An essential fleet tool

From the June 2021 print edition

Today, managing your vehicle assets is all about data. Data will give you all the details that you need to make the right choices about your fleet. It’s a data driven approach; the principal focus with such an approach is to base your decisions on facts.

As you might have heard, the devil is in the details. One way to get the data you need is to use vehicle telematics. This tool will be able to get you the information you need to:

  • Right-size your fleet
  • Track driver behaviours
  • Achieve your preventive maintenance goals
  • Reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • Support your lifecycle analysis

Rightsizing your fleet
The definition of rightsizing your fleet includes the following components: having the right number and right kind of vehicles, having them at the right location, as well as at the right time.

While you can make this analysis without a telematics tool, you will not be able to get the same calibre of information, especially at the right time.

That analysis will also confirm if you have enough vehicles, if you need more or, as in most cases, whether your fleet has too many vehicles. As mentioned, you can achieve this analysis without telematics. But by using such technology, you will be able to illustrate, with scientific facts, a clear picture of the state of your fleet.

Once that’s done, you are still just at the beginning of the process. You will be challenged by the end users of the vehicles. My advice is to take the time to prepare top management, including your own boss, and present to them a blueprint of the continuous improvement approach and how telematics fits in.

Driver behaviour
Driver behaviour is all about how users utilize vehicle assets. Without telematics, you will have little data to produce a scoreboard for each driver. You will not be able to measure speed, idling time, harsh braking, fast starts or anything else.

With a scoreboard, each driver will have a monthly report that can be compared to the group in which you driver belongs. If you have more than one driver per vehicle, you will be able to identify each driver’s performance.

In my experience, I can confirm that without telematics, it is impossible to reduce excessive speed from users. You might even face legal actions that could have a major impact on your organization.
If you have some problematic drivers, you can access the right data to take action directly with them. You will be able to present facts regarding their driving behaviour.

With telematics, you will be able to get more specific details when an accident occurs. You will be able to demonstrate to your insurer that you’ve taken steps to get control of your vehicle. In fact, you will
be able to provide an input into your risk management policy.

Finally, telematics will offer you the possibility to geofence your vehicle, so you will make sure that the vehicle stays within a specific territory.

OEM versus service providers
Now let’s discuss telematics products. We should distinguish between two major options. First, most OEMs have their own tool, including all the support a fleet would need, such as a dashboard to track your fleet asset and produce driver scoreboards. The main advantage with their products is the integrity of the data.

The other option is to use tools developed by a third party or service provider. Their products are developed like the OEM to have the same features, but they need an agreement to include them in their solution. Some OEMs have preferred services providers.

Your decision on which of those two options to select will also be influenced by the type of fleet you are managing. For example, do you have only cars or heavy vehicles?

Preventive maintenance
With telematics, you will be able to reach your maintenance program goals by using the input of the data, especially for heavy vehicles or specialized equipment. Telematics will send alerts on when mechanical components require maintenance, so there will be heads up.

Reduce greenhouse gas
With telematics, you can get the idling time of your asset. Some telematics providers differentiate good idling from bad idling. This is included in the scoreboard. There is a lot to save.

Lifecycle analysis
Almost all the data that you will received can be converted in cost. You can then use it in your lifecycle analysis. Finally, with the arrival of electric vehicles (EVs), you will need to be aware of the driver’s behavior; telematics should give you the needed data.

Roger Constantin is a fleet management expert. Reach him at [email protected]