Getting the best in fleet management

Mr Ebenezer Msuya
Mr Msuya
More and more private owned companies are using IT to manage their transportation fleet in order to cut down cost and improve efficiency. Our Business Reporter interviewed the Head of Sales & Marketing, Perfect InfoTech International, Mr Ebenezer G. Msuya, to get more insight into fleet management through IT.

QUESTION: What is the importance of using IT on fleet management and the economy?

ANSWER: First, Fleet management is the management of a company's vehicle fleet, that includes commercial motor vehicles such as cars, vans and trucks. It is a function which allows institutions which rely on transportation in their business to remove or minimise the risks associated with vehicle investment, improving efficiency, productivity and reducing their overall transportation and staff costs, providing 100 per cent compliance with government legislation (duty of care) and many more.

The management can also include a range of functions, such as vehicle financing, vehicle maintenance (special costing data base software which replaces old class uses of excel), vehicle telematics (tracking and diagnostics), driver management (personal records and allocation), driver’s performance (appraisal of drivers through their driving behaviour), speed management, fuel management (actual refuels, online fuel tank level, fuel consumption graph, fuel consumption Vs bench mark etc), geo fencing, late parking reports, CCTV camera and health and safety management.

Q: Does IT method of fleet managing replace log books and other arrangements used in the past?

A: Yes, a great deal. Fleet management software enables people to accomplish a series of specific tasks in the management of any or all aspects relating to a company's fleet of vehicles. These specific tasks encompass all operations from vehicle acquisition to disposal.

Software, depending on its capabilities, allows functions such as driver and vehicle profiling, trip profiling, dispatch, vehicle efficiency and so forth. It can provide remote control features, such as Geo-fencing and active disabling. Current vehicle diagnostic information can also be related to a management site, depending on the type of hardware installed in the vehicles. New platform, based on fleet management software, is fleet controlling with higher amount of information available for both drivers and dispatchers of a fleet.

Q: How does the system monitor driver’s behaviour?

A: Advanced fleet management systems connect to the vehicle's onboard computer and gather data for the user. Details such as mileage and fuel consumption are gathered into a global statistics scheme. Also by combining received data from the vehicle tracking system and the on-board computer, it is possible to form a profile for any given driver.

Q: How does the system appraise the driver?

A: This is a good question and to answer it well let us look at presently how we manually appraise the driver. Old school appraisal named the best driver as the one without accident record, disciplined and mostly on the recommendation of the boss! This is so subjective and unfair appraisal.

The system identifies the driver on how efficiently he/she drives the vehicle based on manufacturer instruction manual, driving expertise as well as complying with respective institutional vehicle driving policy. With computerised system each driver is given his unique ID (magnetic card/iButton) which allows him/her to drive the institution vehicles.

The ID, apart from being security feature it also identify individual driving capabilities in 6 areas; give out marks and rank them from the best to the worst. Basic criteria for ranking are as follows:-

1. Acceleration

2. Deceleration

3. Iddle time

4. Speed

5. over RPM

6. Curve acceleration

Maintenance cost is much attributed by driving behaviour, through the system we advise the institution to motivate drivers ranked high. This will transfer system ownership to them and hence safeguard it but most importantly it will reduce frequent repairs and maintenance.

Q: How about driver or transport officer tampering with the system?

A: It is difficulty. The most basic function in all fleet management systems is the vehicle tracking component. This component is usually GPS-based, but sometimes it can be based on GLONASS or a Cellular triangulation platform. Once vehicle location, direction and speed are determined from the GPS components, additional tracking capabilities transmit this information to a fleet management software application.

Methods for data transmission include both terrestrial and satellite. Satellite tracking communications, while more expensive, are critical if vehicle tracking is to work in remote environments without interruption. Users can see actual, real-time locations of their fleet on a map. This is often used to quickly respond on events in the field.

Q: What should one expect after fixing one’s fleet with your management software?

A: Fleet management software enables people to accomplish a series of specific tasks in the management of any or all aspects relating to a company's fleet of vehicles. These specific tasks encompass all operations from vehicle acquisition to disposal. Software, depending on its capabilities, allows functions such as driver and vehicle profiling, trip profiling, dispatch, vehicle efficiency and so forth. It can provide remote control features, such as Geo-fencing and active disabling.

Current vehicle diagnostic information can also be related to a management site, depending on the type of hardware installed in the vehicles.

Q: What are testimonies from the field?

A: Most of them have managed to cut down their unnecessary costs by more than 60 per cent and after initial investment the payback period has not exceeded 6 months. But again despite the fact that the systems are there to give value, it all depends on the respective management to utilise effectively the system and stand firmly on ensuring it gives value.

Q: How many vehicles can be tracked at one time?

A: PII system supports more than 15,000 online vehicles on each site. Some of our largest customers have over 300 vehicles on their systems. Currently we have installed the systems to more than 23 corporates and more than 2,100 vehicles in the country, namely Tanzania Cigarette Co. Ltd, Toyota Tanzania, Salute Finance, Stan Tours Ltd, Hellios Towers(T), Reime (T), Total (T), Technoserve (T), Marie Stopes, John Hopkins University, SBC (Pepsi), Airtel-Tanzania, Vodacom, PSI, Yara (T), PCCB, Precision Air, Bank, NMB Bank, CRDB Bank, VETA,IRDP Dodoma, World Vision, Sao Hill and many more.

Also we are authorised vendors of United Nations (UN) to instal the fleet management systems to their vehicles in East Africa through our supplier EDT of Israel. (We are the sole and permitted distributors of EDT products in Tanzania).

Q: From your client profile you have few government entities. With your experience, what is your recommendation to government institutions?

A: Hesitation in making decisions and being afraid to enforce positive changes affects a lot of government institutions as well as ministries. For me, the government is the most affected part though at present some government institutions are heading to the change.

In fact we’re already installing few of their vehicles on a free and unconditional live demo for an agreed period of time. This is one part which we can really support our government to cut down huge portion of its operational costs. Lastly, installing a fleet management system should never be an investment cost but rather a saving from the current Motor Running Expenses (MRE) budget.
Source: The Daily News, reported from Dar es Salaam
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