Fleet Management: Digital Oilfield Technology That Is Ready For Prime Time

When oil and gas executives and technology experts ask what is holding back the digital oilfield, there is one technology they need not deliberate over any further: fleet management. In fact, fleet management has embraced advances in digital and connectivity technology for some time, leveraging those technologies to bring about a step change in companies’ ability to monitor their fleets and optimize complex logistical challenges, all while increasing worker health and safety.

This was borne out in a survey of Canadian oil and gas industry professionals conducted by JuneWarren-Nickle’s Energy Group, GE and Accenture. When asked to consider 10 digital oilfield-related technologies, fleet management ranked as the highest priority use case. Survey respondents found fleet management to be both the most mature of those technologies considered and to be a technology their companies were prepared to adopt in the short term.

Those in the exploration and production, and service and supply industry verticals were particularly positive in their assessments of fleet management technology, an indicator of the reliance of those sectors on large mobile workforces and vehicle fleets for their field operations. Full survey results will be released during the Canadian Energy Technology Forum at the BMO Centre in Calgary October 27.

Fleet management takes in a number of digital-enabled capabilities, from increasingly sophisticated vehicle monitoring—both vehicle location and movements in real time and vehicle mechanical state—to analytics applied to optimize vehicle and personnel movements, to improving driver behaviour to reduce speeding and aggressive driving, and excessive idling.

It offers a number of benefits, such as reducing fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, fostering better supply chain and inventory control management, decreasing transportation times and reducing accident rates and insurance costs.

Telematics, which enables collection and transmission of data detailing vehicle use, maintenance requirements and servicing, helps companies effectively manage and allocate transportation resources. Big data and analytics also plays an important role in today’s fleet management solutions. The more a fleet management system “knows” about field operations, equipment and supply needs, and the knowledge and skills of a company’s workers, the more effectively it can optimize logistics.

For instance, if a facility needs a particular piece of equipment and a worker with a particular skill to install it, the fleet management system can locate each and determine the optimal means of getting both to the facility in the least amount of time, which may involve secondary rendezvous and equipment and personnel transfers in the field to save overall time.

In terms of driver safety, today’s fleet management systems offer several hundred canned alerts that companies can choose from to prompt better driver behaviour. Features include alertness and lone-worker monitoring, detection of speeding and aggressive driving, crash and rollover detection, lane departure and collision avoidance, notification of hazardous areas, vehicle inspection alerts and vehicle diagnostic monitoring. The “gamification” of driver safety—in which drivers are scored against their peers and tracked on a leaderboard—is promoted as being particularly attractive to many younger “gamer” employees.

Telogis, Inc., for example, has made gamification a key part of its Telogis Coach, which it says is about using the things that make regular games so engaging and motivating and applying them to critical business processes, like driver safety.

“[Drivers] can see what their driving score is and if they are moving up or down the leaderboard,” says Geoff Scalf, head of business development, oil and gas division, at the Aliso Viejo, California based company. Most employees want to manage their own driving behaviour without necessarily being confronted by a supervisor, and a mobile arena for competition amongst coworkers does that while appealing to younger workers in the oil and gas sector, he says.

It has led to significant decreases in things like speeding incidences, while allowing managers to quickly see how adherences to such things as maintenance and driver performance rules are trending within their fleets. Companies experience anywhere from a 70- to 80-per-cent safety improvement after using Telogis solutions, measured on the number of alerts for speeding, seatbelts, hard accelerations, traditional safety metrics and incident rates, Scalf says.

Geotab Inc. also provides in-vehicle driver coaching with its Geotab GO7 devices and Geotab-developed software, MyGeotab, in addition to such capabilities as accident reconstruction, highly accurate engine diagnostics, route optimization, real-time GPS vehicle tracking and fuel consumption monitoring.

Between February and June 2015, more than 150,000 Geotab GO7 fleet management devices were sold, Geotab said in September. The GO7 detects data from the engine, drivetrain, instrument cluster and other relevant subsystems to maximize productivity and minimize downtime.

The Oakville, Ontario-based company's intuitive system manages vehicles and drivers by extracting actionable intelligence from real-time and historical trips data, the company says. More than 600 million telematics data points are collected by Geotab devices and delivered to the platform per day.

“Normally, a fleet that is managing their technology for safety and has an aggressive safety policy can reduce their claims costs on a vehicle by about 30 per cent,” says Colin Sutherland, vice-president of sales at Geotab.

Fleet management provider inthinc Technology Solutions also features a verbal coaching element that speaks to drivers in real time to discourage aggressive driving behaviors such as rapid accelerations, sharp turns and hard braking.

Inthinc’s Electronic driver log (ELD) technology ensures compliance with corporate and jurisdictional rules, an attractive feature for major oil and gas producers in both Canada and the U.S. utilizing fleet-management technologies to guarantee compliance with government, local and corporate policies. A more recent offering, waySmart Connect, leverages the world of expansive mobile apps for fleet managers and drivers, providing a true mobile solution to best optimize fleet operations with the ease of a download.

The company says implementation of its solutions have resulted in a 90 per cent reduction in accidents, a 53 per cent reduction in idle time, a 20 per cent reduction in maintenance costs, a 10 per cent increase in fuel efficiency and a 30 per cent reduction in carbon emissions.

Claiming to be the only provider of real-time safety solution that detects unsafe behaviour and offers coaching before a crash or ticketable offense occurs, inthinc says its safe driving system has also produced an 86 per cent reduction in speeding, 89 per cent reduction in aggressive driving and a 90 per cent reduction in accidents.

The Salt Lake City, Utah-based company launched a behaviour based driver improvement program for small fleets in August. “With this new program we are now able to offer smaller fleets the same technology our larger customers have been using for years,” said John Henry, vice-president of sales.
Smaller companies often lack the tools and resources that larger ones use to optimize their fleets, the company says. Now, regardless of fleet size, fleet managers have access to inthinc’s custom web portal where they can view reports, monitor driving performance, and access safety and efficiency data.

Utilizing a series of dashboards and scheduled reports, they can quickly and easily identify operators exhibiting risky driving behaviours as well as those with good driving habits. “Our technology and services are designed to enhance overall fleet performance by providing real-time fleet intelligence to managers and in-vehicle verbal coaching to drivers,” said Todd W. Follmer, chief executive officer.

Fleet management also involves technology providers increasingly leveraging the Internet of Things—the connection of sensors and other devices to the Web—to extend their capabilities and create new business models. For instance, tire manufacturer Michelin has moved from a mere seller of tires to providing tires as a service. With tire and in-vehicle sensors, and using digital analytics and physical inspections, Michelin can monitor a fleet’s tire health while providing direction on how to reduce fuel consumption. Companies can pay by the mile rather than by the tire.

To learn more about digital oil, plan to attend the Canadian Energy Technology Forum (CETF), a unique industry event that explores the technological and operational foundation of the digital oilfield. The forum features innovation leaders who have increased revenue, improved operating margins and enhanced asset efficiencies by leveraging digital oilfield technology. CETF takes place October 27 at the BMO Centre in Calgary. Visit energytechforum.ca for more information.


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