Greenhouse gas emissions drive climate change – and the transportation sector is the nation’s biggest offender, according to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). The CBO reported that carbon emissions in the transportation sector were 6% less in 2021 than they were in 2005. Over the course of those 16 years, that contributed to a 20% decline in total carbon emissions in the United States.
But environmentalists, regulators and consumers want the transportation industry to do even more. Technologies that increase efficiencies in commercial vehicles, fleet managers are in a better position than ever to deliver.
That’s putting data is in the driver’s seat.
With corporations setting increasingly ambitious sustainability targets, shippers and carriers are using data-driven capabilities such as GPS tracking and telematics — a digital blueprint of vehicle operations — to achieve things like real-time vehicle tracking, route optimization and fuel management, not to mention preventive maintenance for keeping vehicles performing optimally.
If data is driving, then cloud computing is under the hood.
“The cloud provides the mechanism for large or massive raw datasets to be stored, analyzed and computed against,” said Jon Bernstein, vice president of product management at Motus, a workforce management company that offers fleet management solutions.
Because it offers the speed and scalability that’s needed to manage fleet data, cloud is “an integral part of the sustainability paradigm,” he added.
In addition to making data more manageable, cloud makes data more accessible — a key consideration in sustainable fleet management, according to Al Curtis, fleet service director for Cobb County, GA.
“With telematics and GPS, if you don't have someone monitoring it, it’s really not going to do you much good,” said Curtis, who also serves on the board of the National Association of Fleet Administrators (NAFA).
“With cloud, you can always see the data. You can get alerts and know what’s happening in real time, no matter where you are.”
Steering Sustainable Fleet Management
Digital technologies are critical in the transitioning of transport infrastructure…toward greater sustainability, according to McKinsey & Company’s report titled “Built to last: Making sustainability a priority in transport infrastructure.”
Fleet managers seem to agree: The market for fleet management technologies is expected to grow from $25.5 billion in 2022 to $52.4 billion by 2027, according to MarketsandMarkets Research.
Among those leading the way are mammoth companies like Walmart, Microsoft and TELUS, all of which are using cloud-based solutions to make their fleets more environmentally friendly.
- Walmart: The biggest retailer in the country already has implemented telematics systems that monitor vehicle performance in real time, as well as route optimization software to help it reduce fuel consumption, BIS Research recently reported. “Walmart’s fleet management strategy has successfully reduced the company’s carbon footprint and operating costs while also improving customer satisfaction,” it said.
- Microsoft: In an effort to be carbon-neutral by 2030, Microsoft has taken similar steps. On its Redmond, WA, campus, the company operates some 500 trucks, passenger vans and buses for a range of uses, including transit, catering, mail, security and facilities management.
The software company used Accenture’s Mobility X cloud fleet management accelerator to gain insights into fleet usage. The solution “connects vehicles, drivers and operations, uncovering insights that can boost fuel efficiency and lower emissions, which is important given the company’s ambitious sustainability goals,” Accenture shared in a corporate case study.
- TELUS: Telecommunications services provider TELUS runs approximately 4,000 vehicles in support of approximately 16 million customers. It partnered with telematics company Geotab to develop a fleet management solution that aligned with its business goals and sustainability goals alike, Geotab reported in a company case study. It said telematics data has helped TELUS “assess overall fuel efficiency and identify opportunities for reductions in fuel consumption and emissions.”
It’s not just commercial cars and trucks. Cloud-based capabilities can drive sustainability in other transportation sectors, as well.
Consider ocean transport, for example. With some 90,000 marine vessels carrying over 90 percent of world trade across the oceans, it’s a major carbon emitter. With cloud-based route optimization, operators of traditional cargo ships, as well as new autonomous vessels, can pull together weather and ocean data along with data on vessel efficiency and port congestion to reduce idling time and minimize emissions.
Railroads can take similar steps. As battery-electric trains become more common, cloud-powered software can help rail operators manage fleets of them, optimizing routing to drive sustainability across supply chains.
Shifting into the Future
Cloud-based fleet management will likely become even more common in the near future, driven in part by vehicle manufacturers as they build connectivity directly into cars and trucks.
Built-in connectivity in new vehicles “provides more granular sets of driving behavior and vehicle diagnostics,” with direct connection to the cloud making such data readily available for review and reporting, Motus’s Bernstein said.
Supported by these cloud connections, manufacturer-installed technologies “can optimize when it is cheapest to refuel or recharge” in support of more efficient fuel usage, he added.
One example comes from General Motors, which says built-in connectivity in its commercial vehicles gives fleet managers deep vehicle insights, including fuel levels and usage. This in turn will help optimize fleet productivity…and improve efficiency, according to the company.
The continued rise of electric vehicles also promises to elevate the power of cloud-based fleet management.
“A cloud platform is essential to ensure an optimized EV fleet,” said Joseph Levy, vice president of technologies at EV software maker Driivz.
“EV fleet drivers are looking for a seamless charging experience. A robust and versatile cloud software solution for EV smart charging and energy management is essential in achieving these outcomes and optimizing fleet utilization, operations and driver satisfaction.”
As fleet managers look to improve the efficiency of both EV and conventional vehicles, best practices will include data-driven route optimization, digital dispatching and real-time asset tracking, according to ABI Research. To be successful, organizations in all sectors will need to fine-tune these to fit their unique sustainability goals.
“You need to set the parameters on exactly what you want to monitor and measure,” Curtis said.
“If you want to manage harsh braking, or how much greenhouse gas emissions that you're emitting, or idle time, you have to set up key performance indicators based on what’s important to your organization.”
As organizations accelerate toward their most ambitious sustainability objectives, fleet managers will continue relying on cloud-based solutions to get them where they want to go. And thanks to the increased connectivity and enhanced intelligence those solutions provide, they’ll face fewer and fewer roadblocks on their way.
Adam Stone is a journalist with more than 20 years of experience covering technology trends in the public and private sectors.
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