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12 Ways Utility Fleets Can Overcome Industry Challenges

utility fleet challengesThere is a dramatic shift happening in the utilities industries that are causing many challenges for fleets and fleet managers. Utility fleets have unique efficiency and safety challenges that can be addressed by telematics. This shift means that utility fleet managers will have to meet utility industry challenges head-on, unless they want to face the future unprepared. Understanding the challenges facing the utility industry is key to its efficient evolution.

1. Digital Transformation of Utility Fleets.

Telematics is an important tool for tackling energy and utilities industry challenges. In our data-driven world, it’s clear that telematics will continue to a big role in successful utility fleet management. Well-run fleets efficiently collect and analyze data and use it to make key decisions about their fleet’s operations. The fleets of tomorrow will most likely be more data-driven than ever.

Telematics gives you visibility by collecting data that can be used to help you make informed decisions to help you meet the challenges facing the utility industry. When you get the insight proved by data, you can make decisions that can save you money.

2. Lack of Visibility into Your Vehicles’ Locations

Do you know where all your vehicles are? A telematics system with GPS-tracking can tell you where your vehicles are in real-time, giving you the peace of mind that comes from knowing your vehicles are where they should be. Geo-fencing alerts you whenever your drivers enter or leave a virtual geographic boundary you set up. This helps you notify customers when your technicians will be at their next job and if they are running late.

3. Data Management

Competition is always a challenge for any industry, and the utility industry is no different. Keeping your trucks running on time, your fuel costs low, and your customer service level high all contribute to your business’ success. Better route planning, fleet safety, and driver retention also help you stay ahead of the competition.

With all this data, how do you keep track of it? Robust reporting features let you review and analyze your fleet data and use it to make decisions about your fleet. You can see it in detail, dynamic, and customizable formats. When you can manipulate movement, trip, location, and utilization as well as driver scoring, event violation, and cost analysis, you can pinpoint areas of improvement.

4. Higher Customer Expectations

Are your drivers arriving and leaving on time? Do they know their routes, and when to avoid certain roads when there may be heavy traffic? Can you adjust their routes in real-time if there is excess traffic, an accident, or if a vehicle breaks down? With telematics, you get the visibility to resolve these issues. These days, consumer expectations are increasingly higher, and being on time, or letting them know when your technician is delayed is paramount. Maintaining a good relationship with your customers is important for your success.

A telematics system can help ensure the timeliness of your fleet. The data it tracks lets you optimize your drivers’ routes, maximize their journeys, and make adjustments as needed in real-time.

5. Unpredictable Fuel Costs

Fuel costs are a huge challenge for utility fleets. Fuel prices can fluctuate wildly and are out of your control. What you may be able to control is your fleet’s fuel usage, which can help tame your fuel costs.

Aggressive driving behaviors such as rapid acceleration, harsh braking, excessive idling, and speeding lead to wasted fuel. A fleet management solution can help reduce or even eliminate those behaviors. In addition, a fleet management solution’s fuel monitoring can help you keep track of your fleet’s usage and help reduce it.

Monitoring and reducing these behaviors can help reduce your fuel usage and therefore reduce your fuel cost. You can also keep track of, reduce or eliminate unauthorized or personal use of your fleet vehicles.

6. Climate Change/Environmental Responsibility

Environmental responsibility is becoming an issue for all industries but is an especially relevant challenge for utility fleets. Fleets have to take their environmental impact into account and stay in compliance with regulations, such as the greenhouse gas (GHG) and fuel consumption standards for heavy- and medium-duty vehicles. Closely monitoring your fleet’s fuel consumption is key to implementing actions to reduce it.

Before you can take action, you need to know how much fuel your fleet is using. Because a telematics system can monitor your fleet’s fuel consumption, you’ll know not only how much you are using, but gain insight into actions you can take to improve it. You can get reports on specific drivers and see how their driving may be affecting their fuel efficiency.

7. Keeping Track of Your Assets

Managing your fleet also means managing your assets. Fleet asset management solutions can help you track, locate, and better manage your assets. They are designed to suit all kinds of assets, so you can reduce the risk of losing an asset or having it stolen. You can also set tamper alerts that let you know the movements and distances traveled of your assets.

When you know where your assets are at all times and when they are available, you can improve your planning, efficiency, and utilization. You can get insight into an asset’s daily running by capturing asset details, service and licensing information, and fuel. Accurate asset tracking is a key way that fleet management solutions help you save money.

