Data for trucking fleets is like a hunting dog . . . it points you in the right direction, but you have to take the critical step of aiming and pulling the trigger.
In today’s data-driven world, fleet managers still need to know how to address complaint, cause and correction with a root-cause solution centered on the basics of maintenance.
The trucking industry is no stranger to change, but the rate of technological change today is unprecedented. Automated vehicles and platooning, after-treatment systems, telematics, increasing vehicle complexity . . . all among a growing list of items that today’s fleet executives must wrestle with.
Don’t get me wrong. Reliable data is extremely valuable in today’s ultra-complex trucking industry. The American Trucking Associations’ Technology & Maintenance Council has been a pioneer in encouraging management’s utilization of data in fleet operations through the development of the Vehicle Maintenance Reporting Standards (VMRS) going as far back as 1969.
But the difference today from earlier years is that the industry’s doctors of iron took what I believe was a more holistic approach to solving fleet programs through both tactile and statistical means . . . as opposed to relying almost exclusively on data.
When properly utilized, VMRS can help fleets account for their total maintenance expenses. From there, you just need to select a common denominator for measuring your operation. At the highest level, costs are measured by general ledger accounting, established by how finance wants to code expenses for payment.
Old School vs. New School
At TMC’s 2018 annual meeting, I moderated a technical session featuring a panel of “old school” and “new school” fleet executives. Some takeaways from the session:
Traditional doctors of iron cannot rely solely on experience and intuition to manage today’s fleets. The complex nature of equipment demands a greater level of management supported by the vehicle data itself and the support systems that collect the data.
Second, data alone is insufficient. The new generation of fleet managers must understand it is not enough to quantify the maintenance challenge; they must understand how the vehicle functions in its operating environment to intelligently correct failures and keep them from re-occurring.
The successful fleet manager of tomorrow will be able to straddle both worlds. Those who cannot will not need to find themselves a new career pathway.
Darry Stuart is a guest blogger for Double Coin Tires. He founded DWS Fleet Management Services in 1999 and has helped many fleets, both large and small, improve their bottom line. He advises his clients on tires (here's what he thinks about Double Coin), but devotes most of his efforts to personnel and organizational issues.