The advancement of the smartphone has the potential to revolutionize communication and fleet management. Mobile devices will increase driver productivity, improve driver support, and promote timeliness in fleet-wide communications. Fleets will save money through process automation and improved vehicle maintenance. Although the number of users is still small, surveys indicate high user acceptance and willingness to implement on the part of current fleet members.
Mobile technology will provide a great deal of convenience for drivers. Drivers will receive SMS notifications when action is required, such as preventive maintenance, or when they are in non-compliance. In addition, the GPS on a mobile device will provide location, mapping, and directions. Also, more complex fleet activities, which used to require a laptop, will be done on handheld devices.
Mobile devices will also support fleet managers. Managers will no longer be tied to a desk while doing their jobs. Instead, they will be able to authorize service repairs, approve driver orders, and do other important tasks on their handheld devices. Also, managers will have real-time information, which will help them find out about issues or driver accidents immediately. Additionally, managers can turn over many easily automated tasks to drivers, such as resetting a fuel card PIN.
One of the greatest advantages of mobile is potential cost savings. Expenses will only increase in the future, as fuel prices, vehicle acquisition costs, and vehicle-related taxes rise. Mobile phones will alert drivers when it is time for vehicle inspections or maintenance. Alerts will not only save time for managers, but also save money by heading off serious vehicle issues.
Management will have to work out some kinks as they implement mobile. Data plans may be costly, and many providers have not embraced group-friendly bundled pricing. Also, the screen size and tactile inputs may make complicated tasks difficult. In addition, managers will have to decide which device to use, and then which operating system to use for that device.
Handheld phones may also contribute to driver distraction. To offset corporate liability risks, companies should formulate company policies for the use of mobile devices. Companies should offer no reimbursement to drivers who receive citations for illegal phone use or texting. Managers should also add points to employee driving records if unauthorized phone use is discovered. Employees should be informed that, if phones are found to be a cause of driver distraction in a crash, the driver will be at-fault.
The future of mobile technology is limitless. Currently, drivers can enter mileage, perform vehicle diagnostics, and locate cheap gas stations using their mobiles. In the future, onboard computers will transmit vehicle data to managers, in real time. Preventive maintenance will be based on oil life monitoring and engine hours rather than odometer readings. This will save money, because preventive maintenance will only happen when it is truly needed.
Different applications will work for different fleets, depending on what they want to prioritize. Managers should also consider driver openness to mobile technology, based on ease of use and driver demographic. However, the convenience of mobile communication and fleet management cannot be overstated. Real-time information and increased productivity will bring welcome cost savings to tech savvy managers.