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  March 20th, 2024 | Written by

Enhancing Supply Chain Resilience Through Proactive Fleet Safety Management

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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chains largely targeted efficiency above all else. After a series of widespread and lasting disruptions, that’s no longer the case. Supply chains must be resilient enough to withstand dramatic changes, but achieving that can be challenging.

It’s not always clear what changes to enact or which technologies are most worth it to invest in. Realistically, resiliency is not the product of a single best practice but the combination of many. Fleet safety management is an important one but an easy one to miss.

How Fleet Safety Impacts Supply Chain Resilience

While broader supply chain shifts like reshoring and supplier diversification are important, logistics processes deserve attention, too. In addition to being fast, transportation must be reliable, which is where fleet safety comes in.

Police-reported traffic accidents involved an estimated 523,796 large trucks in 2021 alone. That equals roughly 1,435 trucks getting into crashes every day, each with potential supply chain consequences. These incidents delay shipments by a few hours in a best-case scenario. In worse cases, they may result in injuries, high repair costs or damaged goods.

Fleet safety can impact supply chain operations outside of impacts, too. Safe drivers may pull over when they notice something unusual with their vehicles’ performance. Stopping and reporting these events is less disruptive than a crash but can still cause delays or require re-routing. By contrast, a safer fleet will make more on-time shipments and encounter fewer unexpected bumps in the road. That consistency in performance, timelines and costs echoes through supply chains.

How to Optimize Fleet Safety Management

In light of these considerations, logistics providers must be proactive about fleet safety management. That means capitalizing on the following best practices.

Implement Connected Technologies

The most important step in proactive fleet safety management is to track safety metrics through connected technologies. Vehicle operations are often able to get ahead of schedule by addressing maintenance needs before they become larger problems. The best way to do that is to track them through the Internet of Things (IoT).

IoT sensors and telematics systems can monitor vehicle health factors in real time and alert workers when issues arise. While these technologies incur higher upfront investments, those notifications let fleets respond to potential problems as quickly as possible.

Quick, technology-driven responses have two primary benefits for supply chain resilience. First, they prevent accidents that may cause injuries or larger disruptions. Secondly, they minimize repair expenses and related downtime by addressing these issues while they’re still small and removing the need to check things manually.

Predict Future Maintenance Needs

IoT-based safety tracking opens the door to another, more powerful strategy — predictive maintenance. With enough vehicle operations data, machine learning algorithms can predict when signs point toward needing repair soon. Then, fleets can get alerts to schedule repairs before declining conditions may even be noticeable to humans.

Predictive maintenance enables even earlier and more effective fixes than thorough preventive maintenance. As a result, it can extend asset life spans by up to 40% and reduce downtime by up to 50%. On top of keeping employees and other drivers safe, those savings mean fewer supply chain disruptions and lower costs.

Conventional preventive maintenance is preferable to reactive methods, but it wastes more time than many organizations realize. Roughly 30% of all preventive repair activities don’t add any value. Vehicles don’t degrade along a consistent schedule, so schedule-based repairs are insufficient. Opting for data-driven, predictive alternatives eliminates these unnecessary steps.

Secure Fleet IoT Systems

As supply chains implement these technologies, they must consider the unique risks they may produce. Most notably, greater IoT adoption corresponds to broader attack surfaces. More connected devices mean more potential entry points for hackers, so cybersecurity is essential.

Bridging the gap between IT and operational technology like vehicles has many benefits. Unfortunately, it also means trucks and other equipment become vulnerable to data breaches. As a result, supply chains have become popular targets, with supply chain cyberattacks affecting millions of people annually.

Thorough cybersecurity measures are necessary to ensure proactive fleet safety tools don’t jeopardize safety in other areas. Segmenting networks to keep IoT devices separate from other endpoints and data is a crucial first step. Enterprises must also encrypt all IoT traffic, use strong access methods and monitor network traffic in real time with AI.

Fleet Maintenance Is Key to Supply Chain Resilience

Optimizing fleet maintenance can be a tricky undertaking, but it’s essential for modern supply chains. When fleets become more proactive about their repairs, they reduce traffic accidents and related safety issues. These improvements, in turn, make logistics processes more reliable, enabling larger-scale supply chain resilience efforts.

Businesses must capitalize on new technologies to enable more resilience through fleet safety measures. That means implementing devices like IoT and telematics systems, and learning how to secure them. Industry 4.0 initiatives require careful attention, but if companies can do that, they can transform their fleet operations for the better.