Fleet management just got a bit easier thanks to technological advances in fleet tracking systems. These advances come courtesy of an interdisciplinary IT field known as telematics.
Telematics represents the marriage of two technologies: telecommunications and informatics. In simplest terms, it involves the combined use of mobile devices, satellite technology and the internet to track, compile and analyze data about remote objects such as vehicles.
Telematics and fleet tracking systems
Fleet tracking systems integrate a special type of management software that includes GPS (Global Positioning System) technology. The typical system consists of three components:
- a vehicle-fitted tracking device
- a server where tracking data is stored
- a user interface that displays data
Fleet managers can then conveniently view the collective data and take any corrective action necessary to rectify problems.
Types of interface data
The GPS component of the system gives managers instant data about each vehicle’s whereabouts. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Telematics fleet management systems monitor much more:
- Fuel consumption. Fleet managers can track things like idling times in order to plan more efficient routes that reduce overall mileage and conserve fuel expenditures.
- Vehicle conditions. Diagnostic data about tire pressure, battery status and engine temperature are conveyed in real time, resulting in greater efficiency on the road, reduced costs and higher resale values.
- Delivery schedules. Up-to-the-minute information about driver status allows managers to predict the timeliness of deliveries. If a driver is going to be late, for example, the manager may have time to reroute a different truck to the delivery site, resulting in a happier customer.
- Risky driver behaviors. Managers can detect and correct problematic speeding, aggressive braking, harsh cornering and more. Some insurance companies even grant premium reductions to companies that monitor this data through telematics.
- Unauthorized vehicle use. Managers who rely on employee-generated time cards get a clearer picture of vehicle start and stop times. Those who don’t deal with time cards also benefit from information about off-hour use.
Managers access data about their fleets either via a mobile app or the cloud. Some fleet tracking software is mainly used for the collection of information in real time; others store it passively for future retrieval. While passive storage typically costs less, real-time information dashboards provide managers with up-to-the-minute telematics data about what’s happening in their business.
Fleet tracking system benefits
One of the most significant benefits of fleet vehicle telematics is a psychological one: when employees know they’re being monitored, they gravitate toward better behavior.
For example, a 2013 study by Andrew McAfee of MIT, Daniel Snow of Brigham Young University and Lamar Pierce of Washington University showed that restaurant profits grew by up to seven percent after the installation of employee-monitoring software.
Pierce stated things succinctly: “The same people who are stealing from you can be set up to succeed.”
And so it is with the use of fleet vehicle telematics. But increased driver accountability is not the only perk. Others advantages are:
- Enhanced safety on the road. This pertains to both intentional and accidental driver behavior, ranging from speeding and aggressive driving to nodding off at the wheel. Some software packages sound a “wake-up” alarm when the system detects erratic or unsafe behaviors.
- Increased satisfaction. Customers are happier when they have a better idea of when to expect deliveries. Delivery drivers are happier when they feel safe on the road and can enjoy working for a company with upstanding business practices.
- Asset tracking and lone-worker tracking. By tracking employee behaviors (including lone-worker behaviors), driving conditions, and the vehicles themselves, managers feel more in control of their assets—because they are more in control.
Due to this vehicle tracking, companies enjoy better route planning, improved vehicular maintenance and shortened emergency response times.
Telematics helps individual fleet vehicles perform more efficiently, but that’s not the only good news for fleet owners. The emergence of V2Gov communication will also benefit business by optimizing on-road activity. Some examples include:
- Fleets that subscribe to state-run electronic toll collection (ETC) platforms can cruise through toll collection points within their state without stopping. For now, the benefits of this system remain available on a state-by-state basis; however, the eventual establishment of a national ETC standard is under discussion and would further streamline fleet travel.
- Both fleet managers and governmental agencies can use an automated vehicle identification (AVI) system to track and trace vehicles. For example, some weighing bridges use AVI to identify and screen trucks before allowing them to proceed. This saves time and helps businesses and law enforcement work more efficiently.
The typical fleet vehicle travels an average of 20,000 to 30,000 miles per year. When you add an entire fleet’s fuel costs to other expenditures—maintenance, insurance, licensing, equipment, staffing and others—it comes as no surprise that the operation of these vehicles is a multi-million dollar industry. With so much at stake, it only makes sense to maximize efficiency in this sector whenever possible. The inclusion of telematics is therefore a factor that fleet managers will want to carefully considered.