Telematics technology is evolving rapidly. The days when fleet managers were limited to "dots on a map" and reports that provided only rough overviews — or worse, complex sets of data no one could hope to interpret — are long gone. Today's systems are designed to keep both fleet managers and drivers at the top of their games, and the efficiencies they uncover are paying dividends for business owners.
1. Focus on the Driver
The first, and perhaps most important, trend has been a shift from a focus on vehicle location and routing to solutions focused the drivers. By monitoring driving behaviors as well as vehicle health and maintenance intervals, telematics helps minimize collisions, speeding tickets, and downtime, ensuring drivers are able to get their jobs done and arrive home safely.
2. Advanced Safety Training
Improved driver safety is the goal of every fleet manager. Telematics can help identify unsafe driving practices and then target those specific habits for training, rather than just giving a general safety speech that may or may not hit home. Frequent incidents of harsh braking, speeding, and jackrabbit starts can all be indications of distracted driving, which, according to the National Safety Council, is responsible for more than 1 million collisions and thousands of deaths and injuries every year.
By creating individualized training programs, telematics users are able to zero in on bad habits and track each driver's progress.
3. The ELD Mandate
The federal electronic logging device (ELD) mandate will have a major impact on fleets across the nation. The law requires fleet managers to start keeping electronic records for hours of service (HOS) — replacing paper logs — and outlines specifics concerning the types of documentation drivers and fleet managers need to ensure are on hand at all times.
Telematics providers have stepped up, offering solutions that can automate the logging process. By integrating telematics with ELD, drivers and fleet managers can save time while meeting the standards of compliance.
4. Data Mining and Security
Among the lesser-discussed benefits of telematics is the rich wealth of data these systems generate. Everything from routes, driving habits, idling, time spent with each customer, and maintenance logs are all tied into a single system. But all that data can be overwhelming. Telematics providers and third-party solutions providers can help parse that data into meaningful statistics and reports.
Mining telematics data can help determine whether every vehicle in your fleet is reaching its peak fuel efficiency, benchmark overall fleet performance on a monthly, quarterly, and annual basis, or even seeing how different weather conditions impact your fleet operations. The possibilities are limited only by the amount of data coming in and your ability to process it.
At the same time, no one can ignore all the reports of hacking that have hit the news in the past several years. Make sure you are working with a provider that takes data security seriously. The last thing you want is for someone to gain unauthorized access to your data.
5. Data Integration
Data integration ensures your fleet-management systems are able to communicate with one another — from telematics to accounting, delivery, and product tracking systems. By having integrated systems, you save on the time and money it would take for fleet managers to manually pull all that data from disparate sources or rekey information from system to system. Integration helps ensure that the automatic reports and analysis you get create a more accurate picture of your fleet's performance.
6. Predictive Analytics
Did you know that you can use all that data you're generating to measure more than past performance? Experts are developing and refining predictive analytics solutions designed to allow fleet managers to perform a wide range of risk assessments that can help them stay ahead of driver safety and even mechanical breakdowns.
Fully harnessing the power of analytics should allow fleet managers to make accurate predictions based on the data sets your systems is collecting — in real time — and help minimize collisions, claims, and breakdowns.
7. Corporate Image
Telematics data can also create a compelling marketing message. Existing and prospective customers should appreciate any effort to make your fleet safer, more efficient, and more accountable. Telematics creates the opportunity to back that message with hard data.
8. Utilization Analysis
Do you know the exact size and vehicle makeup of your optimal fleet for the customers you have right now? What about the size and shape of the fleet you'll need in another year, or five years? Do you know when it's the right time to replace an aging vehicle in the fleet, and when you should hold on to it for one more year?
A utilization analysis is a comprehensive look at the overall fleet, which helps fleet managers make better decisions about how to get the most out of every single resource. There are four categories every vehicle in the fleet falls into: reduce, replace, redistribute, or monitor, and those factors are also ranked according to established fleet thresholds for replacement or utilization of the vehicles.
Today's telematics systems can help with this process by providing in-depth information about the performance of each vehicle, allowing fleet managers to better maintain their fleet at its optimal size and performance levels at all times.
9. The Connected Vehicle Craze
Driverless cars and trucks are not yet a common sight on our roads and highways, but the Autonomous Age is coming — possibly sooner than expected. As the driverless arms race heats up among vehicle manufacturers and tech giants, the fleet segment could lead the way in widespread adoption.
For fleet managers, that means telematics will continue to be even more critical to success. The more data you have around utilization, routes, and safety, the better informed you'll be when it comes time to start investigating those options. The ability to communicate with driverless units will be crucial for maintaining fleet integrity and safety.
Meanwhile, vehicle-to-vehicle communication has huge implications for safety. Semiautonomous systems such as adaptive cruise control, forward-collision avoidance, and lane-keep assistance systems have reached the mass market. As these technologies continue to improve, expect telematics systems to find new and innovative ways to ensure every fleet vehicle is connected.
10. Maintenance Matters
Finally, telematics excels in helping fleet managers ensure ever vehicle is properly maintained and is running at peak capacity at all times. Automating preventive maintenance relieves the driver of the schedule-keeping burden and ensures oil changes, tire rotations, and routine inspections are completed on time, every time.
With the ability to track fleet vehicles in real time comes the ability to track vehicles that are stolen, used without authorization, or cross a predetermined geographic boundary, minimizing total losses as well as undue mileage and wear-and-tear.
Today's telematics systems do far more than just provide tracking dots on a screen. They are robust sources of rich data that fleet managers and drivers can use to improve performance, better maintain vehicles, and increase safety. It is an exciting time to be a fleet manager, with more tools than ever before, offering new insight into fleet operations that even just a few years ago would have been impossible to achieve.