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Leveraging GPS Tracking for Automated Fleet Maintenance

GPS tracking

Leveraging GPS Tracking for Automated Fleet Maintenance

Maintenance is one of the most important parts of fleet management. A good maintenance strategy can help a business cut repair costs, improve fuel efficiency, and eliminate vehicle downtime.

Scheduling vehicle maintenance can be difficult, however, especially for businesses that don’t know exactly where their fleet vehicles are.

GPS tracking technology is one of the best tools that fleet managers can use to streamline maintenance — or even completely automate it.

Why Businesses Use GPS Tracking for Fleet Management

GPS tracking is a fleet tracking strategy that uses networked GPS systems to provide managers with the real-time location of each vehicle in the fleet. Location data is often used to streamline scheduling and routing, allowing administrators to make more informed decisions when they need to dispatch a vehicle or schedule a new job.

GPS data may also enable a system to track driver behavior, including unnecessary idling, speeding, and harsh braking events. This information can be provided to fleet managers and dispatchers, as well as passed on directly to drivers.

Fleet managers and dispatchers can use the information to improve their decision-making while drivers can learn more about their own habits and practices — allowing them to identify potential areas of improvement.

These tools are popular among businesses in parts of the country where idling laws may mean hefty fines for businesses that allow drivers to leave vehicles idling. They are also frequently used by businesses that want to track and reduce dangerous driving habits that can harm vehicle health, reduce fuel economy, and make drivers less safe.

The benefits of a GPS tracking system can vary from business to business, but most will see noticeable improvements to vehicle fuel efficiency, overall driving hours, driver behavior, compliance, and safety.

Many GPS tracking systems are also part of a larger telematics system that can provide managers with even more fleet data. These systems may also include dashboards and data visualization tools that help fleet managers better understand the data they’ve collected.

With the right solution, it can be much easier to predict fleet expenses and implement new business policies that help improve fleet performance.

Automating Maintenance With GPS Tracking

The most effective maintenance strategies are preventive. Long before small problems with a vehicle become serious issues, the business takes action to keep the vehicle in the best operating condition possible.

For example, a business may hire a mechanic to regularly inspect brakes, check oil levels, change filters, or check tire tread. These simple checks allow businesses to prevent most common vehicle issues, like brake failure, frequently seen in vehicles like semi-trucks or tractor-trailers when they’re not properly maintained.

The simplest maintenance tasks aren’t usually expensive or time-consuming, and they can help keep vehicles on the road while providing other benefits — like better fuel economy and a lower risk of breaking down.

Preventive maintenance can be hard to implement, however — especially for businesses that have relied on a reactive maintenance strategy in the past.

The time and money needed for preventive maintenance are usually repaid over time, as maintenance reduces the need for repairs or the frequency of breakdowns. Typically, preventive maintenance only becomes challenging when a business doesn’t have enough information on its vehicles, drivers, or maintenance providers.

This information could be a shipping estimate on essential replacement parts, a mechanic’s availability, or the current status of fleet vehicles.

Without the right information, fleet managers can struggle to coordinate the different parts of a preventive maintenance strategy — like the business’s mechanics, tools, replacement components, or the vehicles themselves.

How GPS Tracking Makes Maintenance Automation Possible

GPS tracking provides a valuable source of information on fleet vehicles’ location and driving conditions. The system is continuously updating managers on the position of each vehicle and how drivers are operating those vehicles.

With a GPS tracking solution, it’s typically possible to create automatic maintenance alerts that instantly notify managers when maintenance is needed.

These maintenance alerts are customizable, meaning managers can configure them to appear after a certain number of hours have passed, or when a vehicle passes a number of miles driven.

Many of these solutions also track how employees are driving their vehicles, allowing managers to draw connections between driver behaviors, maintenance costs, and specific repairs.

This data can help managers identify behaviors that harm vehicle health the most, allowing them to track driver behavior and maximize vehicle lifespan while minimizing maintenance costs.

A more advanced system could also provide additional benefits — for example, by automatically scheduling maintenance when it’s needed. Using information from the GPS trackers, the system could automatically schedule maintenance and generate a route to the maintenance garage based on the vehicle’s current location, the driver’s job status, and the distance to nearby maintenance locations.

Over time, information from GPS tracking systems can also help managers understand their fleet’s schedule. With this data, managers can know exactly when business tends to be slow or when specific vehicles are available, allowing them to schedule maintenance in a way that won’t disrupt work.

They may also be able to provide better availability estimates to customers and help their team dispatch vehicles more effectively.

For businesses that have struggled with creating driver schedules or meeting client needs, these tools could help them create better schedules for their team, making it easier to dispatch drivers and complete jobs.

Integrating GPS With Other Maintenance Automation Tools

Fleet managers that benefit from using GPS to automate fleet maintenance will probably also benefit from many of the other fleet maintenance automation tools available.

Many of these tools are built with technology like GPS tracking in mind, meaning they may integrate easily with existing GPS tracking solutions or be able to utilize the real-time data these solutions provide.

For example, a comprehensive telematics and maintenance automation system may be able to provide managers with automatic alerts based on both miles driven and data collected by vehicle components — like tire pressure sensors, brake system sensors, and the engine control unit.

Using GPS to Improve and Automate Fleet Maintenance

An automated preventive maintenance strategy can help any business keep its fleet on the road. Implementing preventive maintenance without the right information may be difficult, however.

GPS tracking systems provide real-time updates on fleet vehicle locations that managers can use to make preventive maintenance much more practical. These tools can also help managers identify reckless driving or bad habits, like idling.

