Big Data: use it to your advantage

Published in April 2022 Fleet Affiliation.

Ask yourself a couple questions. Do you have good data? Do you have complete data? The phrase “garbage in, garbage out” holds exceptional truth here: if you start with unreliable or incomplete data, you will certainly be led to undesirable outcomes such as expensive failure.

For many fleets, larger vocational vehicles represent a significant portion of capital replacement budgets. Fleet professionals generally have one opportunity to properly design and specify these units or face costly monetary consequences. Using drive and duty cycle data, you will be in a position to provide the most efficient piece of equipment tailored to your specific operational requirements.

Where to obtain data
The days of Post-it® notes and Excel spreadsheets are over. The world has come to rely upon a digital warehouse of information. Unlike its predecessor of pen and paper, digital data is rarely lost, misplaced, or misfiled. As a starting point for data, use a system that can record maintenance, repairs, and fuel utilization. Tools such as data loggers, onboard diagnostics, telematics, and AVL systems can all be a wealth of historical and real-time data. Another opportunity is to seek to benchmark with partners in similar industries.

Data doesn’t lie
One basic tenet of data is that it does not lie. However, one of the biggest challenges faced by fleet professionals is how to analyze and properly use the data. Once you have confirmed that you have good, complete and accurate information, you can begin to leverage this data to your advantage.

Be a team player
The entire supply chain needs data, and it is important to be a team player, but there is also a need for  privacy and data rights to keep information secure and confidential. To satisfy both ends of the spectrum, there are opportunities to share information for the advancement and betterment of the industry as a whole.

Recently, for example, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced that the Vehicle Inventory and Use Survey is being conducted for the first time in 20 years. This data collection is  crucial to the work truck industry. If your fleet is selected to participate, I would ask you and your organization to participate. For more information and instructions, please visit   

What data does for you
Accurate data can provide you with many benefits beyond scheduling maintenance and forecasting budgets. Analyzed and compiled data can help you improve operations. Going beyond preventative maintenance, you can start to forecast predictive maintenance, and replace components before they fail, thus reducing downtime.

It can also reveal what the fleet needs. For example, you might identify a trend of frequent and unscheduled repairs. From this, you might discern that you should take a closer look at your vehicles’ suitability to task when looking at replacements.

Other opportunities
The Green Truck Association (GTA) is an affiliate division of NTEA. Its Board of Governors redesigned a program for fleets to use data loggers on their vocational vehicles to provide insights on truck usage and productivity. This program is one of the many benefits of GTA. For more information about becoming involved with GTA, visit