The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of FreightWaves or its affiliates.
The current economic climate has presented unique challenges to industries across the globe. This is no different for businesses with fleets, making it more important than ever to ensure your vehicles stay healthy and productive. A vehicle in the shop versus on the road can make the difference between a business that’s succeeding and one that is just getting by.
But keeping vehicles well maintained can be a complex process. Not only does it require insights into the health of each vehicle, but it also depends on the availability of resources, parts and people at the right time. That’s why if you manage a fleet, it’s important to collect vehicle and driver data to simplify maintenance, minimize downtime and improve the utilization of your vehicles.
By leveraging two main data sources — your vehicles and your drivers — a fleet can use real-time telematics data to help keep preventative maintenance schedules on track, identify and correct pending failures before a vehicle goes out of service, and incorporate driver feedback to efficiently detect and track discrepancies.
Preventing unplanned downtime, which can cost anywhere from $448 to $760 a day, can be accomplished by leveraging the following from your telematics solution:
- Vehicle data: Vehicle health starts with understanding what’s happening under the hood of each vehicle. That data can be sourced in two ways: directly from the vehicle’s diagnostic port or via an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) cloud integration. Both provide an accurate read on important data points like mileage, engine hours, fault codes, battery health and more.
- Driver data: Drivers play a large part in vehicle performance — both in terms of how they operate the vehicle and what information they share about the vehicle. Some driver behaviors, like speed, idling and torque, can have a major impact on vehicle health, making it important to understand and analyze these habits to help reduce costs and minimize vehicle wear and tear. Vehicle inspections, which are also carried out by drivers, are crucial in centralizing information about vehicle performance and outstanding vehicle defects.
But sourcing this data is only the first step. An advanced telematics system that can surface insights from these sources and make it actionable to your team will improve both your maintenance and bottom line.
Here are three best practices to achieve data transparency and increase the lifetime value of your vehicles:
Run a data-driven preventative maintenance program
Adhering to OEM-recommended preventative maintenance schedules is critical to keeping your vehicles on the road. But with maintenance needs that depend on varying time intervals, mileage, and engine hour requirements, it can be challenging to keep track of when a vehicle is due in the shop. By connecting your preventative maintenance schedule directly to your vehicle data, you can ensure you are notified when a vehicle is due for its next maintenance interval. This insight, alongside utilization reporting, can alleviate the risk of overusing high-performing vehicles so you can better allocate resources and vehicle use to ensure the long-term health of your fleet.
Leverage diagnostics data to avoid breakdowns
Understanding what’s going on under the hood of each of your vehicles in real time can help you identify an issue before it leads to a breakdown. And for some things, like a critical check-engine light or a high-oil-temperature warning, a lag of only a few minutes can cause irreversible damage to your vehicles — costing you in downtime or potentially vehicle replacement. Whether you leverage that information through OEM telematics or a telematics device, you can leverage remote access to critical diagnostics information like historical Diagnostic Trouble Codes (DTC). Stay up to date on this information with real-time alerts that help you diagnose pending failures before they result in unscheduled maintenance or worse, a call to roadside assistance.
Use driver feedback to identify issues
By using a telematics system, not only can your drivers more efficiently complete Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports (DVIRs), or walkaround inspections, but communication between drivers and maintenance staff becomes more automated — providing a real-time picture of vehicle health both pre- and post-trip. When a discrepancy is identified in an inspection, you can immediately alert your maintenance team or automatically create a work order in your maintenance system via an API integration. When this information is cross-referenced with a preventative maintenance schedule and diagnostics data, your maintenance team will already be up to speed the next time a vehicle comes into the shop.
Ultimately, with tools that help you analyze data from your vehicles and drivers, you can gain actionable insights that help automate vehicle health. Plug-and-play hardware and intuitive software pulls engine data in real time to quickly identify issues, monitor vehicle performance, schedule regular checkups, and track historic vehicle faults to inform procurement and utilization plans.
Mike Ross leads the telematics product group at Samsara, where he focuses on enabling over 15,000 customers globally to manage fleet operations, maintenance and efficiency by leveraging rich vehicle telemetry data in real time. Prior to Samsara, Mike served in the United States Navy, where he flew the F/A-18 as a carrier-based fighter pilot, developmental test pilot and squadron maintenance officer.