How Big Data Has Become Integral to Commercial Fleet Success

Big data has opened a tremendous number of new doors in the fleet management industry.
big data in fleet management
Shutterstock Photo License - By MOLPIX

Big data is at the heart of the digital revolution. Intrinsically, it can process information on a large scale, utilizing automation and smart analytics tools. It’s making waves in nearly every industry, including commercial fleet management.

Basing fleet management operations on data is not new, and in some ways, it’s always been a part of the industry. Legacy solutions might have used paper trails and documents, but that same information is now digital. Big data solutions are often created and supported using various technologies from IIoT to machine learning and AI. 

The technology vastly improves fleet management by allowing preventive maintenance, better safety, and enhanced administration and controls. It also introduces operational efficiencies.

To understand why, you have to dig into the how.

How Big Data Has Become Integral to Commercial Fleet Operations

Combined with modern technologies, big data can streamline and automate many tasks related to fleet management. A mission-critical task like maintenance can be relegated to proactive measures thanks to a steady flow of performance data.

A critical component of smarter data-driven operations is commercial IoT or IIoT, which allows for consistent and instantaneous fleet tracking. What’s more, the same technology can be used for other measures, like monitoring assets and goods, which cuts down on fraud and theft.

A fleet must be outfitted with these technologies to benefit, whether natively or after the fact using add-on solutions. Organizations have already realized this. The global IoT fleet management market is expected to reach $17.5 billion by the end of 2025, up from $3.8 billion in 2018. Soon, it will grow beyond a competitive advantage and become a requirement for companies that wish to remain relevant.

Growing requirement or not, there are many benefits of standardizing big data within fleet management operations.

Improved Fleet Management Controls

Ultimately, a constant stream of data flowing in about the entire fleet, including vehicles and drivers alike, translates to better management and controls. Try to imagine the improvements this can offer to administrative tasks and how it helps break down siloed operations and foster stronger communication across teams. 

This is helpful in logistics, but it has sweeping implications in the construction industry, too. Whether on-site or remote, project managers can see driver stats, current movements, accurate positioning through location services and GPS, and much more. 

Incoming data can fuel communication, introducing new opportunities in the field. That’s especially true with a driver’s mobile device. A leader can identify issues during a project, and it can be corrected right then and there, reducing the time it would take later to go back and fix a problem. That’s also where big data can step in and vastly expand ops.

All that performance data can be fed into a machine learning tool specifically designed to identify certain events, failures or obstacles. Predictive models, estimates and identified trends can all be sent to the project management team to speed up their decisions. This all happens without someone sifting through the data manually, so leaders and personnel can focus on more important tasks.

Enhanced Driver Safety

An unfortunate reality is that accidents happen, and drivers that spend long hours on the open road are more susceptible. There are ways to make a drive safer, like researching new routes, avoiding traffic events and providing better vehicle maintenance.

The annual accident rate for commercial fleets is about 20%, and the average cost of a single-event loss is $70,000. Improving safety is important for reducing associated expenses related to vehicle repairs, replacements and driver benefits.

Big data can help by building reliable driver and fleet profiles. That may lead to the discovery of faster and less-trafficked routes, with shortcuts and real-time event alerts. It can also be used to analyze driver behaviors to optimize fuel stops, personal breaks and more.

Outfitting vehicles with real-time sensors can vastly improve safety by relaying pertinent details to the home base. Vehicle wear and usage stats, fuel and oil readings, tire wear and pressure readings, battery checks, and temperature alerts are all examples of mission-critical information. All that data flows back into the system, where it’s processed and sent to the appropriate people. If and when a vehicle starts showing signs of failure, remote operators can queue up the necessary replacement or support.

Preventive and Proactive Maintenance

Most maintenance programs that aren’t backed by big data solutions are reactive. Action is taken after the fact to remedy an event or failure, outside of basic duties like oil changes. However, it’s safer and more productive to implement a preventive maintenance system, which is proactive.

When it comes to fleet maintenance, big data can aid in monitoring vehicle handling and operation to optimize trips, preserve equipment and waylay potential breakdowns. A machine learning tool might flag certain vehicles as high risk, using ingested parameters and insights, in which case they can be delegated to local or short-range deliveries. They can also be removed from the standard fleet altogether.

Some of the oft-overlooked maintenance tasks can be boosted, as well. For instance, maintaining a good undercarriage is crucial to continued operations, and that’s true whether you’re talking about a bulldozer or a conventional transport vehicle. A well-maintained undercarriage offers many benefits like higher reliability, better safety, improved performance and even cost reductions — thanks to minimal repairs. 

Big data solutions can help maintain facets like the vehicle undercarriage by automating alerts and collecting and analyzing real-time performance stats while reducing the responsibilities of maintenance crews and workers.

Boosted Operational Efficiency 

Because the data can be used to optimize so much, from maintenance to regular operations, the entire fleet sees an efficiency boost. 

Preventive maintenance means vehicles are less likely to break down, increasing reliability. With greater controls and real-time information, leaders can arrange the necessary support, deliver accurate orders and better manage the workforce. More nuanced details like supplier performance, traffic and road updates, inventory tracking and more vastly improves transparency.

These combined benefits lead to smoother operations, faster and higher-quality output, and competitive advantage.

The Future of Fleet Management: All-in on Big Data

The big data market in fleet management is growing, and the industry is becoming more efficient and competitive. There are also a host of new challenges, the pandemic being only one of them. Big data is already having a huge impact on the field, and many industries are realizing its benefits, from construction to logistics.

It’s safe to say that the technology has a concrete place in the industry’s future, and it will continue to be instrumental to the success of many operations. If you haven’t already considered implementing data-oriented solutions, there’s never been a better time than now.

Rose Morrison
Rose Morrison is a freelance writer on the construction industry and the managing editor of Renovated. To see more of her work, check out her Twitter.