28 Mar 23

How to build the perfect business case for your connected fleet

"The question is not why you should develop a connected strategy, but how", says Agnes van de Walle from Arval Connect. As fleets are at different stages and paces on their way to connectivity, it is valuable to learn from best practice sharing experiences implemented by managers already walking the talk. An overview of the presented insights at the Connected Fleets Conference.

Cost optimisation, fleet efficiency and ESG commitments are well-known instigators of a connectivity switch. Still, many fleet managers need to think also about how connected data can align with the growth plan of their company.

But even in times when upfront purchase prices and energy costs from electrification are rising, all presenters of the use cases at the Connected Fleets Conference acknowledge a competitive advantage in digitisation.  

Driving style is half of TCO

Patrick Houben, Coordinator Dispatching at Willemen, oversees some 640 vans, all connected since 2019, together with heavy-duty machinery. His employer is one of the largest construction companies in Belgium, with 2,200 employees.

"We've learned that 47% of a vehicle's total cost of ownership (TCO) is attributable to driving style", Houben says. "The aim is to gain around 5% on that, which already represents a considerable profit."

So the company turned to an app-based solution to inform and coach drivers and increase operational efficiencies, resulting in a 10% gain in fuel expenses, an essential reduction of gas-guzzling idling, longer lifespans for tyres and less maintenance cost.

Connecting infrastructure

Belgian parcel company Bpost is on a steady path towards an all-electric fleet by 2030. "At first, there were not even plans to integrate IT, as charging was considered a hardware issue," says Program Manager Sustainability Els Renders (pictured below).

Now Bpost is building a data-driven and connected ecosystem where their last-mile vans are linked to the infrastructural charging structure. "Grid capacity is an inhibitor in this change. So, you rely on the data to streamline the charging process."

Bpost is implementing a structure of alternated charging at its sites, optimising the available power and the state of charge from the fleet linked to the parcel weight they're planned to transport. "Parking time becomes recharging time, the fewer miles travelled between charges demands different route plannings and building characteristics come at play," is how Renders identifies the new building blocks of electrification.

As infrastructure is the upfront pillar for a connected battery-powered fleet, Renders' advice is to start with a feasibility analysis to map the capacity of specific sites. "General data don't suffice. The novelty is that you end up combining historical with real-time data." But it is clear that without the connected software, the decarbonisation target of the company can't be met.

Going slow on a fast track

The strategy of initiating in a specific corner of the company and spreading the implementation from there (the last mile case at Bpost) is also witnessed at elevator company Otis. Global Fleet and Traveler Lead Ben Vary: 'It is an ongoing journey. We've learned the value of pilots, like in electrification, for example, where a selection of service engineers started with a small EV fleet and home charging."

It seems crucial for bigger fleets to gather an initial acquaintance instead of jumping head-first into a broad telematics program. "Then, data overload can become a strong concern. At Otis, we pulled the plug from a project because of the digital flood. It's crucial to understand that fleet managers need information, not data."

Giving local fleets time to adapt to connectivity is, for Saban Tekedereli from Securitas, a prerequisite for success also. "There's no point in forcing this. Instead, it is important to motivate your employees from within by letting them experience the aspects and benefits of a data-driven strategy for themselves.

As the war for talent is crucial for many companies, you must be attentive and see that connectivity leverages your employee satisfaction. Not the contrary."

Safety first

"Zooming in on sustainability, we should look beyond CO2 and include how telematics helps protect lives", says Alexander Merke (pictured below)l, fleet manager of the Church of Christ and Latter Day Saints, responsible for 17,000 vehicles in Europe worth an asset of $ 25 billion.

Safety is the prime driving force for many companies to start implementing connectivity. And though the vehicle choice is the first step in that process, connectivity logically comes second.

The drivers from the Church of Christ, mostly a mix of young and retired volunteers, work in first-response situations over a wide geographical area reaching from the borders of Africa to Kazakhstan.

"The driver worry is that we track them all day", says Merkel, "but what I look for when opening my laptop are the alerts for accidents or mechanical failures that might cause hazards.

That also helps cost, as drivers tend to continue driving until the vehicle fails on them". The Church uses a single supplier in Europe and has successfully pushed fatalities back to zero since its connected fleet started in 2014.

Want to learn from fellow fleet managers and gain insight from their international use cases? You can still register for our next event, the Global Fleet Conference 2023 in Cascais



Authored by: Piet Andries