Why Telematics?

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Getting data directly from vehicles is interesting, as long as you know what to do with it. PHOTO ShutterStock

Telecommunications technologies allow you to extract the wealth of data from the vehicles in your fleet. Where to start?

In a Sustainable Fleet Technology webinar series, telematics experts and fleet managers shared their tips for optimal use of this technology.

Mike MacComiskey of Advantage Asset Tracking, an agent for Geotab solutions, began by tracing the history of this technology and concluding that today we are a long way from a simple GPS that tracks the vehicle.

“Knowing where the vehicle is in real-time is very helpful, but now we can know its condition and the driver’s behaviour. I think before partnering with a vendor, the manager needs to clearly identify their goals. Then ask the vendor to set up a demo, a pilot project for a few months with your real data to see what they can offer. The decision can’t be made simply after visiting their booth.”

Otherwise, the manager could end up with useless modules or interesting solutions that do not meet his needs.

Knowing where to go

He recommends that the company also clearly identifies who will be responsible for managing this information and sharing it with the various departments that need it.

MacComiskey also stresses the importance of involving employees before implementation and working transparently with the union where appropriate to avoid the negative perception of a ‘Big Brother’.

He concludes by reiterating the importance of establishing the targets to be reached before even considering telematics solutions.

“Do you want to reduce overall fleet management costs, cut fuel bills, reduce accidents, better schedule preventive maintenance? Validate your game plan before you meet with potential vendors and let them demonstrate that they have the solutions for you.”

Alex Alfonso manages the fleet for the City of Miami, Florida.

“We are talking about 8,500 vehicles of all categories. Our starting point was to know where our utility trucks and cars were located on our territory in real-time,” says the manager.

“But now we can go much further. We can integrate several sources of information with the data coming from our vehicles. For example, we can determine which parts are statistically on the verge of breaking down or link the vehicle with our fuel budget in real-time.”

Guide us

To integrate telematics into its management tools, Evan Speer of California State Utilities did it differently.

“We met with various vendors and asked them, with their experience, what areas we could save the most money if we opted for their platform. Then, once we made our choice, we worked with that partner to help us implement guides for our employees and managers.”

The simple fact of having a clear mandatory seatbelt rule in its vehicles has helped to change behaviour.

“But we have to be transparent. We told all our teams that there was a problem in this area. Too many injuries were the result of this omission. We wanted to correct the situation by supporting our safety rules with the implementation of telematics in the vehicles.

“Behaviour changed quickly, and we could identify and support the few who were not willing to do so. The same goes for excessive speed or engines left running unnecessarily when the truck remains stationary for a long time.”

Where are the savings?

Sam Lamerato of Public Fleet Advisors rounded out the discussion by going over some important points.

This telematics solution provider puts the burden of proof on the supplier: “You have your objectives in hand. Meet with a vendor and ask them to demonstrate that telematics will be cost-effective for your fleet. Make sure all costs are clearly stated.

“Then, make sure your administrative structure is capable of handling those results. When a signal of impending failure is sent to your offices, who will respond?”

One thing is certain: the speakers agreed that telematics, when used in a planned and structured manner, has a direct positive impact on the time spent on fleet management, on the frequency of breakdowns, on the utilization rate of all light and heavy vehicles and the safety practices of drivers.

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