Combined with other maintenance and telematics solutions, GPS tracking can also help make automating maintenance much easier. The right solution can provide automatic notices when a vehicle hits a major milestone or number of hours driven.

asset tracking

Why Fleet Managers Need Mobile IoT Asset Tracking

Not long ago, local grocery stores were lined with empty shelves. Toilet paper and hand sanitizer shortages gripped headlines from California to New York. In the throes of the COVID-19 era, demand for basic goods had so abruptly shifted that transportation and logistics companies were forced to react at breakneck speed to the unprecedented surge, all while maintaining worker safety.

The issue is, managers can only truly manage what they see – and need to know exactly where vehicles and equipment are in order to properly use them. Real-time visibility of critical assets, which can be anything from fleet equipment to humans, is essential for operating a supply chain at peak efficiency. The pandemic is exposing a need for access to insights for moving assets across all sectors, especially when multi-tiered distribution models are relied upon. Fast, real-time decisions are only delivered when a fleet manager knows the real-time location of all tools in their arsenal. Fleet managers need an end-to-end asset tracking solution that works anywhere, indoors or outdoors, with no-nonsense setup to scale.

GPS Sucks More than Just Power

Historically, fleet managers have leaned on GPS to track higher value assets, though being able to yield a location report has been far from guaranteed. Due to GPS’ inherent limitations, enterprises were only able to pinpoint assets when they had a clear line of sight to the sky. Yet many times, equipment and goods were inside a container or warehouse, rendering GPS useless. With steep price tags and quickly drained battery life, GPS trackers are difficult to maintain and to frequently replace on the field. If a fleet manager wanted to layer on indoor coverage, they’d need to accumulate additional costs and infrastructure for the incorporation of Wi-Fi or Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE). Amalgamating these location solutions with other existing software platforms to offer valuable data becomes a burden on crucial resources: finances, time, and manpower.

Thankfully, other changes in the market have been brewing long before COVID-19 entered the picture. With the onslaught of digital transformation and Industry 4.0, enterprises are turning to newer technologies such as Mobile Internet of Things (IoT), cellular-based location techniques like Cell-ID, or more accurate alternatives, such as Cloud Location over Cellular (C-LoC) to help solve the growing challenge of providing end to end supply chain visibility. Innovative players are realizing they can leverage existing, ubiquitous 4G and 5G cellular networks for connecting asset trackers through Mobile IoT. New Mobile IoT standards such as LTE-M and NB-IoT are changing the game on cost, battery life, and extended coverage and have been deployed by carriers around the world. Mobile IoT is the foundation for 5G Massive IoT, which is poised to usher in a new era of hyper-connectivity.

Fleet managers are now able to connect millions of low bandwidth asset trackers to tap into their equipment’s location, whether it’s inside a building or out on the open road. Small, agile devices make for flexible systems, so sensors can be easily affixed to any object needed to be tracked. Using cell towers that already reach 97% of the global population (ITU), there’s no need for new infrastructure. Deployment costs are slashed, and scalability is streamlined. The battery life of a tracker extends from days to years.

Mobile IoT allows actionable intelligence to present itself in the form of various sensor data, including temperature, humidity, shock or other conditions, with the backbone being location. Used in conjunction with asset tracking platforms, configurable alerts and customizable geofences can help make sense of the information in order to act quickly. The point: real-time data enabled by Mobile IoT and cellular-based location provide the best context for fleet managers to rectify problematic situations before they result in business disruption.

Mobile IoT and Fleet Management

Fleet management is evolving to include not only gaining visibility into a vehicle’s location, but even further – into the items on or associated with the vehicle, whether they are scooters or pallets of soda. This encompasses tracking the trailer, the vehicle cab, in addition to the individual items inside the trailer (i.e. hand trucks).

Moreover, fleet tracking doesn’t always mean a vehicle in motion. A fleet of vans stored on an expansive property can rack up hours in labor costs for personnel who are tasked with finding a needle in a haystack. This knowledge is important for automobile manufacturers, car dealers and leasing companies.

Using Mobile IoT and cellular-based location, systems can also be supplemented with cost-effective trackers in areas where many signals aren’t available, such as inside warehouses or covered parking garages.

Fifth Wheel Dolly Mini Case Study

When fifth wheel dollies are no longer needed, drivers for one LTL company often drop them off in a manufacturing/warehouse district, or hook them up to another, second trailer. These dollies are then left susceptible to theft or damage by other drivers. Though it’s difficult for fleet managers to know where an individual dolly is at any given time, they have not seen the ROI in using GPS trackers for this type of equipment. If drivers don’t pay attention to where they drop dollies, or they’re damaged and can’t be pulled, this is typically only discovered later through walk-throughs and manual checks around the truck yard.

Using a Mobile IoT location solution with cellular-based location, the LTL company can now leverage existing mobile infrastructure and lightweight devices for asset tracking, no matter what unplanned lot or district a dolly is left in. Less power consumption and heightened indoor/outdoor coverage leads to simpler scalability and increased efficiency in preventing theft, as well as recovering dollies or other goods after loss.

Mobile IoT is driving down the cost and eliminating the barriers to entry of asset tracking for smaller, individual assets. With millions of new IoT devices coming online rapidly, this technology is proving to have a real impact on fleet managers’ bottom lines. While Mobile IoT can be used in combination with various location solutions, choosing the right method can make or break implementation success.


About Ed Chao, CEO, Polte

As CEO of Polte, Chao leads the team to position Polte as the premier location technology provider for Mobile IoT. Chao brings 26 years of leadership experience, serving as an executive for companies such as MetroPCS, T-Mobile, Lucent Technologies and with the U.S. Digital Service at the White House.

Chao holds a Master of Business Administration from Columbia University, a Master of Science in electrical engineering from Georgia Tech, and a Bachelor of Science in electrical engineering from Rutgers University.