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Selecting Fleet Management Software: How to Shape Your Technology Portfolio

Learn how to better evaluate the costs and complexities of digitalizing your fleet operations

November 09, 2022

11 mins read

Fleet management software is a booming market, set to hit $55.7 billion by 2028. The breakneck growth is hardly surprising, as workflow digitization tops leaders’ agendas.

For one, fleet management systems can curb operating costs via better route scheduling, fuel usage optimization, and predictive maintenance. Secondly, fleet management digitization is necessary for the imminent transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

That said, the adoption of fleet management software hasn’t been a smooth ride. Businesses have no shortage of vendor-supplied fleet management systems. Yet full adoption extends well beyond purchasing software licenses.

This post offers a realistic technology adoption framework for the sector — and explains what the process of buying new fleet management software entails.

What is fleet management software (and what is it not)?

Fleet management software (FMS) is a set of products designed for everyday fleet management tasks, ranging from real-time route building and truck dispatch management to more sophisticated tasks such as predictive maintenance and coordinating EV fleet charging.

Fleet management software isn’t a monolithic product but rather a collection of coupled software components for running various fleet management processes. Fleet management software is a composite solution that includes separate solutions for:

  • Fleet operators / dispatch managers in charge of administrative processes
  • Truck drivers who remotely receive real-time updates from headquarters
  • Asset (vehicle) management, such as telematics data collection

Confusion often arises because all of these sub-products get branded as vehicle fleet management software. During the RFP stage, you might be thinking that you’re buying the total package only to realize there’s no way to exchange real-time updates with drivers (unless you purchase yet another software license).

Likewise, an earlier investment in onboard telematics hardware or the purchase of new truck models with OEM-embedded telematics might sound like a solid step towards digitizing fleet management. Yet your shortlisted FMS vendors may not integrate with the hardware you own.

As a technology partner to global transportation companies, we’ve heard these stories quite often. Hence, we want to dispel some confusion to help our clients make better investment decisions.

The universe of fleet management solutions explained

To better understand the fleet management software market, let’s pedal back in time.

In the mid-2000s, mono solutions started to emerge — standalone products for GPS tracking, remote truck monitoring, or driver navigation. These systems perfectly digitized one workflow. As product adoption surged, FMS vendors soon launched complementary products for fleet scheduling, maintenance, and optimization.

Today, modern fleet management software is designed as a platform — a collection of connected and standalone sub-products housed under one virtual roof.

That’s similar to the evolution of Microsoft. Back in the day, you paid for each product bundle (such as Microsoft Office products) separately. Now, one corporate Microsoft 365 subscription provides seamless access to dozens of applications for business intelligence, enterprise mobility, low-code development, and more. Each plays nicely with the others but remains a somewhat standalone module you can opt in or out of using.

Likewise, the latest generation of fleet management software is more than just one administrative tool. It is a comprehensive platform where you can:

  • Select different fleet management software modules
  • Integrate third-party data streams and entire applications
  • Build custom connectors to other business systems
  • Enable connectivity with IoT devices and other hardware
  • Create full custom modules to work along with core platform offerings

Example of a modern fleet management system architecture

Selecting Fleet Management Software: How to Shape Your Technology Portfolio

Source: Samsara Platform

The platformization of fleet management software was largely driven by the market.

Almost half (48%) of fleet managers agree that the best fleet management software is a single platform that provides all the information needed to manage the fleet. Modern fleet management software delivers on this promise by providing a host of out-of-the-box fleet management tools.

Yet there’s one major nuisance: FMS isn’t the only type of software transportation companies are using. Between legacy vehicle tracking products and more recent acquisitions of location-based technologies, transportation management systems, and business intelligence software, larger fleet managers carry a substantial payload of technical systems.

Off-the-shelf fleet management software might not support native integrations with other software your business employs. Or it may be missing critical modules you need (such as for EV fleet management or ESG reporting).

At some point in the selection process, leaders face a dilemma: Custom fleet management software development doesn’t make sense economically, yet proprietary platforms don’t fully fit within the current operating model.

What are your options then? Adapting an off-the-shelf solution to your business needs via custom integrations and extensions. Essentially, you stitch together different systems your business uses for operations, driver management, asset management, and maintenance into a platform of your own.

Platform development

Power your fleet with a collection of best-of-breed technologies and systems

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6 must-have fleet management system features to power the present (and future) of transportation

The main advantage of customizing a vehicle fleet management system is that you don’t have to start from the ground up. Instead, you take preselected fleet management software and right-size it to fit your current IT needs. This means establishing custom integrations with other products you already own; retiring, replacing, or re-configuring legacy solutions where necessary; and adding extra functionality as needed.

On the technology side, the above process assumes creating an API strategy, developing a microservices platform architecture, and then performing platform orchestration to ensure effective solution performance.

