Brian Joss – Bridgestone is using increasing amounts of technology to help fleet owners get the maximum use from their vehicles while reducing costs.
Trucking and logistics businesses are facing severe challenges. Input costs like diesel and labour are steadily creeping up, and poor economic conditions mean that volumes are down. ‘
“The end result is that there is overcapacity in the market, while at the same time logistics companies are also facing extreme pressure from their customers to hold transport costs steady or even reduce them,” says Vernon Slack, Small Medium & Large Fleet Executive, Bridgestone SA. “In response, we are working hard to develop solutions to help fleet owners overcome these challenges. Fleet owners are micro-managing their costs to survive, and we are putting solutions in place to assist them.”
Bridgestone’s approach has three pillars. Better data analysis shared with clients. Bridgestone account executives play a key role in interacting with clients to share data with the aim of improving the cost per kilometre.
Increasingly sophisticated data analytics are generating more and more useful information such as reasons for tyre failure, identifying maintenance issues before they occur and so on-all in the name of a longer, more productive tyre life.
Operational support. Bridgestone’s Total Tyre Services is an evolving offering that includes 24-hour breakdown assistance and day-to-day maintenance services. The latter includes monitoring tyre pressures, rotating and changing tyres as needed, and wheel alignment and balancing.
Continuous introduction of innovative technology. Bridgestone recently acquired the telematics division of TomTom, and it will provide the platform for the rollout of many of the futuristic solutions that, Bridgestone believes, will increasingly underpin successful fleet management, particularly in today’s difficult economic climate. Already, TomTom enables fleet owners to plot the best routes in terms of fuel consumption or speed-or a combination of both, depending on what metrics matter most for each journey.
Another major initiative that will ultimately integrate with TomTom is Fleet Pulse, a sophisticated app for both drivers and fleet managers. Fleet Pulse leverages the growing rollout of sensors on vehicles to allow drivers to check their vehicles before setting out on a job. Using a combination of wireless connection to sensors and visual observation, the app enables a rapid check of windscreen wipers and lights, tyre pressures, shock absorbers, trailer curtains and straps, spray suppression, load security, number plates and licence disks and fuel/ oil leaks.
Fleet Pulse’s fleet manager’s Web application connects the manager to the driver’s mobile app. He or she can quickly see any maintenance or repairs needed, and schedule them seamlessly. It also provides a way for a deskbound manager to gain a granular overview of the fleet and how it is operating.
A final point is that, of course, Bridgestone’s Research and Development (R&D) is constantly also focused on developing new tyres for various commercial (and domestic) applications in the quest to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Initiatives to reduce resistance, to name just one, will continuously improve efficiencies and impact margins.
“All of these efforts have the goal of increasing a vehicle’s time on the road, reducing fuel and maintenance costs, and simplifying fleet operations,” Mr Slack sums up. “One thing is certain-there is much more to come as technology advances and we continue our journey to deliver a total mobility solution to trucking clients.”
CAPTION: Fleet management: the Hino 500. Picture: Motorpress