The General Services Administration is reaping the benefits of data in motion in managing the expansive fleet of vehicles the agency either owns or leases, using the vast volumes of data it gathers to improve the efficiency of the fleet.
GSA’s fleet is among the largest in the world, supporting more than 210,000 vehicles (more than FedEx has) for both civilian and military customers in domestic and overseas locations. Managing those vehicles efficiently involves a lot of data from multiple sources that needs to be collected, sorted, analyzed and put to use.
The data can, for instance, help GSA Fleet Management lower expenses through better management of contracts and identify opportunities for sharing vehicles among groups rather than over-allocating cars that may spend most of their time sitting unused. And it helps agencies meet reporting requirements under the web-based Federal Automotive Statistical Tool (FAST) and GSA’s Asset Level Data (ALD) systems for reporting to FAST.
The key to making this work is data in motion, which allows the processing and use of data as it’s being created or when it’s in transit, in order to better manage vehicle use, in line with the Federal Data Strategy and Executive Order 13834 on efficient federal operations.
“While the data needs are diverse across the organization and federal government, Fleet requires reliable and robust data systems and tools to manage vehicles across their entire lifecycle,” a GSA spokesperson said.
That data includes information from a range of sources, as well as from locations around the world, including original equipment manufacturers, Fleet’s payment card provider and GSA’s telematics program.
Getting data in gear
The traditional approach to data collection is to dump it into a storage system that might be siloed from other systems and then send queries to that data when necessary. It wasn’t a particularly fast system for making use of data and had a few other limitations, such as having to clean up the data to accommodate complex business rules, according to GSA. It also had difficulty interoperating with other GSA systems, such as the fleet drive-thru safety program for leased vehicles. The different data sources and requirements could result in confusion and errors when reporting from the two systems was combined.
With a data in motion platform from Confluent, which provides data in motion services to a variety of federal agencies, GSA has been able to get its data not only on the same page but a lot more quickly, accessing data while it’s still flowing through the system, rather than waiting to send individual queries to separate databases. Confluent is a managed service, employing tools such as Apache Kafka for real-time processing of streams of data. It’s designed to collect and process events as they happen, allowing customers to make immediate use of the information.
“These interfaces enable GSA to provide safe and reliable vehicles to our customers,” the GSA spokesperson said.
The agency is better able to track compliance with federal regulations, replace vehicles according to schedules that maximize value to the taxpayer, perform electronic recall management and analyze data to decrease maintenance and repair costs while reducing vehicle down time, the spokesperson said.
The agency has created the Federal Fleet Inventory Tool, which pulls data from FAST and provides robust data visualization into the inventory and operating costs of federal vehicles. Fleet managers and users can access the data in an effort to make better management decisions.
GSA Fleet also incorporates telematics, which collects and analyzes data such as maintenance, driver behavior, reporting, and fuel use and idling, with an eye toward lowering costs. The agency said telematics has helped it reduce risky driving behaviors, finds opportunities for car-sharing, saves time conducting market research and avoids unnecessary contracting expenses. It’s also helped it meet ALD and FAST reporting requirements.
By increasing the speed and accessibility of data in motion, agencies like GSA and those working with the Federal Fleet Management System (FedFMS) can respond more quickly to the available information and make better, faster decisions.
“We provide customer agencies with the data they require to effectively and efficiently manage their fleets,” the agency spokesperson said.
Data in motion allows an agency to connect its systems and applications to supply ready access in real time to the data its needs to make better decisions and improve efficiencies. In this case, it has resulted in the GSA getting better mileage out of its FedFMS.