While it may surprise you as something work truck fleet managers overlook, vehicle utilization data is often ignored. 
 -  Photo courtesy of  PXHere.com

While it may surprise you as something work truck fleet managers overlook, vehicle utilization data is often ignored.

Photo courtesy of PXHere.com

Fleet operations create mountains of data. With so many data points to consider, it’s easy to overlook some of the more helpful points. While every work truck fleet has different needs related to telematics and data, these missed data points can apply to just about everyone.

Data Point 1: Scheduled & Preventive Maintenance

Tracking scheduled maintenance, including the simple fact, that it was accomplished, is extremely important. But, in work trucks, you can’t simply base maintenance needs on miles. This is where data analytics can help, giving fleet managers better insight into the hours a truck has been in operation in combination with mileage data.

“Until roughly 10 years ago, most scheduled maintenance was mileage-based. However, capturing data related to engine hours and idle time is just as important – if not more so – as simply tracking mileage. Today, diesel vehicles are equipped with diesel particulate filters (DPFs). While they have improved vehicle emissions, DPFs require additional maintenance. Idling reduces DPF life expectancy and leads to breakdowns and costly repairs. As a result, monitoring engine hours and idle time should not be ignored,” said Mike Pugh, corporate vice president for Enterprise Truck Rental.

To help reduce downtime, many fleets are also interested in the concept of preventive maintenance or performing maintenance before a major issue occurs.

“Preventive maintenance (PM) variability is a concept that stems from our ARI Fleet Health Card. We have found this to be a significantly impactful data point that we are helping truck fleet managers learn more about. PM variability measures the consistency with which a vehicle has received preventative maintenance. Vehicles with low consistency have significantly higher unscheduled maintenance expenses and are far more prone to major component failure,” said Greg Raven, director, business intelligence and analytics for ARI.

And, as noted, hours in use are very important for work truck fleets, especially relating to maintenance needs.

“Use of engine hour data to establish better PM schedule management. Good maintenance records enhance resale value and can shorten the days-to-sell,” said Gillies of Element Fleet Management. “Second only to the volume of fuel consumed, engine hours are the best indicator of when PM service is due. Tracking of engine hours takes more steps to obtain and record – versus a mileage reading – it easily gets dismissed,” said Ken Gillies, senior truck consultant for Element Fleet Management.

Data Point 2: Operating Expenses

Having insight into the cost-side of fleet is extremely important. And understanding fleet operating expense on a total cost per mile basis is an important metric to track for fleet optimization.

“But, operating expense is sometimes overlooked as it can be a challenging metric to quantify without the right level of data integration. Not only does cost per mile serve as an indicator of how your fleet costs have changed over time, it is also a great point of comparison against benchmark fleets with similar applications and vehicle utilization,” said Dale Mottram, strategic consultant for Merchants Fleet Management.

Don’t depend on accounting and financial teams for cost-related data. Taking the time to understand the cost and financial data related to a work truck fleet is one of the best ways to help you make informed decisions.

“I think that many light- and medium-duty fleet managers underestimate the impact of the financial data on their organizations.  For many companies, having a fleet of trucks is a necessary part of their business and they just do things the same way as before.  Trucks are not part of their key business and revenue generators.  Purchasing and successfully operating a fleet of trucks is different than acquiring copiers, yet many companies use the same acquisition methodology,” said Jake Civitts, director of franchise operations for PacLease.

Data Point 3: Idling

Another important, yet often-missed data point, is idling data. While this information is quite easy to track and most fleets have access to this data, it can be easy to ignore.

“Some fleet managers will accept drivers’ excuses for leaving a truck running, and those fleet managers feel that idle time isn’t a big issue.  Idle time leads to wasted fuel, and eventually idling will lead to even more expensive service issues on today’s diesel trucks. To better manage their fleet’s idle time, truck fleet managers should have idle time data readily available on their fleet management software dashboards, and they should be analyzing that data daily,” said Jason Boyd, vice president of sales – truck services for Donlen.  

Data Point 4: Vehicle Utilization

Finally, while this point may surprise you as something work truck fleet managers overlook, vehicle utilization data is also often ignored.

“Within any given fleet there are likely several vehicles not being used to their fullest potential. It may be a spare vehicle at a branch just sits on site, or a driver has a favorite vehicle that perhaps they don’t necessarily need to complete their work. By understanding exactly how vehicles are being used, where they’re going, how many trips they’re taking, etc., fleets can start to get a very clear picture on utilization and how to optimize their vehicles,” said Sara Sweeney, senior product manager, Connected Vehicle, for Wheels Inc.

Are you monitoring these data points or have something to add to this list? Comment below or e-mail me and let’s chat!

Lauren Fletcher

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

Executive Editor - Fleet, Trucking & Transportation

Lauren Fletcher is Executive Editor for the Fleet, Trucking & Transportation Group. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

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