Telematics makes your car safer, keeps you from getting lost, summons roadside assistance at the press of a button, routes you around accidents, auto-dials 911 if you're in the accident, and starts your EV charging at 2 a.m. when rates are cheapest. Those are a few of the features that make up vehicle telematics. But what is telematics? For most users, telematics means navigation, communications, safety, security, and increasingly infotainment.
Basically, telematics is a crash-resistant black box that receives wireless information, information more advanced than broadcast radio, and does something useful with it. Telematics doesn't have to include two-way communication, but most of the good stuff involves going both ways. Usually, there's an embedded cellular modem. Some of the telematics work can be handled by your connected smartphone.
The rise of telematics in the automotive industry has been a huge turning point for fleet efficiency and safety. As it continues to gain momentum, there are a few emerging trends to keep an eye on in the near future.
Data sits at the heart of telematics, but understanding that data and acting on it can be challenging. Expect to see telematics providers present customers with intelligent tools to help weed through raw data.
The unseating of 3G cellular networks is another trend that is likely to see a sharp rise as telematics providers connect to faster 4G or LTE networks. The switch is bound to trigger device replacements in a number of fleets still using 3G telematics systems over a decade old.
Telematics systems could look to improve integration capabilities with other services or software systems as demand for connected platforms increases. To create a more holistic fleet management system, fleet managers will want a telematics provider that seamlessly integrates with other parts of their business.
The Benefits Of Vehicle Telematics
All of us. The tech can be used for monitoring complete fleets of vehicles (everything from courier companies to emergency services) and even for tracking stolen cars. Increasingly it's going to be found integrated into 'connected' cars – think a situation where your cars breaks-down, and the AA is automatically alerted and sent data on your car's diagnostics – though the first wave will likely be car insurance firms desperate to offer 'usage-based insurance' policies.
There are a number of ways fleet managers can benefit from integrating a vehicle telematics system into their fleets. Topping the list are:
Vehicle tracking gives organizations visibility into the whereabouts of their vehicles by monitoring the movement or location of a vehicle through a GPS system. This is one of the most common applications of vehicle telematics and is particularly useful for companies that need to keep track of a fleet of vehicles. This same feature can also be used to track powered and unpowered assets, like trailers or reefers.
Most vehicle telematics systems are plugged directly into a vehicle's diagnostic port. This automatically pulls engine data—like fuel consumption, coolant temperature, or engine load—for fleet management teams to easily access. This is also a great way for fleet managers to set up a regular vehicle maintenance schedule. Vehicle telematics providers can identify vehicle faults so fleet managers can know when to bring a vehicle into the shop.
Because vehicle telematics systems monitor and collect data on vehicles, they can also be a great way to gain insight into driving habits. Fleet managers can also create training programs or individual coaching sessions based on telematics data, such as harsh braking or acceleration, to help increase driver safety on the road.
Insurance companies are also starting to use telematics information to accurately assess risk factors and modify insurance premiums accordingly.
Telematics can easily reduce fuel costs across a fleet by identifying trends in driver behaviour and route performance insights that can lead to major increases in fuel efficiency. Without visibility into how drivers are performing in their day-to-day, it can be challenging to coach them on fuel efficiency. Certain telematics systems can also connect fleet managers with drivers in real-time via messages so drivers can easily reroute in case of heavy traffic or another unexpected road delay.
Tracking driver behaviour could help you to identify areas of waste and act upon them accordingly, which ultimately helps towards reducing your fuel bill. Also, with the right fleet management solution, you'll be able to plan the most efficient route for each of your drivers at the touch of a button. This helps to reduce any unnecessary mileage.
Because they electronically and automatically track vehicle drive-time, telematics systems can make it easier to maintain ELD compliance. Fleet managers can use telematics systems to track records of duty status and certain providers.
Frequently Asked Questions
Telemetry in its restricted sense means a remote acquisition of information about an object, and to its wide extent – control over an object by means of data reception & analysis and transmission of the control commands back to an object.
Telematics control unit (TCU) is the embedded onboard system that controls wireless tracking, diagnostics and communication to and from the vehicle. These systems can be used in eCall crash notification, electronic tolling and vehicle tracking, among many others.
In the event of an accident, the integrated telematics module automatically sends an emergency signal to a help center, which attempts to contact the driver to provide the best possible assistance as quickly as possible.
If your vehicle is equipped with an automatic transmission, then it would have a transmission control module (TCM). This component is what the transmission uses to choose the ideal gear at any given time.
Other Features Of Telematics
The tracking system allows organizations to quickly realize many bottom-line benefits, including increased productivity, improved safety, and reduced costs. Whether you're still considering vehicle tracking or looking to switch from your current provider, it's essential to find a provider that meets all of your feature requirements. Not having the right features means you may be behind the curve and won't be able to compete in the long term.
Real-Time Location Tracking
Location tracking is at the foundation of fleet management. It's where the phrase "dots-on-a-map" was born. GPS vehicle tracking systems began with a need to know where vehicles and assets were at all times for numerous reasons. Awareness of where your drivers, vehicles, and equipment are at any given moment allows you to respond more rapidly to emergencies. It also enables you to make sure you send the right vehicles, people, and resources to the right places. More simply, the number one reason companies need real-time location tracking is for an anti-theft system. Many businesses see an instant, massive return on investment (ROI) even in one instance of recovering a stolen vehicle or asset.
