FleetSpeak

The Data on Data

September 14, 2017

by Thi Dao - Also by this author

We have an idea of what our audience likes to read. For example, our website data shows you consistently click on articles about police fleets, new vehicle reveals, and audits. You also like learning about fleet crime, whether that’s thefts, misconduct, or lawsuits.

We use this information to provide more of what you like. However, these are just basic data points, and because there are so many others, it’s sometimes hard to determine which ones to follow and act on.

Our problem is much smaller than what many fleets are facing. With fleet management becoming more technology-­driven and automated, there is an increasing amount of data available to fleet managers. What do you do with all this data coming from so many sources?

Good Uses of Data

Data has by now become an everyday part of fleet management, and countless fleets have used it to make positive changes to their operations. This includes fleets analyzing utilization statistics to cut the number of units, or analyzing vehicle location or speed (and taking corrective action if necessary), or using information from fleet management software to determine more accurate replacement cycles — or even justify a replacement fund.

The New York City fleet uses its extensive data to keep the public informed. Recently released data summaries include everything from fleet vehicle purchasing numbers and trends to the fuel economy of its vehicles. It also distributes a daily report that details how many vehicles are in service compared to its targets, sectioned out by department. This isn’t just sent out internally — it’s on the internet for the world (and local journalists) to see, which is a great incentive to make sure the numbers are acceptable.

You can use data to your benefit, but you can also get dinged for not having data or not having enough of it — for example, many audits have noted the lack of accurate vehicle inventory, or missing utilization or fueling information. Auditors have recommended some sort of technology to better track data.

Avoid Misinterpretation

If you have a set of data to back up your decisions, it’s harder for others to contradict you. But what I’ve learned with data is that you can misinterpret it. Like with Googling, where the internet can “prove” just about anything you type into the search bar, you can also make the data prove something that might be untrue.

There have been times when I question the data we get, and in those instances, it’s important to consider whether an unrelated factor may be driving a specific trend.

Expect More Data

The City of Las Vegas is conducting a connected vehicle pilot that combines vehicle data with city information, such as crosswalks and bus stop locations, to provide drivers with actionable messages. The vehicle data is also archived for trend analysis.

This is just one example of how data collection will continue to grow. For those fleet managers with decades left in their careers, how will the increased use of technology affect the information you collect and what you do with it? Will fleet agencies need to hire data scientists — the top job of 2016 and 2017, according to the job and recruiting website Glassdoor — to make sense of the stats?

How do you currently determine what data to track? And what changes have you made as a result of analyzing the data?

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Author Bio

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Thi Dao

Executive Editor

Thi is the executive editor of Government Fleet magazine. She is interested in maintenance management and alternative fuels.

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Arrangements whereby the fleet management company charges expenses for maintenance, tires, or other defined services based on actual experience and only when the costs are incurred.

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