Although some refer to advanced telematics systems as GPS systems or even mistake them for ELDs, the word telematics encompasses a whole host of different things.
Properly utilizing telematics isn’t just about tracking a vehicle’s location or logging time, telematics systems – whether in-house or outsourced – are generally robust software or web-based solutions that allow fleet managers and other decision makers to quickly access customizable reports, vehicle and truck driver alerts, virtual dashboards, maps, and a host of other tools used to fine-tune fleet operations.
But what’s a fleet to look for in such a system? With a host of providers out there all promising the best option, it can be tough to properly assess which solution is right for your fleet. Yet, this is the most important step of all.
There are basic options that should automatically be included into any self-respecting telematics solution:
- Vehicle/fleet fuel consumption;
- Vehicle alerts;
- Vehicle maintenance statuses;
- Attendant vehicle data and maintenance information;
- On-road truck driver performance;
- On-site vehicle location information;
- Route information, and;
- Fleet utilization data.
The fact is, most telematics system vendors know what the trucking industry needs. By the day, more providers come online, addressing needs the industry may not even know it needed addressed.
All of this is born out of the original target, one all fleets struggle with, whether big or small, and that’s fuel consumption.
Telematics to Save Fuel
Fuel is, after all, one of the largest operating experiences a fleet contends with. If there’s one thing that will make a motor carrier smile when they are spec’ing a vehicle or assessing operational efficiency, it’s finding ways to reduce fuel use.
Telematics providers contend that their solutions provide fleets with a measure of insight and visibility in many key areas, and especially fuel consumption, from idle time to out-of-route driving. Let’s look at each individually.
- Speeding: Every 5 mph over 50 mph adds twenty-four cents per gallon of fuel. Multiply that by the size of your fleet over the course of their lifetimes and you can see that it adds up to no small amount.
- Idling: When a vehicle runs idle, it wastes approximately one gallon per hour. It’s a veritable gas guzzler and the tractor doesn’t even need to be moving.
- Maintenance: A system that can give you insight into vehicle alerts and potential maintenance issues is a good find. Consider tire pressure. Under-inflated tires lower fuel economy by 0.2 percent for every 1 psi drop. That’s huge.
- Unauthorized Fuel Use: Whether it be through the unauthorized use of a vehicle or the improper use of a company fuel card, unauthorized use can be wiped out by using a card attached to a telematics solution.
- Out-of-Route Driving: The best way to figure out if a truck operator is taking the most fuel-efficient route is if a system figures it out for you. Finding the best route equals less vehicle wear-and-tear and decreased fuel consumption.
- Fleet Utilization: To get the most out of your vehicle’s time in service, you want to make sure it is always engaged in productive work. Telematics systems can provide valuable insight, which allows fleets to figure when the best times are to deploy certain fleet assets.
While saving on fuel and deploying useful data is important, there’s one other aspect that should sit above all else in the hierarchy: safety.
Putting the Safety into Telematics
If you are operating with workers who are out on the road, their safety, and that of those around them, should be at the top of anyone’s priority list. When an accident occurs, there are so many ways it impacts not just the fleet, but potentially the community the accident occurred in.
From reputation to litigation to loss of morale and lowered productivity, accidents also have a negative impact on your bottom line. So, what drives the accident, and how can you leverage technology to help lower them?
Let’s first look at the main two reasons most accidents occur: driving behavior and maintenance problems.
Truck drivers respond to training. They provide an outstanding level of service and performance when they are treated well and given the tools to succeed. Those tools come in the form of better training and When everything about what a vehicle is doing is being recorded, the data being analyzed, and behaviors trained to, it’s far easier to get buy-in from the truck drivers in your force.
Telematics allow you to better respond to issues that arise, say, if an engine blows or if there is an accident, even if that accident wasn’t caused by your truck driver. Having that immediate information is key to getting help quickly, getting in touch with the authorities and, of course, your truck driver.
Once the situation is under control, trucks with advanced telematics systems installed can yield a vast amount of data related to the incident. When combined with video and sensor systems, telematics deployment can provide you with the critical data you need to understand what happened in the event of an accident.
Addressing Productivity Through Technology
It’s important to immediately point out that telematics is designed to complement what the truck driver is doing, to help them stay engaged and even give them a tool to encourage their own development through interaction with the system.
Although regulations are in a state of flux because of recent political events, many fleets are still moving forward with technologies that let them easily remain in compliant with HOS, ELD and DVIR regulations. They are considering this as a the new normal, no matter who is in the Oval Office or occupies the halls of Congress.
Not only is compliance important, but so too is efficient route planning. One of the first things a fleet manager will want to know is how efficient the company vehicles and employees are throughout their day.
Could a load have been routed better? Is there a vehicle that spends a lot of its time sitting idle? These are the types of questions (see: symptoms) that can be addressed using advanced telematic systems and their attendant software programs.
One example could be a large, decentralized motor carrier that runs on either a service or delivery-based model. By utilizing a telematics system, the company can identify the nearest respondent to a call based on the vehicle requires, who the truck driver is and the tools on the truck, then plot the closest route to get there, all within a matter of a minute or two. This ensures a quick response, cutting down on lost time and needless driving.
It could essentially refine the best routes for each vehicle, depending on mileage and load. This would cut down on miles driven, fuel usage and wear-and-tear and company vehicles. It’s the basic principle of doing more, with less.
Said motor carrier could also use the same system to optimize their back-office duties, automating processes that before required a ton of paperwork and eliminating a huge number of hours in labor and paperwork handling.
Utilizing Telematics to Enhance Your Maintenance Game
When it comes to keeping your vehicles in good shape, there are two kinds of maintenance: scheduled and unscheduled. Here’s the secret: if you manage the first, you decrease the instance of the second.
Of course, any fleet manager will tell you the first thing on his or her mind is keeping downtime to a minimum. Downtime has a negative effect on everything else downstream in the operation, from customer service to how individual truck drivers are managed.
This is where automated maintenance procedures come into play. When you can use telematics in concert with your highly trained fleet technicians, the shop turns into something extraordinary.
Imagine your technicians sitting in an advanced shop setting, air-conditioned and cooled, they utilize their slim desktop and portable devices to manage fleet operations, all with the help of advanced data analytics and AI-assisted route-planning and load management systems.
When a shop supervisor can count on a complete understanding of all the factors that have an immediate impact on the uptime of vehicles under his or her prevue, it becomes far easier to turn reactive maintenance into preventative maintenance.
A shop technician can quickly and efficiently pull up oil temperature specs across a wide range of vehicles in the fleet at a moment’s notice. Even things as seemingly as small as individual tire pressure ranges on specific vehicles can all be tracked in real-time from a central operations center. Problems can be managed before they ever become bigger problems down the road.
Still, even as we extoll the virtues of new technology and the future of telematics, we understand that adoption time is still required. Not every motor carrier will adopt technologies at the same frequency or even use the same technology, which brings up another question. What will the standards be?
The fact is, many questions remain unanswered, but the promise of telematics rings true. There is a lot of potential in going digital. Will your fleet be ready?