Comment: The opportunity for connected fleet management in sustainable mobility

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Gilson Santiago, CEO of Masternaut and senior VP of fleet management for Michelin, reflects on how the fleet industry can play its part in achieving sustainable mobility and the steps the company is taking to support its customers make the transition.

Gilson Santiago, CEO of Masternaut and senior VP of fleet management for Michelin. Copyright: Annie Armitage

The Covid-19 lockdown period has had a stark impact on the world, but while many have been hard hit, there have been positive outcomes too. According to a paper published earlier this month by Nature, there was an abrupt 8.8% decrease in global CO2 emissions during the first half of 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. With more than 20% of the EU’s CO2 emissions coming from road transport, this has sparked a real turn in awareness of the impact of mobility and a collective will to accelerate a more sustainable model.

The four pillars of sustainable mobility

Sustainable mobility can be defined by four key areas: safety, respect for the environment, efficiency and accessibility.

Fleet management supports sustainable mobility in a number of ways. Firstly, by optimising assets, fleets can reduce the number of vehicles on the road. Reorganising trips, and identifying which technician or driver lives the closest to a job, reduces hours spent on the road, and increases efficiency. Similarly we estimate that 10% of vehicles in a fleet are under-used or only partially filled at any one time. Using vehicles and drivers more efficiently is key.

At the most fundamental level, there is a requirement to make the mobility of goods and people safer. Achieving better sustainability is vital for respecting the environment. Fortuitously many of the elements of eco-driving, such as avoiding harsh acceleration and braking, and maintaining the vehicle properly, also feed into better safety. Changing driving style can easily reduce fuel consumption by between 5-10%, so this creates better efficiencies for fleets, while at the same time reducing the impact of emissions.

The importance of a connected fleet

For fleet mobility to be more sustainable, companies need to prevent accidents, control their costs, increase productivity and limit their impact on the environment.

The vehicles in a fleet are by definition dispersed. By capturing data from all of the vehicles in a fleet through a telematics system, then consolidating and analysing it, the fleet manager can understand the impact of the whole business as well as the role of individuals within the system. This data can then be analysed in-line with the assumptions of the sustainable mobility plan.

From a customer service perspective, it’s also useful to know where the delivery man is, or to prove that a package has been delivered on time at the right address. We’ve all experienced the situation where you have to stay at home half a day waiting for your package, because the company can’t say when it will arrive.

Not just a technological challenge

While telematics tools are ever-improving, companies can’t just rely on a technological solution to address their sustainable mobility goals.

Humans must always be put at the heart of the system. A fleet manager needs to be able to use the data produced to make meaningful business decisions and ensure driver safety. Senior management teams need to be able to see the return on their investment. And drivers themselves need to trust the initiative and believe it’s in their best interests. From our position as a telematics expert, we also need to understand how the service we provide fits into the business’ operations. How the company uses vehicles, for what sort of journeys and what its objectives are.

The business impact of connected, sustainable mobility 

Developing a sustainable mobility strategy isn’t just a tick-box exercise in showcasing a company’s commitment to protecting the environment. It needs to be lived and breathed across the organisation. In turn, all of the aspects of sustainable mobility naturally boost productivity. From vehicles spending less time off the road due to minor bumps and scrapes, to huge savings on fuel bills, to protecting the company’s reputation. Fundamentally, sustainability principles also seamlessly mirror those associated with achieving greater fleet efficiency.

As an industry, we have a responsibility to reduce our impact and telematics provides us the insight we need to do so. Connected technology, which assesses the impact of whole fleets, is allowing fleet managers to make the right decisions and providers, like Masternaut, are working with them to understand how to turn data into action.

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