Big Data: Use it to your advantage

Published in the May 2016 issue of Fleet Affiliation

What is big data and how can you leverage it to your advantage? Miriam-Webster defines data as “facts or information used to calculate, analyze, or plan something.” With the proper application of data, efficiencies in truck design and operational improvements can be realized.

Before you can use this strategy, you must be certain you have good and complete data. The common phrase “Garbage in equals garbage out” holds exceptional truth here. If you start with unreliable or incomplete data, you will certainly be led to undesirable outcomes.

Where to obtain data
The days of Post-it® notes and Excel spreadsheets are over; the world has come to rely on a digital warehouse of information. Unlike its predecessor of pen and paper, digital data is rarely lost, misplaced or misfiled.  

A good starting point is to secure a Fleet Management Information System that can store maintenance/repair records and fuel utilization. Data loggers, onboard diagnostics, telematics, and AVL systems can be a wealth of historical and real time data. Another opportunity is to seek benchmarking partners in similar industries.

Data doesn’t lie
One of the most unchallengeable benefits of data, is that it does not lie.

However, one big challenge faced by many fleet professionals is the analysis and proper utilization of data when designing and specifying units. For many fleets, larger vocational vehicles represent a large portion of capital replacement budgets. And if design and specification isn’t done well, consequences can be costly.

Once you have confirmed you have good, complete and accurate drive and duty cycle data, you can leverage that data in your design and specifications. You will then be in a position to provide the most efficient piece of equipment tailored to your specific operational requirements. 

What data does for you
Accurate data can provide you with many benefits beyond scheduling maintenance and budget forecasting. 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, reducing downtime.

As The Work Truck Show® 2016’s signature mug states “There’s a truck for that,” it’s crucial to choose the right truck for your application. With proper drive and duty cycle data, you can avoid the pitfall of having over- or under-utilized units. Additionally, you can use your data to project your carbon footprint and forecast different scenarios for various fuel compositions.

The Department of Energy’s Clean Cities Program and Argonne National Laboratory has developed the Alternative Fuel Life-Cycle Environmental and Economic Transportation (AFLEET) tool to project lifecycle cost and operating emissions for various fuel types. Learn more.

Opportunities with GTA
The Green Truck Association (GTA) Board of Governors designed a program for fleet members to utilize data loggers on their vocational fleet vehicles to provide insights on truck usage and productivity. This program is free of charge and is one of the many benefits of GTA membership. Learn more about becoming involved with the GTA.