners should be selective about choosing the ones that best address their specific needs. The only thing they can’t afford to do is ignore technology and keep running business as usual. That’s the best way for a business to become obsolete.
About the Author:
Erin Stephenson is COO and cofounder of DOZR, an equipment sharing platform that facilitates the short and long-term rental of heavy equipment across Canada and in the eastern United States. DOZR currently offers a fleet of heavy equipment in a variety of categories including excavators, loaders, skid steers, tractors, vehicles, rock trucks and lifts, to name a few. For more information, visit www.dozr.com.
Modern Contractor Solutions, February 2018
Did you enjoy this article?
Subscribe to the FREE Digital Edition of Modern Contractor Solutions magazine.