AVL is an acronym in the fleet management world that is likely being used far more than BHP, KM/H, and even MPG. It stands for “Automated Vehicle Location”, and it brings with it a new way of managing vehicles, remote assets and field workers. I have a personal example that helps explain how things are changing. While driving to an important appointment, I heard an ear-splitting “POP”! You guessed it, a flat tire. Since I was wearing a suit, I called roadside assistance, and was told to expect to wait an hour! I explained my urgent situation to the dispatcher and asked for help sooner. I was put on hold for a minute, and then advised help would arrive within 10 minutes! And it did. Why? AVL.
How AVL improves the customer experience
Not long ago, when a call like mine came in, the dispatcher would either have put out a broadcast radio message or called each driver to identify which was nearby at that time. Either way, there was no guarantee help would be offered efficiently. Today, AVL provides access to real-time, actionable information. Every vehicle, asset or field worker that has an AVL GPS tracking device is capable of sending data back to a tracking application, where it is processed and reported on, so that it can be used by the organization. More than 75% of current AVL users in fleet management report a high level of satisfaction with their solution. Clearly, this leaves a positive impression with the customer and translates into beneficial outcomes for the business.
Tracking every aspect of vehicle, asset, or people movement
More sophisticated fleet tracking solutions like TELUS Fleet Complete or GEOTrac by TELUS can tell managers whether a vehicle accelerates or corners at unsafe speeds, exceeds posted speed limits, brakes too hard, idles too long, takes a sub-optimal route, ventures outside set geographic limits, or is moved by an unauthorized driver.The benefits of having this kind of powerful information are exciting. They include a better consumer experience, improved business productivity, company economics and employee and community safety.
One fascinating example is how Canadian municipalities use an industry-specific AVL solution with their winter-focused fleets. It includes a variety of sensors that capture location, road temperatures, and data from spreading controllers. With this information, managers can monitor salt usage per route and have the dock on standby with a new load of salt ready when the empty trucks arrives. It’s better for drivers, can save a typical public works department millions of taxpayer dollars, and ensures better road conditions for the community.
Better tracking information for better fleet management
In addition to all the real-time data that’s available, fleet managers can access daily, weekly and monthly reports to see exactly which drivers, assets or field workers are most - or least - productive, which routes are most profitable, and how to improve the business. Companies can increase vehicle utilization +30% and workforce productivity +20%. Some applications can deliver real-time alerts when someone breaks custom rules. For example, if a field worker travels outside safe geographic zones, managers can be notified.
How AVL can cut transportation costs
By monitoring idling or speeding and using this information to educate drivers, fleet owners can reduce fuel costs significantly. For example, with fuel at $1.20/litre, eliminating one hour of idling/day for just one light vehicle can save $1,200/year. Ensuring that the same vehicle is driven at 110 km/h instead of 130 km/h can reduce fuel consumption by 25%!
In addition, managing driver behavior - and incentivizing better driving - can not only reduce the number of speeding-related accidents (a factor in 31% of all fatal crashes), but will also reduce wear and tear and its associated maintenance costs, reduce insurance premiums by 30% and, in what I feel is the greatest advantage, reduce the fleet’s overall impact on the environment via fuel management.
The future of advanced fleet tracking
The AVL market includes everything from small independent operations with one or two service vehicles (e.g. landscaping, plumbing, towing and contractors), to large companies in industries such as shipping/delivery, people transportation or construction. Regardless of size or type of vehicle, they all benefit dramatically from AVL.
Right now, most AVL systems are being used by the fleet manager or department that purchased the solution. I envision more integration into vendor, partner or customer back-end systems that incorporate AVL information into inventory, manufacturing and payment systems. I also envision more automation and machine-to-machine (M2M) applications being integrated with AVL. For example, in my flat tire case, the system could have sent me a text message when the service truck was 5 minutes away. Or a warehouse expecting a delivery could receive a message alerting them to prepare their dock, print the paperwork, or even pour hot coffee for a delivery driver who’s nearby. Ultimately, I expect fleet managers to handle more vehicles than they do today, a lot more easily with AVL & M2M.
Things will also change for drivers. Right now, they still have to tap a screen to get information on routes, traffic conditions and job assignments. Soon this will be conveyed by text-to-voice or a heads-up display on the windshield. Following that, I see the next evolution of AVL moving from fuel management of combustion engines to electricity management of hybrid and electric vehicles, monitoring and extending battery life and reducing charging requirements.
Most of all, I’m excited by the impact all of this will have on our shared environment - something I’ve always been passionate about. I do everything I can to be eco-conscious, from living in an energy-star certified home, to commuting via public transport, and even becoming vegetarian to reduce my environmental footprint. As AVL continues to grow, it will exponentially reduce unnecessary emissions that harm our planet. I appreciate the opportunity that I have to be part of this positive evolution.