Creative Data Mining Leads to Real Fleet Savings

by Frank Bussone

Frank Bussone, CTP, is director of Fleet Planning Services at AmeriQuest Transportation Services. He has nearly 20 years’ experience in business analytics and business intelligence. In his role, Bussone works with the data associated with fleet operations in an effort to find efficient and lower cost solutions for truck fleets across the country. He earned his graduate degree from Florida Atlantic University. He is a Certified Transportation Professional designated by the National Private Truck Council. His office is in Coral Springs, FL.



If you’re passionate about business analytics and business intelligence, it’s a great time to be in the trucking industry. With the advent of recent technologies, there is now an incredible amount of data being broadcast directly from your trucks, or entered from your own service shops or outside service providers that can greatly benefit your fleet management.

If you’re passionate about business analytics and business intelligence, it’s a great time to be in the trucking industry. With the advent of recent technologies, there is now an incredible amount of data being broadcast directly from your trucks, or entered from your own service shops or outside service providers. This data is then input directly into your company’s information system.

But just having access to data is not enough. You need to do something with that data. Data mining is the process of finding correlations or patterns among dozens of fields in databases. It involves combining, overlaying and analyzing several data sources from various departments within your organization. I have learned over the years that data analysis is a creative process and that creativity in analytics results in clearer thinking and better answers. Basically, mining is the process of analyzing data from different perspectives and summarizing it into useful information.

Don’t worry if you’ve never done any data mining. As long as you spend some good “hands-on” time with your fleet data, you’re bound to find some opportunities to cut costs, increase revenues or both. Seasoned data mining professionals get the most out of data by spending time with it. Investing the time to thoroughly understand the data and combining that with your transportation experience are your keys to success for extrapolating money-saving opportunities.

There are many choices when it comes to data mining software, ranging from free to expensive, easy-to-use to sophisticated. It’s important to identify the one you feel most comfortable working with in order to maximize your productivity.

Many fleets already utilize the KPI reporting capabilities and sophisticated dashboards included with most on-board computers and maintenance tracking software to operate their fleets efficiently. This is a great first step, but what I am talking about is going that extra step; going “behind” these dashboards and auto reports to tap into the raw data being generated.

The real key to being successful at mining data is to be creative. Don’t be afraid to draw on your expertise in the transportation business to ask questions that can’t be answered by standard reports or dashboards. This will uncover your hidden pain points.

Creative thinking and using data mining software tools allow you to explore the data in different ways. That creativity includes combining different factors and cross-tabulating different variables to identify new patterns or trends.

There are a number of reasons for mining fleet data, including identifying the appropriate lifecycle for each asset in the fleet or the best OEM for your application. You can also mine data to help measure driver retention, improved fuel economy, cost-benefit analysis of warranty, repair frequency, and fleet planning/asset retirement.

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. It’s okay to start small. A cost-benefit analysis of warranty is a good first attempt at data mining. Look at specific VMRS codes and see what you spent on various components over a specified period of time. Then look at the cost of a warranty for the same time period. Based on what you’ve uncovered about how much the component is costing you in maintenance and repair, you’ll be able to determine if the warranty is worth purchasing.

As you get more comfortable with the data and your creativity starts to kick in, you can begin combining different types of information and start asking more complex questions. Questions like, “What is the appropriate lifecycle for an asset?” The answer lies in combining miles driven with maintenance costs, fuel economy degradation as the vehicle ages, the fuel economy of a new truck, depreciation or fixed expense on your current vehicle, and the value of the used vehicle.

If you go behind the dashboards and automatic reports and tap into the raw data itself to help find further new savings, the opportunities are endless.

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Terry Mulreany
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tmulreany@monitordaily.com
Frank Battista
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fbattista@monitordaily.com

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