Telematics can best be described as a type of information technology that deals with the long-distance transmission of computerized information; it gives fleet managers a way to keep their “eyes” on trucks and cargo on the road. Over the last several years the technology has become a key component for more comprehensive fleet management and provides the tools needed to help fleets better control costs by providing on-vehicle information with ways to help limit those pesky out-of-service events. Telematics can provide solutions that are generally easy to deploy. This allows fleets of all sizes to realize greater benefits from real-time asset tracking and database fleet visibility.
Choosing the best telematics solution for your fleet can be a challenge, especially since there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, but there are solutions that can save time and money. The best approach is to choose the solution that is compatible with the technology already in use by drivers, dispatchers and other staff in your fleet. For example, many drivers use a smartphone or tablet at work and home. The ideal telematics solution can work with mobile devices for tasks such as navigation and hours of service. This eliminates the need to learn a new, proprietary device and makes the implementation process faster and easier. Overall, familiarity with the technology increases driver satisfaction and maximizes productivity by flattening the learning curve.
If you wish to support a wide variety of third-party applications instead of just the ones provided by the telematics vendor, make sure the solution you prefer is offered as an open platform. The broader the selection, the more likely it is that drivers can keep using apps they already know or switch to better ones. The ideal telematics solution extends this openness to back-office systems, which enables dispatchers, managers and other staff to continue using software with which they are already familiar. This can eliminate the expense and frustration of replacing existing systems you have in place that may still have years of life left.
When comparing different telematics providers, you may want to check for the “openness” of the system by looking at how the company supports third-party developers. Ask the telematics provider if it has developer tools such as a software development kit (SDKs) and application programing interfaces (APIs). This allows the fleet to use these third-party tools for tasks such as identifying which drivers had the most speed-limit exceptions over the past week or month. More tools mean more opportunities for fleet owners to maximize safety, productivity and fuel efficiency. Some fleets use an SDK and APIs to create their own tools in order to meet unique business requirements to which third-party developers don’t yet cater. For example, the integration of telematics and transportation management systems and other back office systems is popular.
Because time is money and fleets need to avoid unscheduled downtime, the reliability of the telematics platform is very important. Don’t be embarrassed to ask providers about the integrity of their technology. The best solutions are able to provide fast GPS acquisition time and high-quality data recording, which will ensure you get the information you need, when you need it.
Accuracy is also critical. The qualities of the decisions you make are only as good as the information you receive. Consistent, accurate data reporting is important so that fleets can use the information for reliable decision-making to achieve more effective results. Look for a telematics solution provides the quantity and variety of data, including GPS and speed. You might also want a solution that reports back on driver activity such as seat belt use and/or also reports odometer readings, fuel consumption, idling time and engine faults.
Some providers offer bundled solutions that include software, hardware and training, which can help provide a seamless integration of telematics systems. Also, to help level the playing field for smaller fleets, some providers can enable the use of smartphones and tablets to quickly and inexpensively equip fleets with the applications and data previously available only to the largest carriers.
Here are some of Fleet Equipment’s latest deep dives into the world of truck telematics and data:
- Saving time and money: What onboard telematics can do for you
- How truck manufacturers are making vehicle connectivity a value proposition
- Connected truck service management: Cutting downtime for service and repairs
- Technology solutions for a streamlined food service supply chain
…and be sure to keep it tuned to Fleet Equipment for all the latest news on telematics and asset management.