Ensuring Your Fleet’s Resilience For Long-Term Public Safety
The past year had no shortage of emergencies, from the global pandemic taxing front-line and healthcare workers to fire and public safety officers battling a historic number of wildfires and hurricanes. While the world grappled with these global challenges, it became evident how vulnerable fleets—and their first responder teams—could be to unforeseen situations.
Now, as states, cities, and industries reopen, fleet owners must learn and do more to strengthen the resilience and preparedness of their fleets. What can fleet managers learn from the disruption caused by COVID-19 to create a proactive response and build lasting resiliency?
How the Pandemic Impacted Fleet Management
The global pandemic forced fleets across every industry into crisis management, navigating uncertainty and quickly adapting to new operating norms. Fleet managers had to address unique challenges never before faced, such as social distancing, “home garaging” vehicles, scheduling and dispatching from remote locations, and finding efficiencies despite schedule upheavals. Emergency call centers transitioned to home offices, and teams had to update cleaning and training protocols to accommodate COVID-19 precautions.
Despite the efforts taken, first responders were greatly impacted by increased exposure to COVID-positive patients. Between January and May 2020, COVID-19 infection rates were discovered to be 15 times higher in NYC first responders than in civilians.
The pandemic affected all areas of fleet management:
- Asset Management: Fleets experienced high volumes, order delays, and difficulty acquiring necessary PPE for first responders. Non-emergency assets—such as school buses and public transit—experienced low asset utilization.
- Business Management: Disruptions to standard service for fleets caused budget uncertainty and required managers to adopt new policies and procedures.
- Financial Management: Life-cycle costing and budget planning became difficult when fleet managers had to budget for specialized equipment and PPE to keep their teams safe during COVID.
- Maintenance Management: COVID-19 required first responder fleets to prioritize pandemic response over preventative vehicle maintenance. Managers struggled to keep track of assets and maintenance as the pandemic altered fuel consumption, asset utilization, and a greater number of vehicles became traveling offices.
- Risk Management: New safety and cleaning precautions were required in tandem with CDC guidance to ensure first responder safety while in close contact with infected individuals.
How Fleet Technology Creates Resiliency
With tightening budgets and a need to connect dispersed teams for coordinated first response, it’s more important than ever to ensure your fleet has an efficient fleet maintenance system in place. As of 2020, nearly 3 in 4 fleets reported using GPS fleet management and of that group, 96% found it to be beneficial to their team operations.
Fleet technology—enriched with powerful telematics—is becoming a must-have, rather than a nice-to-have, as more fleets realize what increased visibility can do for their safety and bottom line. A 2020 study of more than 700 fleet managers found that fleets save an average of 8% in fuel costs, 11% in accident costs, and 10% in labor costs when using fleet management technology.
Fleet technology becomes more powerful as managers find ways to apply it throughout their entire workflow. It helps to look at the ways telematics and fleet technology are supporting fleet management in every major area during times of crisis.
Updated Process for Vehicle Cleaning & Safety
Vehicle cleaning took on a new meaning in 2020. Fleet managers are using telematics to build thoughtful cleaning procedures that account for sanitizers, alcohol wipes, and other disinfecting guidance to support fleets during (and after) a pandemic. Small asset trackers can automate inventory counts, monitor storage status, and ensure that life-saving equipment is clean, available, and accessible for critical situations.
Establishing good hygiene requirements, disinfecting common areas, and sanitizing vehicles and tools should continue as good business practices beyond the pandemic.
Remote Fleet Management
The pandemic highlighted the need for fleets to adapt to remote procedures and not be limited to in-person-only operations. Fleet technology is helping bridge the gap between command centers, fleet managers, and their field teams to support remote management of first responder fleets. With fleet technology, managers can communicate with their vehicles in the field, regardless of their physical location. Using one integrated system, fleet managers and dispatchers can run reports, assign vehicle routes, and access real-time vehicle health metrics at a moment’s notice.
The City of Alexandria was even able to apply remote fleet technology to their team of 911 dispatchers during the height of the pandemic. The public safety dispatchers were equipped with dedicated smartphones, hotspots, and the FirstNet network to ensure a seamless shift to remote dispatching while prioritizing employee safety.
By establishing this protocol now, fleets can be best prepared for any other unexpected changes to workplace dynamics.
Preventative Vehicle Health Maintenance
Many fleets were under- or over-utilized this past year due to changes in how fleets were needed during the pandemic. A full audit of the tools and technology available and in use—and understanding how you can leverage on these various platforms—can prepare your fleet for the next emergency.
Fleet managers rely on vehicle maintenance metrics to proactively track vehicle health and alert teams to storage status, damage, or improper handling. Having real-time access to Engine Control Modules and in-vehicle sensors means that issues can be addressed before larger problems arise. This allows more time for fleet managers to focus on more urgent issues—like public safety.
Budgeting and Forecasting
The pandemic drastically affected fleet budgets in 2020. Fleets had to re-prioritize teams and assets based on public safety needs. This shift in asset and fleet utilization made it difficult for managers to accurately budget and forecast without direct oversight of their full fleets and assets.
Fleet technology gives managers the visibility they need and connects all field intelligence into a single, integrated platform. With this level of granular visibility, fleet managers can better “right-size” their fleet and apply more accurate budget forecasting, even when asset utilization shifts.
Strengthening Fleet Policy
During a pandemic, fleet policy plays an even bigger role in the financial and physical wellness of a team. Fleet managers using data from their field telematics can revisit policies to ensure they are sufficient during and after a pandemic.
For example, the local fire department in Chesapeake, VA revisited their fleet policy in 2020 to better manage response to non-emergency care. They used fleet tracking to free up first responder resources and improve patient care through multi-visit patient programs, mobile care clinics, and a fall prevention program.
We don’t know what our next pandemic might look like. By establishing reliable and scalable interoperability communication, fleets are helping to ensure that their teams are always reachable in times of crisis and beyond.
Proactive Fleet Maintenance Management During COVID-19 and Beyond
Fleet technology is helping to ensure that a greater number of fleets are ready for the next unexpected situation. Using Fleet Complete telematics technology, fleet managers can more closely monitor fleet activity to make data-driven decisions, monitor the movement of field teams, accurately track costs, maintain accurate service records, and analyze fleet performance in near real time. These efforts create a proactive approach to first response and ensure fleet resilience during times of crisis.
To learn more about how Fleet Complete’s integrated telematics are helping fleet managers and dispatchers achieve fleet resiliency, request a Fleet Complete for FirstNet demo today.
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2020 had no shortage of emergencies, making it evident how vulnerable fleets could be to unexpected situations. Discover how fleets can strengthen their resiliency and enable a proactive response to crisis management.
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