8. Full Fleet Asset Utilization

You can’t afford to have vehicles and assets sitting around unused. Ask yourself this question: how much of the time is a vehicle or asset being used? When your fleet’s assets are not used to full capacity at the most optimal times, you lose time and money.

Tackling the challenge of improving your asset utilization will improve the overall efficiently of your utility fleet, reduce fuel costs, and can also improve customer service. You can track movement by the minute, see the routes that are being used, record the time spent at each location, and determine vehicle usage against what’s reported. This helps you determine your fleet utilization and how to improve it.

9. Vehicle Maintenance

Of course, you want to keep your vehicles repaired and ready for the road, but keeping track of when they need maintenance can be a challenge. Scheduling maintenance proactively, based on mileage or time in service, can keep your vehicles running smoothly. When repairs are made while the vehicle is still in working condition, you won’t have to worry about unexpected breakdowns that cost you time and money.

Utility fleet management solutions take that one step further. They can help you set up preventative and predictive maintenance for your fleet. You can schedule maintenance ahead of time, so not only do you reduce unexpected breakdowns, but you also don’t have to wait for an appointment for repairs. You can set up alerts for regular maintenance, so you know when to schedule it. When telematics devices are connected to the engines in your fleet, they can tell you when to schedule maintenance based on the engines’ performance.

You can choose to switch completely to usage-based or predictive maintenance or add it to your preventative maintenance program. With usage-based maintenance, alerts are triggered based on the actual usage of the vehicles. Both of these methods are better for your fleet. With engine monitoring and service notifications, you can avoid excessive wear and tear on your engines, decrease downtime, and reduce the cost to your customers.

10. Managing Driver Hours and Payroll

By monitoring automated time logs and allocating resources based on real-time insights, you can significantly reduce overtime for your fleet. For instance, if one of your customers needs emergency service late in the day, you can send your nearest technician. When you have access to your technicians’ location in relation to the emergency call and the number of hours they’ve already logged, you can send the nearest driver or the one who has the most amount of hours left to work. This way, your technicians are less likely to incur overtime, waste unnecessary fuel, or be late to the client’s location.

If a driver needs to claim overtime, you can check it against the driving hours and location captured by your telematics system. This prevents false overtime claims and makes your payroll more accurate. Telematics can also help reduce timesheet fraud. This happens when drivers get paid for work they didn’t do or paid for time spent on activities not related to work.

This happens when drivers record more hours than they worked, edit their driving hours incorrectly, or log regular hours as overtime. Timesheet fraud can cost you money and result in incorrect billing of customers. You can avoid this by removing paper logs and using a telematics solution that generates reports on hours and days worked, start and finish times, average hours, and more.

11. Journey Management

When customers are waiting on your technicians to arrive, it is essential to know who is scheduled to which jobs and how much time they spend completing them. Making the schedule more visible and putting processes in place that keep your technicians accountable is the most effective way to manage their trips.

Telematics lets you monitor journeys from start to finish. In addition, you can communicate with your drivers about jobs that need to be completed. With GPS vehicle tracking, you get insight into their location, notifications of deviations from their routes, and offer turn-by-turn navigation if they get lost. Transparent and streamlined journey management improves productivity, saves time, and improves service levels.

12. Driver Safety and Training

Unsafe driver behaviors such as speeding, harsh braking, harsh acceleration, distracted driving, and more can hurt your business’ reputation and cost you money. It can also increase the risk of crashes. With telematics, you can monitor and manage these unsafe driving behaviors.

For instance, when a driver speeds, you can use telematics to deploy in-cab visual and audio alerts to make your driver aware that their driving is unsafe. You can also give them the opportunity to self-correct if they haven’t realized that their speed is creeping up over the limit. You can score and rank your drivers based on aggressive and unsafe driving events to see which drivers are not driving as they should and then give them appropriate training.

You can even take it a step further and use these scores to create and implement a gamification training program. Using a driver-focused app, you can let drivers see their scores, information about their driving, and their rank on a driver leaderboard. Seeing their ranking can give drivers the incentive to be more competitive with each other and motivates them to improve their driving. When drivers can see how they are doing on a screen, it gives them a visual about their performance. Any drop or improvement in rankings is more tangible, and the consequences feel more real.

The benefits of a telematics solution can be seen by a utility fleet of any size. If your fleet faces the utility industry challenges above, a fleet management solution can help. They can provide you with data that you can use to leverage to improve the operation of your fleet.

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