In simpler terms, you take premade FMS modules, combine them with other business systems, and add a couple of extra custom features. Which should those be? Here are our recommendations.

Vehicle tracking

Vehicle tracking systems supply managers with location-based insights about asset positions and movements. This software module aggregates fleet telematics data from onboard hardware such as GPS tracking devices, OBD-II units, and IoT-based telematics systems.

Features:

  • Real-time asset tracking
  • ETA estimates
  • Geofencing
  • Fuel tank level control
  • Live map overlays
  • Reefer container monitoring
  • Automatic mileage registration
  • Consolidated reporting

To provide accurate insights, fleet tracking software relies on telematics data. Some vendors also sell branded hardware. Others provide native integrations with popular aftermarket telematics service providers (TSPs).

But there’s a potential issue: The telematics market is fragmented. In Europe alone, over 30 TSPs dominate the market. Yet OEMs are cutting into this product segment by offering factory-fitted telematics units with the latest truck models. By 2030, OEMs will level up with telematics service providers in terms of market penetration.

The above dynamic complicates fleet management software adoption. If the selected vendor can’t support data exchanges with OEM telematics systems, you’ll be missing out on valuable intel.

Therefore, when assessing a fleet management system, you must determine and evaluate its compatibility with:

  • Adopted TSP telematics hardware
  • OEM-specific telematics hardware you might be considering
  • In-cabin video telematics systems for driver monitoring

Inquire if a platform has native or premade connectors with these systems. In more cases than not, fleet managers have to implement custom hardware integrations to enable real-time data collection and aggregation. Then they have to implement extra data management steps to enable secure data cleansing, transformation, and processing into location intelligence.

In fact, that was the case with one of our clients who has been developing a GPS-based vehicle tracking system. It has been resolved via a custom mechanism for obtaining data from electronic control units and securely transmitting it to the cloud via cellular networks.

Discover more ways to commercialize fleet telematics data

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Fleet scheduling

A fleet scheduling product helps dispatchers dynamically program routes and plan driver shifts to maximize operational efficiency. Better routing can substantially reduce fleet operating costs through lower fuel consumption, faster travel times, and better-optimized driver shifts.

A Samsara survey found that customers saw a 20% improvement in vehicle utilization and a 40% decrease in idling (which was equivalent to approximately $2,500 per vehicle per year) after adopting their fleet scheduling solution.

Features:

  • Route planning based on actual road conditions
  • Point-to-point, multi-stop, and on-demand route creation
  • Multimodal route design
  • Dynamic route optimization engine
  • Driver performance analytics
  • Zero-touch driver identification
  • Automated document uploads

Fleet scheduling software has two components — a dispatcher app and companion driver apps.

Driver apps help your workforce stay in sync with dynamic changes in routing, pick-up sequences, and scheduled delivery times. Dispatch managers, in turn, can control all dispatching workflows from one interface. Plus, they can track deliveries in real time and access consolidated insights from reporting dashboards. Larger fleet operations might also want to add extra features. For example, one of our clients decided to integrate a search feature for freight orders into their FMS. This way, managers could locate the best results from the marketplace and rapidly dispatch jobs to available carriers — all without switching systems.

Learn about must-have features of dispatch management software

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Fleet maintenance

A fleet maintenance module helps you improve your fleet’s efficiency through just-in-time asset servicing. This minimizes operational downtime due to delayed repairs or schedule conflicts and lowers the risk of vehicle breakdowns.

Features:

  • Vehicle health analytics
  • Real-time vehicle fault alerts
  • Custom maintenance reminders
  • Integrated spare parts and tire ordering
  • In-depth asset utilization reporting
  • Tachograph data analysis
  • Automated DVIR generation for compliance

Modern fleet monitoring systems also include a predictive component — i.e., they notify you about the likelihood of asset performance issues before the need for servicing gets urgent. Predictive fleet maintenance systems collect data from onboard telematics devices and other vehicle electronic control units. You can also configure data collection from custom IoT devices such as temperature, pressure, engine knock, and other sensors.

Then a set of machine learning algorithms cross-correlates these data points to identify locations of equipment failure and suggest follow-up steps — scheduling an inspection, ordering new parts.

For instance, Intellias helped one of our clients deploy a predictive tire management application. The app automatically aggregates data about tire pressure, leaks, damage, etc. If there’s any change in parameters, the fleet manager receives an instant alert — and can approve follow-up actions such as ordering and changing tires. Coupled with accurate reports, this platform significantly improves workforce efficiency and minimizes downtime among managed assets.

Learn how predictive analytics complements fleet management software

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Driver workflow management

A companion driver application facilitates real-time coordination of your on-the-ground staff, plus it helps them stay more productive and satisfied with their working conditions. This tool also keeps staff informed of important operational decisions such as route changes and extra stop-overs.

