DHL is rolling out telematics to its U.S. fleet to help improve its operations and drivers' behavior. Photo: DHL

DHL is rolling out telematics to its U.S. fleet to help improve its operations and drivers' behavior. Photo: DHL

DHL pick-up and delivery vehicles in the U.S. recently got a technological upgrade. Telematics is rolling out throughout DHL's 1,400 U.S. fleet, which is comprised of a variety of models, including Step Vans, Mercedes-Benz Sprinters, Ram ProMasters, and Ford Transit Connects.

The new technology uses a combination of GPS satellite location data and information from the vehicle’s onboard systems to report extremely accurate vehicle activity and performance. According to Greg Miller, director of Fleet for DHL Express U.S., the system captures speed, direction, braking, performance of specific parts as well as components of the engine and drive train are among the systems and operations being measured.

The telematics system, which involved specific customization to fit DHL's needs, was rolled out about six months ago.

The system has "exceeded our expectations," according to Miller. "I predicted that there would be a one-year incubation period, but we've made those goals in the first six months."

Initially, the technology platform will be used to focus on the areas of: fleet utilization to ensure the right vehicle is used for the right route; fleet performance to capture fuel economy and maintenance related information; monitoring of driving habits to promote safe driving behaviors, as well as dispatch and route management to better understand our unique route dynamics and improve dispatch responses.

The two main components of the telematics system include a device that is wired to the vehicle and transmits, in near real-time, 100s of data elements related to vehicle location, performance, and driver behaviors. The other component is a software application that continually analyzes the data to provide meaningful reporting and actionable alerts, according to the company.

While the telematics platform DHL is using has helped the company improve safety, fuel economy, productivity, and customer service, Miller noted that the technology itself isn't a panacea. "Our miles and fuel is down, but it's not telematics doing that; it's because the system is getting management information that it can act on quickly," he said.

Updated: 8/14/2014