Features & Interviews Logistics Truck

Cutting it fine: Efficient fleet management and the future

11 June 2014 #Features & Interviews #Logistics #Truck

Fighting against rising fuel prices, tyre wear and other factors pushing up costs, fleet managers are continually tasked with finding new methods and approaches to save money.

Efficiency improvements help to reduce an operator’s outgoings and right now, it seems there are more options proposed than ever before. Whether it is new route management systems, aerodynamic improvements, or tyres, transport companies need to know about them.

On the aerodynamics side, truck manufacturers have helped cut drag with their new Euro-6 cabs. DAF, for example, already offered the PACCAR Aerobody on its LF prior to the introduction of the latest wave of engine legislation, but since February, the LF Eurobody has become a more familiar sight on the road, and an important option for fleet managers to consider.

On the supplier side, it is a similar story, with Wabco recently demonstrating how it could help improve trailer fuel economy with its ‘Optiflow’ sidewings. As the company looks to move beyond merely being a developer of braking, stability and transmission, the new aero concept is designed to help achieve this goal, and is already appealing to operators looking reduce their fuel bills.

Covering the trailer’s wheels, the company says that the wings will lead to fuel benefits for operators of up to 1.6L/100km. This saving is achieved thanks to improved airflow around and behind the truck, which minimises drag on the vehicle. Manufactured from a polymer with the scientific name Polydicyclopentadiene (PDCPD), the wings are lighter than standard polycarbonate or plastic items, and they also promise to be more resistant to vibration and damage.

For fleet managers looking to software to make efficiency improvements – and cost savings – with their vehicles, there were plenty of ideas on display at the recent CV Show. TomTom, for example, debuted a driver terminal designed to work with the latest version of its Webfleet fleet management platform. Promising the ability to help drivers capture more information relating to vehicle checks and barcode scanning, the technology is designed to speed up deliveries, and make processes simpler and easier to perform. TomTom says the new terminal will; “add flexibility and value to an already strong solution for transport operators”.

Elsewhere, Isotrack, together with Intelligent Telematics, presented an in-cab camera solution that combines video, telemetry and 3/4G technologies. The new unit has the ability to capture and transmit video footage of accidents and near misses via a secure private network to a web-based interface, while real-time email and SMS alerts allow events to be viewed within minutes of them occurring.

By transmitting details such as speed, position and shock axis sensor data frequently to a designated server, fleet managers have all the information they need to react in real time, thereby reducing the amount of potential vehicle downtime, and scheduling delays.

Providing a complete overview of the fleet, Trackm8 has a new version of its Swift programme, Swift 6. New for this year is an enhancement of the company’s web portal, to include better functionality and integration with Google Maps with Street View. The company says that new ‘Route Reply’ with ‘Snail Trail’ features enable the fleet operator to “get an accurate insight of vehicle locations and road conditions when viewing historic journeys, giving a realistic representation of driver journeys. Live traffic information, including real time incident status updates are also displayed on the map, resulting in a reduction of lost-time due to traffic, improving the overall productivity of the fleet.”

Fleets have also been reminded that tyres, too, can make a big difference to an operator’s bottom line, not only in the HGV market, but also for van fleets. ATS Euromaster, the largest commercial vehicle tyre supplier in the UK, has suggested taking advantage of a formal tyre policy, to prevent paying over the odds for their tyres and reducing fleet efficiency.

The tyre specialist points to a recent survey that it undertook in conjunction with the Freight Transport Association, which revealed a third of respondents did not have a tyre policy in place.

“Fleets without a tyre policy risk paying more for their tyres as standardising on one brand can often enable a better fleet discount,” said the report. “An expertly managed policy also has the potential to save businesses huge amounts in running costs, through maximising the longevity, safety, performance and fuel-efficiency of each asset.”

ATS Euromaster suggests rapid e-commerce growth and the need for deliveries to be made quickly to individual customers is leading to a rise in the number of fleets running vans. In particular, it says truck operators are increasingly looking to amend the make-up of their vehicle parc to include more vans, which are easier to operate in a home delivery environment.

Simon Tattersall, ATS Euromaster’s head of national accounts, commented: “As numbers grow, the complexity of running a van operation increases and the process of fleet management becomes more akin to running trucks. Often vans must make timed deliveries, so having a fixed tyre policy in place is crucial to ensure productivity and uptime is maximised.”

Michelin Solutions – a division of the French tyre manufacturer – is also aiming to help fleet managers improve efficiency and derive the maximum benefits from their Michelin tyres.

One way it is doing this is with Effifuel, which, according to the company; “integrates the main factors that influence vehicle fuel consumption, with driver training and support, the deployment of a dedicated team of fuel analysts to design actions that improve fuel efficiency and the implementation of systems to ensure real-time traceability of vehicle data.”

Paul Davey, Commercial Manager at Michelin Solutions believes that a contractual commitment with Effifuel will help to make savings of up to £200,000, depending on fleet size. “We currently have three customers under initialisation, which is the first part of the process,” he explains. “We will bring in the fuel analysts, before running telematics on the vehicles for four weeks and then introducing the technology to enable fleets to better monitor their vehicles.”

Nobody is claiming that these developments will turn an unprofitable venture back into the black, but increasing productivity and fuel consumption can give a haulage company a competitive edge – and is good for the environment to boot.

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