A powerful tool

From the October 2022 print edition

The use of telematics by fleets around the globe is expected to increase by 25 per cent per year, according to The Gartner 2021 Market Guide.

This increase will come as more fleets adopt telematics for traditional uses such as monitoring vehicle location, mileage and idling and driver behaviour, as well as emerging uses like identifying candidates for and tracking the results of fleet electrification.

The adoption of telematics is increasing because the technology is proven, and the return on investment (ROI) is almost assured. In a 2021 market research report of the transportation and services industries, Bobit reported that fleets experienced an average eight per cent decrease in fuel costs, 11 per cent reduction in accident costs, and a 10 per cent decrease in labor costs.

Telematics in traditional roles
The top benefits of telematics in traditional roles include:

Monitoring vehicle location to prevent theft and ensure productivity.
Vehicle tracking is a two-edged sword. Organizations naturally want to know where their assets
are at all times. At the same time, employees are resistant to the notion of being under constant surveillance. Vehicle monitoring is not a problem when employees are where they are supposed to be, performing work functions. Organizations need to emphasize the considerable advantages of vehicle tracking for employee safety and vehicle recovery in case of theft.

Tracking vehicle utilization to right-size the fleet.
One of the quickest ways to improve fleet productivity is through a formal utilization analysis. Telematics provides the data on vehicle movements, not just odometer readings, but how many trips the vehicle takes and how many hours it is away from its home location. This informs the decision to retain, rotate, pool, or eliminate an asset.

Reducing fuel costs due to idling, traffic, driver behaviour and poor maintenance.
Conventional fuels are usually the fleet’s biggest expense after depreciation. As such, its consumption should be closely monitored and reduced where possible. Telematics can help organizations understand their fuel spend and whether savings are possible due to excessive idling, poor routing, driver behaviour,
or even maintenance issues. With telematics, fleet managers have a tool to help determine the reasons behind high fuel consumption and take corrective actions.

Enhancing driver safety.
The most important resource an organization has is their employees. They must be protected with a commitment to vehicle safety, supported by telematics. Drivers are protected when the organization knows where they are, identifies when they are involved in risky behaviour, and takes formal steps to correct that behaviour.

Improving eco-driving habits.
Eco-driving describes the driver behaviours that prioritize safety and sustainability. All drivers should seek to maximize fuel efficiency by selecting the best routes, avoiding hard stops or fast accelerations and driving at a speed appropriate for conditions. Telematics can identify driver behaviour that need improvement and provide surveillance and data to help drivers improve.

Scheduling preventive and reactive maintenance at optimal times.
Well-maintained vehicles are more fuel-efficient and safer. Regular preventive maintenance (PM) is necessary to minimize the cost of downtime and potentially hazardous breakdowns on the road. Telematics can allow you to set custom parameters for PM inspections, so the organization complies with industry best practices.

Providing better customer service.
Customer service is of importance to both corporate and government fleets. Fleets only exist to support the primary operations of the organization. That organization cannot be supported if fleet vehicles are lost, inefficient or poorly maintained. Since telematics can help prevent this, it is a vital tool in ensuring high levels of customer service.

Telematics in electrification
There are clear benefits to using telematics for a variety of traditional fleet functions. As organizations seek to meet greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, telematics has an all-new purpose. In the quest to convert fleets to electric vehicles (EVs), telematics can be used to assess current fleet performance, identify candidates for EV conversion and monitor and assess results.

Assessment of current performance
Fleets can’t undertake EV conversion without a thorough understanding of current fleet systems, polices, utilization, operations, and costs. In this stage, telematics can assist in vehicle monitoring, mileage tracking, fuel tracking and establishing an emissions baseline. A utilization study should always be done prior to electrifying a fleet to ensure the fleet is the right-size before conversion efforts start.

Identifying EV conversion candidates
An analytical approach to EV conversion will have the best opportunity to decrease emissions while ensuring support to operations. Analysis should start with the existing fleet replacement
plan and always consider when units are due for replacement. Telematics can provide a range
of data to identity and prioritize vehicles for conversion. The data would include:

  • Domiciles of all vehicles
  • Frequency and length of trips
  • Time spent at work locations
  • Total fuel spend
  • Idling time
  • Scheduling of EV charging or petrol vehicle refuelling for optimal advantage
  • Route optimization
  • Total carbon emissions

Priority for electrification should be those vehicles that are due for replacement and those that will make the most difference – high mileage or frequent idle assets where an EV option currently exists.

Monitoring and assessing results
Telematics play an important role in the ongoing assessment of fuel and emissions reduction and compliance with net zero targets. A baseline should be set prior to an electrification plan being put in place so progress can be tracked, and adjustments made if targets are not being met.

Sometimes sustainable planning is done with the best intentions but gets sidetracked. To avoid this, creating a measurement framework from the start will ensure that sustainable improvements (or degradation) are tracked and reported to senior management at approved intervals.

Overall, telematics can help in every step of fleet electrification from the initial suitability assessment to goal attainment. Telematics are a powerful tool in both traditional and emerging rolls and their use will continue to grow.