About 60 to 80 percent of the cars sold in 2017 contained installed telematics. According to data from JATO Dynamics, around 86.05 million units of passenger vehicles, vans, pickups and light commercial vehicles were sold during that same year. Potentially 68.04 million vehicles worldwide currently use telematics and the number is growing rapidly.
With telematics technology becoming more accessible and necessary, companies are realizing the importance of investing in a telematics solution for their fleet and picking the right provider. Just as passenger cars are increasingly coming with telematics built-in, there are opportunities for trucking companies as well.
There are many articles that list what to look for in a provider and how to choose a telematics solution but oftentimes the focus falls on features such as driver behavior monitoring, live tracking, reporting and so on. These features are indeed extremely important. However, if you do not have a telematics partner to guide you through using these features to achieve your unique Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and troubleshoot issues long after installation, there’s a good chance that you will not achieve maximum Return on Investment (ROI).
Why Service for Life Matters
Not many companies can offer their customers “Service for Life” – a category of customer service that goes way beyond sales, implementation and troubleshooting. This holistic approach – which can in fact be described as more of a partnership – involves Account Management, Customer Care and other teams working proactively with customers throughout the terms of their contracts to ensure their business objectives and KPIs are met.
These objectives could include saving money, improving safety, reducing fuel consumption or increasing vehicle utilization. So, if you’re in the process of sourcing a telematics provider or switching over to a new one, ask them whether they offer the implementation, data capture, support and success services on a Service for Life level. Implementation services telematics doesn’t just start and end with the software.
The software can only provide ROI if proper planning and implementation is done beforehand. Before you go full speed ahead, a true telematics partner should be able to schedule a demo of their telematics solution for you. The provider gets an opportunity to practically showcase what they’ve been telling you and prevents you from deciding too hastily.
Your provider should also use this opportunity to demonstrate their expertise by helping you define your fleet’s goals and sets appropriate expectations. If you do not know what you want to achieve with a telematics system, then you will not know what to measure once installation is done. And you can only improve what you measure. For example, if your goal is to reduce fuel costs, your provider should be able to tell you what features are vital to achieving that goal and how to properly incorporate them.
What to Look For
When communicating with you, your telematics partner must use their expertise, your fleet’s history and current status (such as vehicle utilization and operating expenses) to uncover your KPIs and then guide your fleet towards how to use their system to achieve these. Any telematics-related decisions should be made in a way that is future-proof so that any potential changes in goals don’t necessitate a complete (sometimes expensive) overhaul of the system.
Training is also an essential part of implementation services. After the system is installed, drivers and other relevant employees must be given in-depth training (by experts in the field) on what the features are and how to use them appropriately in real-life situations.
These experts must also explain why the system is necessary in the first place and how it will benefit those who engage with it. Even better is the provision of documentation to go along with this training, which should be used for future reference as well as refresher courses to ensure the system is continuously being used as it should be.
In the end, implementation services should help encourage driver buy-in and acceptance, too. This is important as it:
- Develops a sense of accountability amongst drivers;
- Motivates drivers to care about the fleet’s success;
- Creates an open channel of communication between drivers and management, and
- Encourages drivers to give insight to management only they can provide.
Aside from training, your telematics provider should make driver scoring, incentive schemes and the creation of feedback channels for your drivers a part of their implementation service.
Keep Data Capture in Mind
Fleets accumulate an enormous amount of data every day. This data can include everything from GPS locations and fuel economy to vehicle handling and information about accidents. This data can ultimately help to improve driver behavior, reduce accidents, improve efficiency, ensure compliance and much more. So, it stands to reason that data is extremely important to the success of a fleet, but only if that data is correctly and timeously collected, disseminated, stored and analyzed.
Truck drivers are frequently on the road, so it can become difficult to keep in contact and exchange information. That’s why a telematics partner should be able to offer an integrative communication network for your fleet. This type of network serves several purposes including dispatching jobs in real-time, providing navigation, relaying alerts and notifications, and sending messages. Not only should members of your fleet have the opportunity to communicate freely amongst themselves and with other colleagues but there also needs to be a direct line of communication from you to the provider and vice versa
The above is made smoother and easier with the addition of data capture and relay devices and features. These can include vehicle recorders, driver displays, and audible dashboard alerts and notifications. All these types of devices need to be hardy to withstand harsh conditions on the road as well as daily handling while still capturing and relaying data as accurately and speedily as possible.
Making sure that your provider makes use of cloud-hosted services will serve as assurance that your fleet’s data can be recovered easily, should something go wrong. With data in the cloud, you get the added benefits of accessibility, scalability and security. It also serves as peace of mind that the technology used in cloud offerings is more than likely always up to date.
The Importance of Support Services
There should always be avenues open for you to receive support on multiple levels. This support should cover basic technical support functions, troubleshooting, access to experts and, a helpdesk that handles difficult or more advanced queries. Of course, an issue, error or question can arise at any time so having access to customer care 24/7 is essential so you don’t lose any downtime. What’s more is knowing that when an issue is not sufficiently resolved that there are escalation paths that you can follow and they are clearly indicated.
A telematics provider must be your partner in striving for future success. Their goal must be to continually look for ways to improve your experience and do assessments where necessary without the need for prompting.
Your provider must always be up to date on best practices, the procedures that are accepted or prescribed as being the most correct or most effective. Using this knowledge, they can make sure that you are utilizing the telematics system as efficiently as possible, using the features correctly and using the latest methods as prescribed by your industry.
Another important factor to look at is how often a telematics provider brings out new products or improves on the products they currently offer. You get access to the latest technology to manage your fleet if this is the case. A provider that is stagnant in product development means that they may not be interested in trying to improve on what they currently offer or don’t keep up with industry trends.
Integration services are also vital. Where integrations are made available, a telematics system is automatically more flexible. Add-ons help to personalize a telematics system to suit a fleet’s specific needs instead of trying to force a one-size-fits-all approach. Another important aspect is review. To improve you must know where you currently stand in comparison to where you were. Your provider must deliver you either an annual or quarterly report so that you can discuss where improvements can be made. This report should give concrete statistics and numbers to support any conclusions made and should be transparent.
Telematics provides the best results when it is used over the long term. Since you’re going to be in a partnership with a telematics provider for an extended period, your decision should not only rely on the telematics technology but also heavily on the ancillary services provided. Look for a provider who helps, holistically, until the day the contract ends. Completing your due diligence will ensure endless ROI opportunities, long-term guidance and consulting, and reporting excellence.Image Source: geotab.com