Operations and Fleet Management as a section is at the very heart of Freight and Commercial Vehicle Operations. They can be defined as advanced systems aimed at simplifying and automating freight and fleet management operations at the institutional level. It is here that ITS, thus far, has had the biggest impact. This is particularly pronounced in terms of cost.
Fleet management covers the whole gamut of services, from the acquisition of vehicles, their day-to-day operation and maintenance, through to their disposal. It is beneficial to break this down further, into five areas:
Many of these activities inter-relate and should not be looked at in isolation. In particular, the hardware required is often similar (usually being based on the use of GPs-enabled vehicle location sensors), with the software making the differentiation between the different categories.
In order to optimise returns, it is essential that the freight and commercial vehicle sector utilises its assets efficiently in the collection and delivery of freight. This often means aiming to ensure full loads and high vehicle utilisation and requires an understanding of the different patterns of freight movements.
The urban environment is also at the forefront of a broader change. Aware of the problems of deliveries and logistics within cities in terms of vehicle size and time restrictions, several cities are trialling “Freight Distribution Centres” or “Freight Consolidation Centres” (FDC or FCCs). Here the larger, inter-urban delivery vehicles unload so that smaller shipments can be consolidated and delivered by smaller, environmentally friendly, vehicles. With fewer vehicles delivering to congested city centres, pollution, congestion and vehicle conflicts should all be reduced. The FCC can also offer a range of related services such as storage, sorting and recycling collection.
Whilst FCCs have been successful in some instances (such as the Broadmead Shopping Centre in Bristol in the UK, Bremen in Germany and Aalborg in Sweden) they require extensive cooperation between carriers, shippers and customers. Furthermore, outside of individual, small developments, there are yet to be trialled on a true city-wide basis. The coordination required and logistical challenges posed by broadening consolidation centres to entire regions has to be overcome. As the number of stakeholders and shipments increase so do the complexity of operations. Any software solutions that assist in scheduling will play a significant role in any growth of FCCs.
Full-load carriers and container transportation companies experience a different range of logistical challenges. Demands for empty vehicles tend to arrive dynamically and are difficult to forecast - and may require acceptance/refusal within a very short time window. Yet the supply of a suitable vehicle, tractor or crew is limited by their previous task and any scheduled future requirement. Each decision has an impact upon the future decisions that can be taken - and so, on the long-term efficiency and profitability of the operation. Longer distance freight movements have a high level of complexity. They are often affected by both: