The Top 5 Things to Look For in a Fleet Maintenance System

When was the last time you selected your new fleet maintenance system? If it was a few years ago, then you probably used standard criteria for evaluating the new system among tens of available options. These standard criteria used to be:

• Work order management
• Parts management
• Inventory management
• Barcoding and Scanning
• OEM / after-market parts warranty support
• Standard reports for compliance and productivity

But these features are no longer the differentiating factors for a good fleet maintenance system. These have become table stakes to just be in the game. The transportation industry is changing at a rapid pace and so is the future of maintenance practices. In this age of autonomous vehicles and IoT devices, customers want to perform vehicles checks when needed and make repairs before the breakdown happens.

telematics

Hence, if you want to be ready for the future, you MUST look for the following five things before choosing or upgrading your Fleet Maintenance System.

1. Telematics Integration

Per an STN customer survey, 60 percent of school buses are equipped with GPS devices. Customers are looking for various ways to leverage the power of data from these devices to improve their operations and fleet reliability. If you are still manually entering the mileage in your maintenance system or doing a PM (Preventive Maintenance) or oil changes based on only time-period, you are losing a huge opportunity.

Your maintenance system must have the ability to automatically import miles driven and engine hours from your GPS provider. And your PM cycles should not just be automatically scheduled based on elapsed time, but they should also take into account miles driven and engine hours. No other maintenance practice is more important than doing a timely PM. So, don’t miss out on this opportunity if your fleet is equipped with telematics.

2. Fault Codes Diagnostics Integration

How many times has your vehicle broken down on the road? No operations or maintenance supervisor wants to deal with unplanned breakdowns. This leads to customer inconvenience, possible safety hazards, daily crises and of course unplanned costs. You can avoid these situations if your fleet maintenance system can integrate with telematics data and import fault code diagnosis.

Until a couple of years ago, the only option technicians had was to connect the diagnostics laptop and identify possible issues. In my experience, there is very low compliance and it only gets done if the ‘check engine’ light is on. Nowadays, companies like On Command Connection (OCC) by Navistar and the ‘Insite’ online diagnostics portal by Cummins have the ability to integrate with your fleet software. The OCC platform comes with a strong diagnostic analytics engine to interpret the diagnostics codes. The outputs from OCC can easily create automatic work orders based on severity, which requires technicians to close the issue, hence avoiding the unplanned breakdowns.

data transmission

3. Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR) Integration

Pre-trip inspections are a very important part of fleet safety and reliability. In the past few years, tons of progress has been made in going from paper-based DVIR processes to electronic DVIR (eDVIR).

But in most cases, these defect reports stay open for a long time, resulting in safety hazards or unplanned breakdowns. Ideally, the output from an eDVIR system should feed into the fleet maintenance system and automatically create a work order. This will ensure that technicians act on a timely basis to close these defects, hence keeping the buses safe and reliable.

4. Mobile Application

With evolution of smartphones and tablets, mobile technology has become a part of our life. So why not in fleet maintenance? How many times must technicians walk away from the bus to the shop computer or parts room to check on vehicle history, other work orders, or parts availability? This not only results in loss of productivity but can also be frustrating for technicians.

There are ton of rugged tablet / phone options available now which allow technicians to have real time access to all needed information at their fingertips. In addition, you can also use these devices as a mode of alerts and notifications. If you want to make sure that your Fleet system is going to be useful for next 10 years, you can’t ignore this need.

5. Business Intelligence

And last but not least, you cannot ignore the power of data. Even with a solid fleet maintenance system, there are so many data points to capture and measure: Assets, miles, parts, work orders, cores, purchase orders, etc. And if you have more than 10 locations to manage, your problem becomes 10-fold. There is no effective way to manage the daily operations without exception based data analytics module. The business intelligence from fleet maintenance allows you to effectively monitor your operations, handle exceptions and make process changes to improve the overall efficiency, reliability and safety of your fleet.

In summary, if you are looking for a fleet system for the next 10 years to proactively manage your fleet and avoid unplanned breakdowns, you must look beyond standard functions and add these 5 MUST HAVE criteria to your list.


