Guest Column | March 15, 2021

How Fleet Managers Can Use The IoT To Reduce Costs

By Emily Newton, Revolutionized


An ongoing goal of fleet managers worldwide is to reduce costs without noticing losses in other performance metrics, such as safety or quality. The Internet of Things (IoT) can provide the technological assistance needed to save money. Here’s a look at what’s possible.

Minimizing The Human Interventions Required

Manufacturing plants often feature IoT technology to support autonomous equipment. It allows robots to bring goods to workers or communicate with surrounding machines. These devices raise productivity levels and often maintain or increase work output without bringing more team members on-site. Thus, companies save on human resources costs.

Fleet management IoT solutions could also benefit fleet transportation routes. The United States Postal Service ran a two-week trial of self-driving trucks traveling along a 1,000-mile route. The organization usually contracts out such trips, hiring people to drive freight trailers that carry thousands of pieces of mail. However, the journey takes 22 hours each way and requires teamwork. The grueling nature of the trips makes it difficult to recruit drivers willing to do them.

Each truck used in the trial had a driver and engineer on board. However, if the Postal Service deems this experiment worthwhile, it may investigate other ways to get tasks done without the usual numbers of people required. Decision-makers at other large organizations could decide to follow suit with IoT projects.

Reducing The Time Spent Operating Trucks

Poor fleet coordination can elevate costs and mean drivers spend more time waiting to work than getting tasks done. The likelihood of elevated expenses goes up on massive projects.

The cleanup associated with 2018’s Camp Fire in California was one example. A construction company that formed a joint venture with two other entities won the bid for that daunting initiative. The business needed contractors to move more than 3.6 million tons of debris.

Drivers hauled the rubbish to one of six sites. Some were only 30 minutes away, but most required making a 200-mile round trip to a location several hours away from the worksite. The company tackled the associated challenges with an IoT device plugged into the cigarette lighter in a dump truck’s cab. It sent data to a centralized dashboard, informing a dispatcher of a vehicle’s location and speed. Each truck also had an associated job number.

The dispatcher worked full time to coordinate where to send a specific vehicle based on needs. The trucks' connected technology reportedly led to a 40% reduction in haul times and decreased usage time by 20%. This example shows how companies could use the IoT to stay on top of deadlines and avoid wasted resources.

Achieving Better Visibility Into Driver Behavior

A lack of awareness can pose threats to effective fleet management because supervisors don’t necessarily know when problems exist. Maybe you’ve heard employees complaining about a driver’s erratic driving. Connected solutions let you verify it before taking disciplinary action.

For example, telematics solutions use GPS and telecommunications technology to gather and provide comprehensive information about vehicle operations. They could show details about braking, idling, speed, and other valuable specifics. That makes it easier to determine if a driver engages in dangerous practices that need correcting. Quickly identifying and managing issues can prevent accidents, lawsuits, and other events that could drive up costs and damage a company’s reputation.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) works in more than 150 countries and territories to reduce poverty and promote equality. It deployed fleet management IoT technology in nations including Cambodia and Georgia. The system can tell if a driver brakes severely or turns too sharply, allowing the organization to look out for everyone’s well-being by making the roads less hazardous. Moreover, the technology helps inspire donor confidence by proving effective use of vehicles during assignments.

Safeguarding Perishable Or Hazardous Goods

IoT technology can make sure fleets that carry materials that must stay within certain parameters do so. For example, many GPS tools have integrated temperature and humidity sensors. Managers can set limits and be alerted immediately if a parcel’s environment deviates from those norms for too long.

Such an approach prevents goods from arriving at their destinations damaged. If problems occur too often, clients lose trust in fleet providers. Additionally, a company’s expenses rise when it must spend more to replace the ruined merchandise.

Similarly, you can reduce costs by installing IoT tech to track hazardous materials. Explosive gases or corrosive chemicals could cause injuries and deaths at a workplace or in the public if companies misplace containers used to move dangerous cargo. Traditional methods usually occur manually, but that’s time-consuming and prone to human error. The IoT gives real-time data that immediately shows a container’s location. People can then act if necessary, before a catastrophe happens.

Tracking Vehicle Condition

An often-utilized approach to keeping fleets roadworthy involves following recommended maintenance schedules. However, that method can become cost intensive. Manufacturers make upkeep suggestions based on average use. Numerous factors, ranging from an area’s climate to a vehicle’s age, can cause maintenance needs to vary. That might mean a fleet manager schedules a technician to check a truck before it needs servicing, but the vehicle may break down if they wait too long.

Fortunately, many fleet management IoT products offer predictive maintenance data. They’re still in the early usage stages. However, companies that use them report fewer breakdowns and shortened diagnostic time frames. For example, a technician could look at a vehicle’s data before arriving to service it, which would allow them to narrow down possible problems.

In Nottingham, Scotland, city transport officials installed IoT sensors for better fuel management on biogas buses. Besides detecting fuel leaks, the gadgets can show the number of hours worked per liter or inform users whether a vehicle met miles-per-gallon targets. Thus, it’s easier for fleet managers to track trends and decide when to upgrade or retire older buses to keep the whole fleet maximally efficient.

Deploy A Sensible Strategy When Using The IoT To Reduce Costs

These examples show that the IoT can cut costs while helping fleet managers meet or exceed other targets. However, it’s not enough to invest in IoT technology and assume it will work as you expect.

Take the time to figure out where most of your costs originate. Then, investigate how the IoT could improve operational efficiency in those areas. Also, don’t anticipate immediate improvement. Pick metrics to measure, along with dates to examine them, and see how things have changed since the last time you checked.

Taking a methodical approach when you use IoT technology will help you avoid pitfalls. It’ll also help you stay on top of your return on investment and justify the money you spent to cut costs.

EmilyAbout The Author

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized. She regularly explores the impact technology has on the industrial sector.