An ingenious marriage between telecommunications and information technology is making fleet management a whole lot smarter. Here and abroad, auto makers are working to find solutions for fleet managers in terms of fuel efficiency and user friendliness. Auto giants Ford and Toyota have both jumped on the bandwagon, partnering with Telogis and Microsoft, respectively.


According to Consumer Reports, Ford’s Crew Chief Telematics system will help fleet managers cut their fuel costs by 10 to 20 percent. The new partnership will allow the auto maker to continue providing its customers with ways to remotely monitor the location, maintenance needs and operation of their fleets, but also introduce GPS tracking functionality which allows managers to keep an eagle’s eye on their techs in the field. From fuel consumption and adherence to the designated route, to safety belt usage and speeding, fleet managers can virtually track every move their workers make. A little Big Brother-ish? Maybe. However, it’s a proven way to make sure business is getting done in the most cost effective and fuel efficient way possible.

Will You be my “Toyota Friend”?

Meanwhile, Toyota’s partnership with Microsoft and the subsequent formation of Toyota Media Services will offer similar services for electric and plug-in hybrid fleets next year. Toyota Media Services has even launched a social network – called Toyota Friend and initially only available its Japanese customers –  to connect customers to their cars, the brand and their dealership. The company will allow customers to use a variety of mobile devices (laptops, smartphones, GPS, etc.) to monitor maintenance needs and locate nearby charging stations.

These developments only give further evidence of the undeniable effect advancing technology systems, combined with the ubiquity of mobile devices, have on fleet management. As fuel prices rise, there’s no denying that new solutions are in order. Any system that helps managers cut costs, improve fuel efficiency and provide their clients with great service should be a welcome addition to every fleet manager’s technology toolbox.

ABOUT Sara Suddes

San Francisco-based contributor Sara Suddes writes frequently about small business, the economy and technology.