Such apps can also replace legacy ELD software for logging driving hours and automatically aggregate HOS insights for compliance management. Finally, you can improve fleet security by pairing each driver with a specific vehicle and prohibiting the engine from starting without in-app authorization.

Features:

  • Real-time navigation
  • In-app messaging
  • Driver safety scores
  • Digital document submissions
  • Driver HOS management
  • New driver onboarding

As global driver shortages are set to reach 40% globally, a delightful driver experience can be another strong lever for preventing driver attrition. Higher pay alone won’t solve the talent crunch, since drivers also demand better work-life balance as well as better overall working conditions.

Comparison apps can cover a wide range of standard driver workflows, from automatic identification to convenient route scheduling and proactive behavior coaching. The latter, in fact, can also become the backbone for a driver incentive program, where you provide extra monetary rewards for safe driving behavior, high CSAT scores, precise route adherence, and other positive behaviors.

At the same time, you can lower your operating costs by digitizing the driver onboarding process. You can save time and resources on processing manual forms by processing documents through an app and then providing the driver with a personalized list of orders for transporting.

Learn how we’ve built an automated truck driver onboarding experience

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Video telematics

Video telematics leverages dashcams and vehicle sensors to capture real-time driver behavior. Similar to standard telematics systems, video telematics systems have separate hardware and software components. Data from in-cabin cameras, truck sensors, and onboard units gets transmitted to the cloud (or processed on the edge) to detect various events such as distracted driving, speeding, harsh acceleration, and aggressive braking.

Drivers then get automatically alerted about unsafe behaviors. Aggregated insights also get dispatched to the fleet management software, where managers can review driver safety and performance scores.

Features:

  • In-cabin driver assistance
  • HD video recordings from cameras
  • Vehicle video live streams
  • Driver recognition
  • Automated driver coaching
  • Driver scoring and reporting
  • Driver reward and incentive programs

Among adopters of fleet software, 78% agree that dashcam video has been helpful in improving driver safety and performance. Additionally, live footage and geotags can protect you against false claims and streamline claims processing (especially if you opt for a telematics insurance product).

Find out more about video telematics use cases and benefits

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EV fleet management

Electrification now ranks as the main OEM selection criterion for global fleet managers. That’s hardly surprising given rising fuel prices, as EVs cost 43% less to operate compared to gasoline medium-duty vehicles.

EV fleet management software handles all standard operating workflows, but with an adjustment for unique EV characteristics such as varying ranges, different charging patterns, and new servicing needs.

Features:

  • EV vehicle routing system
  • Range prediction module
  • Advanced asset tracking
  • Charging activity monitoring
  • EV battery analytics
  • EV maintenance

Though electric vans and trucks represented only 1% of total EV sales in 2022, this is bound to soon change. Heavier commercial trucks will likely face stronger regulatory scrutiny in the second half of the 2020s, as governments start pushing for further transport decarbonization. If fleet managers are to maintain the status quo, only 29% of heavy duty vehicles will be decarbonized by 2050 (and likely bear the brunt of punitive action).

Many factors complicate EV adoption, including slow EV charging infrastructure development. On the software end, few off-the-shelf fleet management systems offer EV-friendly fleet management models. Because of this, early adopters struggle to properly map the impact of the EV transition and understand how EV fleets operate in real-life conditions.

Adding a custom EV fleet management unit to your platform can support you through the transitional stage by providing data on range performance across EV models, charging costs, and overall durability. This way, you can make more informed decisions about expanding your fleet and progressively shifting to carbon-neutral operations.

Learn more about EV fleet management software functionality

Read more

Fleet management system adoption: Select, deploy, customize

Ultimately, the key to successful adoption of a fleet management system is conducting a preliminary feasibility analysis.

Assess each of your shortlisted vendors across these dimensions:

  • Technical: What are the available native features?
  • Integration: How well does it fit with other IT systems?
  • Customization: Can we add extra technologies and features?
  • Support: What resources do we need to maintain this solution?
  • Pricing: What is the real total cost of ownership for this platform?

The above questions represent in broad strokes the request for information (RFI) process, which most fleet managers are familiar with.

What complicates the RFI process when it comes to fleet management software is that you’re selecting complex, multi-module software that must also fit into your current infrastructure. Hence, it’s a good idea to involve consultants early on to help you with preliminary solution selection (and subsequent implementation).

In this case, you can maximize the value of the purchased system, avoid adoption mishaps, ensure proper integrations with other business products, and customize the product to support your operational workflows.


We’ve been helping global transportation leaders develop new ecosystems of smart technology solutions. Contact us for a personalized consultation on adopting fleet management software.

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