Guest Column | May 26, 2020

Here's How Fleet Management Benefits From Telematics

By Megan R. Nichols

Field Service Utilities

Data is one of the most valuable resources a company has at its disposal. For businesses that rely on large fleets of vehicles or heavy equipment, however, it can be difficult to collect, collate, and act on vital information.

High-quality and recent data is essential for optimal fleet management, especially in times of uncertainty when regulations, customer demands, and outside disruptions are shifting and forcing companies to rapidly reevaluate their routes and ask drivers to work longer hours.

Telematics — which is the use of internet-connected devices and sensors to monitor how vehicles are operating — can have significant advantages for companies that want to manage and optimize fuel use, idle time, and route choice. Discover below how organizations can benefit from fleet telematics.

1. Reduced Vehicle Idling

In the past few years, many cities have passed legislation that limits — or outright bans — vehicle idling within the city limits. With this in mind, many telematics-enabled fleet management solutions now automatically track driver idle time. This allows management to cut back on idling.

One construction company was able to reduce vehicle idling times by 37 percent after adopting a telematics solution. In turn, this decreased their overall fuel spending by $18,000 in just one quarter. These same solutions can help keep drivers compliant with regulations.

2. Improved Driver Safety

Telematics solutions also can help drivers stay compliant with hours of service (HOS) regulations. If drivers are approaching or over their maximum hours of service, a telematics solution can automatically notify them and help them plan a stop or take necessary breaks.

These automated HOS tracking solutions also can keep drivers on top of new or adjusted policies. During the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, HOS requirements were lifted for some truck drivers transporting goods deemed to be essential. A telematics platform that automatically tracks driver hours can skip notifications for those flagged as exempt.

Ensuring compliance with HOS regulations and similar standards also can keep drivers safe. The number of hours spent on the road has a high correlation with crashes related to driver fatigue and traffic accidents. Keeping hours within HOS requirements can help administrative staff reduce the likelihood of accidents across the fleet.

3. Performance Optimization

Telematics can unlock advanced routing strategies for fleets. Companies that manage their fleet with telematics can use minute-to-minute data to analyze the effectiveness of pre-planned routes, or even adjust their routes as circumstances change to improve efficiency and turnarounds.

With standard routing, a company vehicle likely makes the same stops in the same order every day. With other approaches, like dynamic routing, they’re organized based on current delivery needs instead. The paths drivers take receive ongoing adjustments to maximize efficiency, get items to customers as quickly as possible, and minimize fuel costs and miles driven.

Route optimization with telematics also helps companies close the gap between the planned route and the path drivers actually take. A course that is optimal in theory isn’t always the best one available out in the real world. Road closures and heavy traffic can force drivers to take detours or they can extend the length of a trip due to traffic density.

Telematics allows you to compare actual routes against planned routes. This lets management teams identify gaps in their planning and then adjust their strategy to maximize efficiency.

The same sensors also enable speed limiters on company vehicles. Two of the costliest issues for fleets today are accidents and excessive fuel consumption, both of which can be caused by speeding. With telematics monitoring, drivers and management can receive an alert when a vehicle goes over the maximum speed, making corrective action easier to take and safety measures easier to enforce.

4. Fleet Health Monitoring

Telematics sensors can provide early detection and warnings about common issues with vehicles and heavy equipment. They also can notify drivers if vehicle failure or damage is imminent. This data can be collected by a fleet management platform and collated with other information that’s relevant to vehicle health — like engine hours and miles driven. Companies can then display these details in one place with a fleet management dashboard.

Predictive fleet maintenance goes even further. This strategy uses predictive algorithms trained on fleet health and vehicle data to detect unusual operating conditions — like power resets, sudden acceleration, or unusual vibrations — that can signify the need for maintenance. This setup can significantly reduce maintenance costs and downtime due to unexpected vehicle failure.

Moreover, using technology to make maintenance predictive helps vehicle investments go further. Proactive maintenance means less wear and tear, which means vehicles stay in your fleet for longer.

5. Improved Business Communication

Most telematics sensors include GPS tracking capabilities, which means you will always know where each vehicle in your fleet is at any given time. If a client needs an immediate update on their shipment or an estimate on an arrival time, you’ll be able to provide them with highly accurate data within moments.

This location information also can help optimize your business processes and workflows. If you always know where a shipment is and how fast it’s moving, you can let the dock manager at a distribution center know whether it’s running on time, delayed, or ahead of schedule. As a result, they can shift their workers as necessary to maximize dock efficiency and use the available time wisely.

Applications for Telematics in Fleet Management

With the right data in place, fleet management can become a much more effective process. Administrative staff and managers can keep an eye on fleet health, manage driver hours, and keep drivers compliant with the latest changes to regulations.

Having access to this information is crucial during times when the supply chain is facing outside disruptions. Eliminating the variables under your control can go a long way.

Telematics is an excellent way for fleet managers to get the accurate and targeted data they need to manage their fleets properly. Because these devices can collect and transmit moment-to-moment information about fleet vehicles, they allow managers to make the most informed decisions possible.

About The Author

Megan R. Nichols is an industrial writer for sites like Thomas and IoT Evolution World. Megan also publishes easy to understand manufacturing articles on her blog, Schooled By Science. Keep up with Megan by subscribing to her blog.