Originally appeared in Fleet Owner

Recently, I heard a quote that compared data to oil. The saying went something like this, “Data is crude oil. It is valuable but unrefined; you really can’t use it.”

I think most fleets are swimming—or in some cases drowning—in data from telematics devices, electronic logging devices, fleet maintenance management systems, accounting and finance systems, fuel management programs, and so much more. Fleet managers receive so much data that, at some point it becomes overwhelming to determine what is important data and what is simply noise.

To indeed be of value, the information needs to be consolidated into one dataset that the fleet can then use to make intelligent decisions and address problems. However, most fleet managers are busy focusing on getting freight delivered and keeping trucks on the road and don’t have the time or resources to parse through all the data to make sense of it.

Basically, they need someone to act as a refinery to take the crude data from various sources and analyze it to provide them with actionable information. This will help fleet professionals work on their business while still working in the industry. Day-to-day issues still need to be addressed, but they cannot be at the cost of future planning and business refinement.

Here’s an example. A fleet maintenance manager knew that the fleet was spending a lot on transmission repairs. After analyzing the refined data, he discovered the problem’s severity and found that the problem was occurring in trucks with certain transmissions operating in certain duty cycles. Fleet management was able to sit down with the OEM supplier to gain a complete understanding of the problem and find a solution to fix it and prevent it from recurring.

Data analytics allows the fleet to not only isolate a problem but also dig deeper into the cause of the problem. In our example, the fleet maintenance manager did not need to spend time looking at data for all the transmissions that were performing well. He only needed to look at where problems were occurring and then get to the root cause of the problem.

To make the most of all the data available, make sure to partner with someone who can act as a refinery for your crude data and give you an end-product that allows you to improve your operation.