However, not all fleet tracking systems are actually "real-time" solutions. Some providers only offer periodic updates of their GPS tracking devices. In short, they only send data every two minutes, three minutes, or even longer. So, if it's vital to your business to have actual real-time data, then you need to ask providers how often their tracking device updates. Finding this out is especially important in cases of anti-theft—seconds matter in scenarios of theft. Some vehicle tracking providers even offer tiered options where they charge more for faster updates, much like a cell phone company charges more the more data you use.
Fleet management customizable alerts are always at the top of the must-have vehicle tracking system features. Receiving real-time notifications regarding driving behaviour to vehicle diagnostics can open opportunities for reducing risk and improving efficiency, which goes right to the bottom line.
For example, real-time tracking alerts regarding wasted fuel because of poor driving habits or high idle times can reveal areas for improvement. These improvements go right to the bottom line when you can reduce fuel costs by even 5-10%.
Customizable alerts range from:
Odd-Hours Alerts: Alerts when vehicles and assets move during a specified time range, i.e., between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.
Long Idle Times: Alerts when vehicles are idling for a specified time range, i.e., longer than 10 minutes. You can send an additional message telling the driving to shut the vehicle off that time.
Speeding Alerts: Alerts when vehicles either travel over a specified speed (i.e., 75 mph) or the posted speed limit of a road. I.e., when they go at least 10 miles per hour (MPH) or more over the posted speed limit.
Vehicle Maintenance Due: Alerts when specified vehicle maintenance is due or coming due. These alerts can be anything from oil changes to tire rotations to vehicle inspections.
Vehicle Maintenance Scheduling
Vehicles are the lifeblood of your operation, so keeping them up and running will always be a top priority. Vehicle tracking systems that can monitor their health will allow you to keep tabs on your vehicles and assets.
This functionality means spotting new maintenance issues, addressing them immediately, and ensuring that preventive maintenance is scheduled and completed on time. Vehicle downtime can severely impact your business if one or multiple vehicles are out of commission for long periods.
It's imperative to make sure that vehicles receive the service they need when they need it. Doing this prevents smaller issues becoming catastrophic ones and so that you're not performing repeating maintenance on neglected problems.
Route Optimization and Scheduling
Today's vehicle tracking systems relieve businesses of the headache and potential mishaps of scheduling drivers' routes with pencil and paper. Before implementing vehicle tracking technology, most companies have issues with overlapping routes, drivers taking a long way, or not sending the closest vehicle to the next job. There can also be significant time wasted communicating with drivers by phone telling them their next stop or updates to their current route.
Vehicle tracking automated dispatch lets drivers know at the beginning of every day where they are going and the route they will take. Vehicle tracking systems arrange routes the most cost-effectively and accompanied by details like customer requests or unique delivery requirements. This feature can streamline communication, increase productivity, and help maintain a high level of customer service by improving arrival times. Most companies using the technology also usually see more revenue to the bottom line because this functionality often translates to their drivers completing more jobs per day.
Route optimization is a natural outgrowth of vehicle tracking systems. It takes into account traffic patterns, accidents, road work, bridge heights, and other factors that impact routes. As a result, you can improve response time, reduce mileage and fuel consumption, fit more jobs into a day, and improve customer service. Real-time data about current conditions gives you the ability to make quick, informed decisions that maintain efficiency and meets customer expectations.
Measuring Vehicle Utilization
Measuring utilization is emerging as a crucial indicator of efficiency and total cost of ownership (TCO) for vehicles.
Knowing which vehicles and how often they are used — particularly in shared-services operations — is vital in measuring whether you have the right kind and the correct number of vehicles. Fleet tracking systems are the only way to measure this critical metric. Trying to do so with an Excel spreadsheet will likely lead to perpetuating inefficiencies, which could increase budget outlays for vehicles not in use.
Vehicle tracking systems provide comprehensive utilization reports that give you all the necessary data to make informed decisions about your vehicles and assets. It might translate into a need for right-sizing your fleet, or simply improving your vehicle efficiency.
Which Vehicles Can Telematics Be Used For?
Telematics is a versatile technology, both in the number of functions, it can perform and the range of different vehicles and other assets with which it can be used. It is suitable for use with the following vehicles and assets, among others:
- Cars: As well as performing important productivity and vehicle maintenance functions for company car and sales fleets, telematics is also used to monitor private mileage and ensure health and safety compliance, an essential part of employers' duty of care.
- Cargo vans/pickup trucks: Used for functions including job dispatch and routing, on-site time reporting, timesheet reporting, proof of delivery solutions, monitoring unauthorized vehicle use and tracking driver behaviour.
- Single axle/tractor units: Here, telematics helps with route optimization and scheduling, driver hour management, fuel management and driver behaviour reporting.
- Buses and coaches: Telematics provides assistance with driver hour management, route optimization and scheduling, fuel management (including engine idling), integration of services (through, for example, time of arrival notifications) and driver behaviour reporting.
- Heavy equipment: In the construction industry, telematics is used for heavy earth-moving equipment. Here it serves to boost jobsite productivity by tracking equipment utilization, enabling preventative maintenance and reducing fuel burn.
- Specialist vehicles: Telematics is also widely used for a range of specialist vehicles, including dump trucks, tow trucks and cement trucks. Among other benefits, the technology provides a better understanding of vehicle activity through power take-off, where mechanical power is transferred to another piece of equipment (such as the cement mixer on a cement truck, for example).
It is this sheer versatility of telematics that has guaranteed it an instrumental (and expanding) role in fleet management for the long term. It is already delivering major improvements to safety, productivity and ultimately profitability, and it is only likely to become more central in the years ahead. Those businesses across the world that integrate telematics systems into their operations can expect to continue to reap significant rewards.