Managing a fleet, whether large or small, requires a keen eye on numerous elements to ensure everything runs smoothly. From optimizing routes and ensuring proper vehicle maintenance to prioritizing driver safety, there’s a lot on the plate. Technology, training and regular evaluations play a significant role in streamlining these processes.

Yet, in the shadow of these prominent factors, there’s a basic but pivotal task – overseeing vehicle keys. On the surface, it may appear to be a straightforward responsibility, but overlooking fleet key control systems can disrupt even the most organized fleet operations and result in major challenges.

Let’s unfold why key management deserves your attention and how it can impact your fleet’s efficiency and transport cybersecurity.

Understanding the problem

For fleet vehicles, a key isn’t just a tool to ignite the engine; it represents access, control and the trust put in a driver or operator.

In larger fleets (potentially with thousands of vehicles), the task of managing, distributing, tracking and safeguarding keys can spiral into a tough one. Keys can be misplaced during shift changes, misallocated or even forgotten within vehicles. These mishaps then become the seeds for larger, more impactful disruptions, such as:

  • Operational inefficiencies: When a key goes missing, it’s not just a minor hiccup—it triggers a domino effect of delays that ripple through the entire fleet. The stalled vehicle not only loses valuable road time, but it also impacts the driver’s earning potential and the fleet’s bottom line. Efficient key management is critical to keep vehicles moving and revenues flowing.
  • Transport cybersecurity concerns: The practice of using identical keys for an extensive fleet poses a great security risk, especially if a driver is dismissed, or they fail to return the key/claim it’s lost. Such unmonitored access could lead to unauthorized use or theft of vehicles carrying sensitive materials, creating not only safety risks but also potentially severe insurance liabilities.
  • Economic implications: The shift to advanced electronic keys and fobs in modern fleet vehicles carries hefty costs, both in terms of replacements and the downtime involved. When a key goes missing, the delays are compounded by the need for a locksmith’s services. For many large fleets, this has necessitated having locksmiths readily available on-site, which is an additional operational expense.

Real-life example: A break-in reveals a massive transport cybersecurity flaw

Every business or institution understands the fundamental value of security. However, it’s not until a crucial oversight or mistake is highlighted that the true cost and potential risks become apparent.

In 2016, a break-in occurred at a city tire shop in Alaska. This alone was a concern but the real shock, however, was the discovery that certain patrol cars of the Anchorage Police Department (APD) had identical keys. If a criminal could access one, they could potentially have access to many.

While none of the police vehicle keys were stolen during the burglary, the initial confusion surrounding the number of accounted-for keys led to panic. The underlying problem? Different models of patrol cars within the APD shared the same key. This vulnerability meant that a single key could provide access to sensitive equipment like police radio devices, computers and firearms.

While the incident in question involved patrol cars, this scenario is far from unique to law enforcement. In the world of heavy-duty truck fleets, the practice of using a single key fob across numerous vehicles is not uncommon. Such a system, while seemingly convenient, opens up Pandora’s box of security issues.

Imagine a scenario where just one key fob falls into the wrong hands; it could grant access to a whole line of trucks, along with their valuable cargo and onboard technology. This isn’t just about losing a piece of metal or plastic – it’s about the potential breach of high-value assets, network security, personal data and specialized equipment. The ripple effects are manifold, from the immediate risk of theft to the profound implications for insurance and liability.

The key replacement costs

Realizing the gravity of this oversight, the APD faced a daunting task – replacing the locks and keys for 400 patrol cars, ensuring that each car had a unique key set for the doors, ignition and trunk. Given the urgency of the situation, a waiver was signed to fast-track the locksmithing process and the contract amounted to nearly $140,000!

Beyond the direct financial implications, this incident brought forth a considerable reputational cost. The story was covered by local media, highlighting the security vulnerability of the police fleet to the public. This raised questions about the department’s overall approach to security and why such an issue hadn’t been addressed earlier.

The incident shows just how crucial it is to have robust key management and a reliable system for safeguarding assets, equipment and people.

The (digital) key for fleet management, its safety and efficiency

Introducing a purpose-build digital key solution for fleets that enables multiple drivers to share vehicles, without the need for physical key handovers. All they need is a piece of specialized hardware in their vehicles and a mobile application.

What makes the digital key stand out? It offers fleet managers unparalleled control, with the ability to dictate when, where and by whom a vehicle can be accessed. Fleet managers can ensure their operations run like clockwork since these keys are transmitted directly to a driver’s smartphone. Granting access becomes a breeze and it aids the flow of operations.

But it doesn’t end there. The digital key’s capabilities are limitless. Want to set up access for specific time slots? Done. Need to revoke access immediately? Just a tap away. This technology simplifies key management and enhances your fleet with security, minimizing risks and bolstering efficiency.

Join the keyless revolution

In this rapidly evolving world, staying ahead of challenges is essential. Embracing solutions like digital key for fleet management can be the difference between a thriving operation and one that’s constantly putting out fires.

Looking to delve deeper into the challenges of fleet operations and the solutions this technology offers? In that case, the white paper “The 7 key challenges fleets face and a solution to them all,” is must-read.

It’s time for fleet operators to turn the key to innovation and efficiency.