The fleet industry has always been privy to some unique and interesting challenges. It’s one of the aspects that makes it such a rewarding area of work and entrepreneurialism. In order to succeed, every member of the fleet — from drivers to management — has to be provided with the tools and knowledge to face those challenges on a daily basis. 

The rise of our digital landscape has certainly helped to provide us with solutions to even the most simple logistical tasks. There are platforms, software, and gadgets that help support dispatchers, and keep our drivers safe on the road. That said, it’s also worth noting that the more advanced technology we embrace, additional — sometimes unexpected — challenges tend to present themselves.  

We’re going to look at a handful of the many, and growing issues that fleets face in the current environment, and some of the technological options to address these effectively. What advantages do these offer today’s shipping sector, and where do we have to be wary? 

1. Training

The fleet industry is one that can benefit from regular, expert training. This not only makes certain that everybody in the chain — from management to drivers — have more than the minimum level of competency. It helps everyone to stay on top of their game and give a fleet a competitive advantage. This is an area that technology can really help with. 

From a driver’s perspective, there is an increasing demand for the use of virtual reality. The requirements to obtain a commercial driving license can vary from country to country and from state to state. For example, drivers looking to get a CDL license in Florida will find that training schools are geared toward providing the regulatory knowledge required specifically for that state.

We are already seeing some training schools introduce simulators to help introduce new drivers to the kinds of hazardous conditions they may not otherwise face.

Training schools can recreate extreme weather conditions, and difficult terrain in order to give trainees a more rounded experience than they’d have received in traditional training environments in previous years.

E-learning platforms can also be a useful tool for fleet staff who do not spend their time on the road. Most learning development software today can be designed by the individual company as per their needs, using multimedia methods to introduce staff more effectively to new software, or aspects of company culture. E-learning platforms are also self-guided, meaning this minimizes the need for large groups of staff to be taken away from their work and the costs of employing trainers. 

2. Safety

One of the most significant challenges facing fleets has always been ensuring safety. Drivers in particular often operate in difficult conditions, which can be even more pronounced in fleets that transport hazardous materials. In recent years, there have also been changes in legislation and regulations regarding driver operating hours, and the requirement for tracking, in order to place emphasis upon preventing accidents. However, there are also technologies available that fleets can voluntarily introduce in order to improve safety.    

Though regulations are in place limiting the number of time drivers spend on the road, fatigue is still a significant issue. It can be difficult to know what to tell an insurance company following an accident, and how much detail to provide regarding liability, causes, and fault. 

However, it is estimated that 100,000 crashes per year are caused by driver fatigue.

This can be prevented by introducing driver alert systems. These monitor various aspects of the vehicle’s motions and driver behaviour, detecting when drivers are becoming too drowsy to safely operate their vehicle.    

2020 is starting to see the use of rearview cameras becoming a fleet safety trend. By investing in cameras that can be positioned at various points on the vehicle, fleets can help minimize the potential for issues caused by blind spots. 

3. Fleet Team Management

One of the realities of fleet management is that various members of your staff are going to be operating from different geographical locations at any given time. This is, of course, more pronounced in large fleets that have hubs across the country, but even smaller fleets have to juggle multiple drivers who will not always be in the same place.

Successful fleets rely upon effective management, which can certainly be a struggle without a varied technological toolbox. 

Thankfully, the general rise in appetite for remote working has led to the development of a variety of platforms that can make the management of geographically dispersed staff simpler, and more effective. At the very basic level, 4G networks have made it practical for fleets to utilize video conferencing software. This doesn’t just allow dispatchers to have visual contact with drivers when problems occur, it also allows several members of the organization to undertake meetings no matter how distant they are from each other. 

However, fleet management platforms can go much further than this. GPS tracking allows dispatchers and logistics managers to see where the entire fleet is at any given time, and co-ordinate the routes of each driver to maximize both individual efficiency and the overall asset control. Many platforms also function for calculating fuel economy, and tachograph reports which can provide an insight into the real-time performance of the vehicle and driver. This is expected to become even more pronounced with the introduction of 5G networks in the near future — wherein uninterrupted connections will allow the processing of vast amounts of data even in high-demand areas.  

Our technological age means that we have the potential to benefit from the enhanced efficiencies offered by incorporating devices into fleet working practices. Training, safety, and management are likely to be ongoing challenges in the industry, no matter how much new technology we incorporate. However, fleets need to be proactive in exploring the possibilities of new technology and prompting development that makes the issues faced on a daily basis more manageable, keeping our businesses ahead of the curve in a highly competitive industry.