How AI is transforming fleet management

Frank Bussone

AI is a transformative technology that will lead to greater discoveries and increased efficiencies. AI is a dangerous technology that will lead to extensive job losses and a takeover by machines. Both of these statements seem to be dominating the news when it comes to discussions regarding artificial intelligence.

What is a fact is that we are already utilizing AI in our private and professional lives and have been doing so for some time. According to Oracle, “The central tenet of AI is to replicate – and then exceed – the way humans perceive and react to the world.” Oracle also notes that “AI can make sense of data on a scale that no human ever could.” Today’s companies would literally be drowning in data if we didn’t have AI to interpret that data at lightning speed.

How AI has become a powerful tool for fleet management

Fleets have been using AI for years to analyze the vast amounts of data produced by telematics and diagnostics tools. From dash cams to sensors to GPS tracking, AI analyzes everything, in real time, from a truck’s fuel consumption to its location to its speed and more. Without AI, manually analyzing all of the data created would be unacceptably time consuming. AI has helped reduce operational costs, streamline decision-making, and improve efficiency in every aspect of fleet management.

  • Improved fuel efficiency – With the volatility of diesel prices, everything that can be done to increase fuel economy is invaluable. One of the ways fleets can improve this situation is through route optimization. AI-driven systems can analyze real-time traffic data, weather conditions, and historical traffic patterns to recommend the best and most efficient routes for your drivers while they are in the process of making that delivery. The ability to avoid difficult road conditions, traffic jams, and construction detours means getting to your delivery facility faster; reduced travel time means lower fuel costs. Since your telematics also track driver behavior, managers can identify those drivers that may have excessive idling or other fuel consumption behavior and look to retrain those drivers.
  • Predictive maintenance vs. preventive maintenance – There’s no disputing the value of regularly scheduled preventive maintenance (PM) when it comes to keeping trucks road-ready. But where PM follows a schedule, predictive maintenance is based on real-time data, enabling managers to address a vehicle problem, regardless of a PM schedule, before it escalates and possibly leads to a breakdown. Using real-time data from sensors as well as historical use patterns, AI algorithms can identify wear and tear issues before they become a problem. This not only reduces downtime, it also saves on costlier repairs and maintenance and will extend your truck’s lifespan.
  • Safety and compliance – Every fleet has fleet safety as a top concern. There are numerous safety systems the fleets now employ, including advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning, and adaptive cruise control. When it comes to drivers, as noted above, AI can analyze driver behavior to promote driver safety by identifying practices that increase fuel consumption, but this analysis can also identify unsafe behavior like distracted driving, harsh braking, and speeding. Ensuring these drivers observe and exceed safe driving practices reduces the likelihood of accidents. With the growth in nuclear verdicts for fleets, a reduction in accidents is absolutely vital to the economic and reputational health of the fleet and the company.

AI also brings certain challenges as well as benefits

Although the benefits fleets recognize through AI are significant, as with any new technology or tool, there are issues to consider. One of the future concerns will likely revolve around issues like self-driving trucks; but that is not one that fleets are most concerned with now when it comes to AI.

  • Initial investment costs – Implementing AI-driven technologies can be a significant financial commitment. Startup costs and expensive equipment are just part of the problem. When it comes to maintenance, technicians need significant training to work with this innovative technology. However, fleets need to take the long view to see how AI will more than pay for itself in the long run. The reality is fleets that don’t invest in this technology will find themselves at a significant competitive disadvantage.
  • Workforce adoption/change management – There are always issues when new ways of performing jobs are deployed, especially when it comes to technology adoption. It’s difficult to find blame here since Goldman Sachs has estimated that as many as 300 million jobs globally will be lost or degraded by AI and automation. Even though technicians and drivers will still be needed, some may find AI technology intrusive and have privacy concerns. Fleet managers will need to train and upskill their teams to ensure a smooth transition.
  • Data privacy and security – If you haven’t been a victim of some scam or cyberattack, consider yourself lucky. This is one of the greatest risks for companies; data can be a weapon in the hands of the wrong people. That means fleets will need to invest in robust data privacy and cybersecurity measures to safeguard against potential breaches.

Fleet operations and the trucking industry need AI-driven technology

AI is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity and fleets will need to decide how much and when to deploy this technology if they haven’t already done so. The future of fleet management will be highly reliant on fleet management systems utilizing AI to provide actionable insights.

We know how quickly technology changes and advances and managers need to be ready to recognize the advantages and disadvantages as quickly as possible to reap the benefits of AI and claim that competitive edge.

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