Understanding Vehicle Data and VIN Decoding: A Beginner’s Guide
A crucial part of fleet management is tracking and comparing every vehicle’s performance through data analytics. Vehicle identification numbers also play a considerable role, providing standard information about each unit that helps with maintenance and adherence to safety regulations.
This guide contains everything fleet managers should know about VIN decoding and understanding the data behind their vehicles.
Tracking Vehicle Performance
The old method of tracking commercial fleets primarily took place on spreadsheets. This outdated strategy is too simplistic to monitor vehicle performance, diagnose mechanical problems and identify inefficient parts or driving habits.
Technological advancements have made recording and assessing fleet vehicles’ data easier. Today’s fleet management software allows businesses to import the vehicle identification numbers of each unit and immediately gain access to dozens of insights, including these relevant metrics:
- Vehicle speed
- Miles per gallon
- Fuel consumption
- Weight of load
- Braking intensity
- Driving style
- Idle time
Fleet management software connects to the vehicle’s black box — the device responsible for telematics. Contrary to popular belief, telematics isn’t the same as fleet management software, but the technologies are closely intertwined and have maximum effectiveness when utilized together.
Telematics describes the digital connection between informatics and telecommunication. These two essential management responsibilities have combined to form one role — sending and receiving information about the fleet over long distances. Logistics professionals use fleet management software to organize this information and make informed decisions.
The critical piece that makes fleet management software and telematics work is the vehicle identification number. The VIN signifies the individuality of every car on the road. Even if an entire fleet consists of the same make and model, each vehicle still has its own unique VIN.
Decoding and Utilizing VINs
The VIN is a 17-digit alphanumeric code that provides all of the car’s relevant background information. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standardized VINs in 1981 to create a reliable method of registering and tracking vehicles. Here’s a simplified breakdown of the 17 digits:
- Characters 1-3: The world manufacturer identifier or where the vehicle was made
- Characters 4-8: Weight, body dimensions, engine and transmission type
- Character 9: Manufacturer’s security number
- Character 10: The model’s year
- Character 11: The main factory where the vehicle was assembled
- Characters 12-17: The vehicle’s serial number
Manufacturers put the VIN in multiple locations to avoid confusion, including the dashboard, under the hood and in the owner’s manual. The assembly details are nice to know, but fleet managers should focus on the middle digits. These characters describe the vehicle’s unique attributes and help owners decide the proper driving and maintenance practices.
Knowing the VIN specs of each unit in a commercial fleet can be helpful in many scenarios. For example, fleet managers can refer to the VIN dimensions and assign a vehicle with the appropriate height or weight if a particular route passes over or under a bridge.
When making repairs, technicians can use VINs to confirm the correct part size that needs maintenance. This information enables them to repair or replace engines, transmissions, wheels, tires and other crucial components to maximize the vehicle’s life span.
VINs also help businesses compare the performances of identical vehicles. If one truck has shown a recent decline, fleet managers can investigate its VIN, identify any subtle differences compared to other models and locate the source of the problem. If there are no differences, the driver is likely the problem and the manager can act accordingly.
Most importantly, VINs enable managers to upload information about their vehicles at lightning speed. They can simply copy and paste every VIN into their fleet management software and let it organize for them. VINs are the secret ingredients that make telematics and fleet management software work together.
Benefits of Understanding Vehicle Data
Utilizing VINs with telematics-based fleet management software has greatly simplified the jobs of supervisors and drivers alike. These are the most significant benefits of collecting and monitoring vehicle data from a fleet’s daily operations.
1. Improved Efficiency
Commercial vehicle drivers can encounter many efficiencies throughout the day. They might choose the least optimal route, get stuck in traffic or fall into bad driving habits that hurt the vehicle’s performance.
Telematics takes out the guesswork, helping managers identify the most efficient routes and driving habits employees should take. These adjustments save precious time and fuel while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Efficiency will become essential as fleets with alternative fuels reach the mainstream. The driving experience of these new vehicles will be foreign to fleet employees and the best routes will be less apparent, given the different mileage ranges. Telematics will adjust to the latest technology faster than humans and bring them up to speed.
2. Safer Work Environment
One of the most critical benefits of understanding fleet data is maximizing driver safety. Telematics technology can identify bad driving habits by tracking employee phone usage, average speeds and other potentially reckless behaviors. It can also spot mechanical issues as they emerge, helping fleet managers get unsafe vehicles off the roads for necessary repairs.
3. Massive Savings Potential
Greater safety and efficiency create massive savings potential. Fleet managers can save money on fuel, maintenance, parts, driver training and new vehicle purchases. Most auto insurance companies also offer safe driving discounts to their customers based on telematics. Businesses have nothing to lose and everything to gain from tracking their fleets.
4. Legal Settlements
If a commercial vehicle gets into an accident, telematics can help the company avoid a legal dispute. Many businesses install dashcams to prevent this exact situation from happening. The dashcam not only monitors the employee’s driving but also comes in handy to prove their innocence in an accident and shield the company from liability.
5. Asset Recovery
Fleet management software comes with a convenient GPS locator that sends alerts to the manager’s computer or mobile phone. Businesses can easily find and recover the vehicle if it gets stolen. Motor vehicle thefts have increased in recent years, so fleet managers need to work harder to protect their assets.
The More Insights, the Better
It will always be challenging to track dozens of vehicles at once, but VINs, telematics and fleet management software make the job easier. They enable fleet managers to collect information about each vehicle, supervise drivers and make the best decisions for the fleet’s long-term success. The more insights logistics professionals have, the better they can control their automobiles.
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