How to use data to optimize your fleet

Published in February 2021 Fleet Affiliation

Information and operating metrics from your fleet can be the passport to improve operations. Understanding this data is the first step to optimizing operations and acquisitions for your organization. While there are infinite layers of data, one of the most valuable sources is drive and duty cycle information.

Drive and duty – the differences
Drive and duty cycles are a key driver for vehicle data – essentially, this is a foundational pillar. However if not properly understood, this can also be a source of confusion and noise. If data is incomplete or misinterpreted, it can be a serious pitfall to decision-making. It is important to remember that decisions are often made based on available information. Drive and duty cycles need to be understood; however, the terms measure two distinct data points, and are often erroneously interchanged with each other. To simplify, a drive cycle defines how a vehicle is used, and a duty cycle defines how much a vehicle is used. Both data points are critical when looking to improve operations.

Analyzing drive and duty cycles comes into play and is critical when designing vehicles and selecting vehicle technologies. As one example, if drive cycles indicate the majority of operations is primarily at highway speeds, a hybrid powertrain may not be the best course of action; however, it may steer your design to advanced aerodynamic packages. If the duty cycle shows low miles per day and a long period of non-usage, electrification with a slow charge may be an option.

Looking at technology
Numerous advanced technologies are available to optimize your fleet. Depending on your organization’s mission and goals, optimization can take many forms. If the end goal is to reduce emissions, alternative fuels and electrification can be a viable path. Before making any selection, it is important to define and understand these objectives, and create a realistic performance assessment. Once that is completed, technologies can be selected. This is where understanding drive and duty cycle is critical. Once the drive and duty cycle is understood, the potential selections can be weighed for both financial and operational performance.

It’s important to avoid a tunnel decision on a single technology. Drive and duty cycles may not be the same for every vehicle in your fleet. It can become a balancing act of both standardization and suitability. Alternative technology and duty cycle are equally important, as both play a symbiotic part in successful implementation. With almost any technology, there can be some infrastructure needs. Determining duty cycle may change the decision tree when looking at the big picture. An example would be re-fueling for natural gas or electric vehicle charging. Quick fueling and charging can carry expensive infrastructure. This is why it is important to understand the overall duty cycle. Costs of infrastructure may shift to other technologies depending on overall objectives.