With technologies like IOT, telematics, and pervasive web and app-based mechanisms to collect and aggregate driver information, some fleet managers may find themselves drowning in data. Other fleet managers may struggle with figuring out the best way to mine and analyze data, let alone with finding ways to make it actionable. While some data you may be collecting aren’t immediately actionable, there are often answers to puzzling questions lying in the data, if you can just unlock its potential.
We commonly hear questions like these among fleet managers in our community:
- How do I know if I have too many or too few vehicles in my fleet?
- What is the right composition of types of fleet vehicles in our pool?
- What are the optimal locations to keep vehicles?
- When do I see peak usage in the different departments we serve?
- Is usage evenly distributed among our vehicles?
Broadly speaking, our fleet managers’ questions tend to fall into three categories.
Descriptive: What happened in the past or is happening right now? These questions might cover an inventory of vehicles in the fleet or a roster of drivers who use our vehicles.
Predictive: Looking at our history, what is likely to happen next? Questions here might involve patterns in data like seasonal use of vehicles by department, peak utilization by the time of day or the day of week, or repair frequency relative to vehicle age.
Prescriptive: Given our data, what should I do next? To prescribe action, we might want to investigate data like vehicle utilization to tell us when it’s time to remarket vehicles in our fleet or when it’s time to procure new vehicles of a particular type.
With these questions as background, this week we’ll talk about what analytics and reporting you should look for in a fleet management information system (FMIS), how these tools can help you manage your fleet, and what data inputs are required to produce actionable outputs.
One of the most valuable and often overlooked features of an FMIS is the ability to get your vehicle and driver data into a consistent, searchable, and reportable format. Depending on the size and complexity of your fleet operation, answers to questions like, “Who are our drivers?” or “What is the current mileage of vehicles in our fleet?” might be easier or more difficult to answer. With an effective FMIS, answers to these questions should be at your fingertips.
One occasion on which you might take a dive into descriptive fleet data is when preparing for a fleet audit. Depending on the environment in which you operate, fleet audits might come along as frequently as every quarter, or you may see audits every three to five years. Audits may be conducted internally or externally and may come with different areas of scrutiny. Some may focus on safety and compliance, while others may focus on the efficiency and financial aspects of your operation. Others may focus on all the above and more. So, depending on the nature of your audit, you’ll need to have a variety of reporting at the ready. No matter what type of audit you face, descriptive reports should provide the answers you need.
If your FMIS provides good descriptive analytics and reporting, here is some of the data you should be able to produce:
- User Summary – List of users
- User Details – Detailed user profile report, with information like citations and safety courses completed
- Driver Eligibility – Lists the eligibility and validity of each user’s license
- Driver’s License Currency - Driver's license information found in the user's profile
- Account Summary - A list of all the accounts for internal billing or chargebacks
- Department Summary – A list of all the departments
- Asset Summary – List of vehicles
- Asset Details – Vehicle profile details
- Asset In/Out – List of vehicles leaving, returning, or in maintenance by day
- Owner/Responsible Asset Summary – List of assigned vehicles and their associated users and departments
- Inspections – Inspection history of vehicles
- Accident Summary – Summary of accident reports
- Accident Detail – Accident report details
- Mileage-Cost - shows the number of miles traveled by a vehicle in a defined timeframe and compares it against the expected number of miles to be traveled in addition to showing the fuel expense per mile and the maintenance expense per mile
While none of us has a crystal ball, we can make inferences about what will happen in the future based on what has occurred in the past. If you work in government, you may know that every summer, the parks and recreation department will tie up your trucks from April through August. Your tax department is likely to see their peak light passenger vehicle use through the spring, and your social services team might see sustained usage year-round with peaks at the holidays. With an understanding of vehicle usage patterns, you can prepare to make the right variety of vehicles available at the right locations in your motor pool
If your FMIS provides good predictive analytics and reporting, here is some of the data you should be able to produce:
- Reservation Summary – List of reservations
- Reservation Details – Reservation details
- Completed Reservations – List of completed reservations
- Usage By Department– The number of trips, hours, and miles by department
- Vehicle Availability – Displays those vehicles that are available for the desired timeframe.
The holy grail in the use of a fleet management information system is the ability to prescribe action. At this level, we determine the best course of action, given the data provided by our FMIS and the many strategic options at our disposal. It’s with these data that we can move from reactionary or tactical to truly strategic.
Utilization data provides some of the most powerful prescriptive metrics at our disposal. A picture of demand vs. capacity for each vehicle, for each type of vehicle, and for our fleet (in aggregate) will tell us whether we have too many or to few vehicles. Looking at these data over time will reflect the peaks and valleys that come with the seasonal nature of some departments’ work. If you find that capacity exceeds demand, the prescribed action will be to remarket some vehicles in your fleet. The size of the gap revealed in this type of reporting often surprises our clients, who’ve been able to decrease the size of their fleets my as much as 75%.
If your FMIS provides good prescriptive analytics and reporting, here are some of the data you should be able to produce:
- Summary – Fleet statistics overview
- Vehicle Usage – Fleet usage by vehicle
- Motor Pool Utilization – Day-by-day utilization of motor pool assets
- Motor Pool Utilization by Asset Type – Day-by-day utilization of motor pool assets by each asset type
- Vehicle Demand – Fleet demand versus capacity
- Aging By Miles – Age of fleet by miles (recommended miles vs. traveled miles.)
- Aging By Time – Age of fleet by time (actual versus planned)
Garbage in. Garbage out.
Of course, all the above reports and analytics are predicated on complete and reliable data collection. This is where your FMIS is worth its weight in gold. Designed correctly, the FMIS will collect and validate all the required data from your staff and driver community seamlessly. Reservation data, mileage, driver credentials, billing, etc. are baked into the operation of the tool. This means that data isn’t misplaced, mis-keyed, or saved for entry later. As data stream into the system, they’re made available for reporting in real time. Good, timely data is the basis for good, timely decisions.
Getting from here to there
As you can see, an FMIS should empower fleet managers with data-backed decision making. If you’re still managing your fleet with paper, spreadsheets, or a whiteboard, it can seem like a quantum leap to get to a place where this kind of intelligence is readily available. Fear not...we’ve got your back. If you’d like to learn how an FMIS like FleetCommander can help you get on top of your data, please reach out. We’re here to help.