 

G.P. SinghGP is the CEO & founder of technology company ByteCurve, LLC. He brings over 15 years of experience in the transportation industry. Before founding ByteCurve, he served as senior vice president of sales and marketing, and senior vice president of fleet maintenance at National Express Corporation. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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The Era of Big Data is Here, But Long Live Small Data!

Everywhere you look people are talking about the transformative nature of big data. The increasing sophistication of technology and the nearly ubiquitous connections between these systems provides a virtually bottomless pit of data to analyze correlations and what causes what. Besides the obvious correlation is not causation problem, how should transportation managers think about these developments? What are the practical realities associated with trying to use these systems and data for transportation managers? My opinion is that big data is a nice idea but analysis of small data is where transportation departments are likely to have much more of an impact on their ability to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective services.

What is small data? Small data is the kind of data that comes out of your routing software, GPS systems, training programs, and other quantitative and qualitative systems you have in your operation. It is the data that you can extract, analyze, and generally comprehend the results without a graduate degree in statistics. Most transportation departments will always be understaffed and unlikely to be overwhelmed with Ph.D. statisticians. As a result, finding a way to set yourself up for success and conduct meaningful analysis is a necessary and immediate concern for transportation professionals.

The First Step in a Journey of a Thousand Miles

Ensuring the completeness and accuracy of data available in key systems has to be the first concern of every manager. On the assumption we are generating reasonably clean data, one of the next most important aspects of any analytics process is the ability to integrate the various products you have purchased. The development of application programming interfaces (APIs) to pass data between the programs has greatly facilitated data aggregation and transfer but work is still needed to simplify the access to this data.

Integrating the data from multiple systems is a big data idea that can be implemented effectively at the small data level. The simplest and most common example is the assessment of planned versus actual routing that takes GPS data and matches it to data from the routing software. Thinking about how to integrate data across your systems and working with vendors to make this process easy, even if it is just developing a properly formatted excel file you can export, is a key component of setting yourself up to benefit from big and small data. What other benefits can integration provide?

  • Analyzing maintenance records and GPS data to evaluate how driver performance impacts maintenance costs
  • Assessing routing data and GPS data to see stops that are frequently skipped that could help improve routing efficiency
  • Assessing financial data and parts transactions to evaluate shop performance and inventory management practices

The wide range of activities that these analyses address with a relatively limited data sets and easy math skills demonstrates how small data analysis can still have high-value impacts.

Thinking beyond just the data available in your transportation systems is also important to more fully understand how well your organization is performing. Gathering qualitative data through parent and principal surveys, for example, can provide very useful insights and support for the quantitative analysis of your system data.

Data is Not Just 1’s and 0’s

One of the most valuable small data sources that transportation staff can integrate the volumes of quantitative data from routing and software systems with is qualitative data from surveys of parents, drivers, and principals. Designing surveys to assess things like the service impacts of late arrivals (identified from GPS data) is a great way to gather big data insights from small data analysis. This small data effort can help transportation managers directly associate concerns like cost reductions to service quality and educational impacts. An additional benefit is that these types of big data insights come without having to do a significant amount of statistical wizardry.

The combination of qualitative and quantitative data greatly expands the range of analysis and knowledge that transportation managers can gain about their operation. The technical systems that are available to districts continue to expand and vendors continue to increase the functionality of their systems in a way that will fundamentally change the job of transportation manager in the future. Understanding how the technology works, how systems can be connected, and how other information can be connected to the system data is necessary, to be able to wholly understand what is happening in the department.

Big data is an interesting and likely transformative aspect of our current and future lives. However, a proper context for the Internet of Things and all of these devices is our ability to actually use the information generated to improve our ability to provide services. As a result, transportation managers should not get lost in the complications of big data. A focus on small data will lead to big benefits in cost savings, safety improvements and service enhancements.

tim ammon pic

Tim Ammon is the chief of business development for the TransPar Group of Companies. The TransPar Group of Companies provides a comprehensive set of transportation solutions to address all aspects of district-owned and contracted operations. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or at 888-518-3377 extension 510.

 

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IC Bus, Edulog Broaden OnCommand Connection for School Bus Market

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