Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com/nullplus.

Photo courtesy of istockphoto.com/nullplus.

The utilization of telematics in fleet has been on the rise since the technology was first introduced, and its future looks brighter than ever. With the continued interest of future technologies such as autonomous vehicles and the ideas behind a connected-car network, telematics systems are only going to continue to grow in relevance. Starting humbly with its “dots on a map” functionalities, it can now help monitor detailed fleet functions like fuel consumption and driver behavior.

Automotive Fleet reached out to fleet managers to get their insights as to the importance of the technology for their fleets today and in the future, as well as studies that tell us where telematics stands today and where it might be going.

Why Telematics?

“One of the main reasons we purchased GPS tracking in the first place was to help our service department, we wanted to intelligently dispatch the closest techs to incoming jobs,” said Matt Nielsen, director of information technology, for Whitton Companies.

Whitton Companies is a residential home construction company with a fleet of approximately 250 vehicles, which is located in Phoenix, Ariz., and specializes in plumbing, concrete, and framing.

Shortly after, the usage of telematics for his fleet evolved to implementing the technology into every vehicle as a means to protect the asset, control idle times and to verify payroll information.

Another fleet manager, Santiago Perez, director of transportation and fleet services, for Bridgewell, noted there is a plethora of applications that telematics can help fleets improve in their operations, such as fuel savings.

Bridgewell supports a wide-spectrum of people with disabilities, and has a fleet of 158 vehicles that are used to transport those in the company’s program.

“By being able to see in real-time and/or run reports as needed, we have been able to lower fuel and operational costs by reducing idling times, increased driver performance by monitor speeds and/or driving habits (hard braking), and we have eliminated any unauthorized use of vehicle,” said Perez.

Nielsen observed that the most useful thing his fleet operations got out of implementing telematics were cost savings.

He also appreciated the ability to help monitor employee practices.

“The biggest take away from a cost savings for us has been in payroll timecard correction. If we see that an employee vehicle was parked an hour before their timecard we adjust it. Another big benefit is the thought of being tracked even when we don’t have a GPS in every vehicle changes behaviors of the drivers,” said Nielsen.

Santiago also noted the benefit in not only improving visibility with drivers, but also supporting them.

“(Telematics) has allowed us to have increased visibility and control of our transportation fleet operation. The technology has also served as a useful tool for assisting us during investigatory interviews with staff when we get reports of erratic driving against our drivers,” Perez added. “It has also been used to defend our drivers against false allegations of speeding, leaving a pick up location too early, or not showing up to pick up a client.”

At a Glance

While telematics is a useful tool for fleets today, the technology is still in its infancy stages, relative to its future potential for fleets. Some of the most useful aspects of telematics for fleets include:

  • Driver monitoring capabilities.
  • Ability to track fuel spend.

Telematics for the Future of Fleet

In terms of future telematics developments, Nielsen of Whitton Companies noted his fleet would like to see more integration to other functions of his fleet’s operation.

Meanwhile, Perez of Bridgewell noted that he would like to see new real-time driver monitoring capabilities, such as a “clock in, clock out” feature for drivers, which could be monitored when drivers enter and exit their vehicles.

Telematics continues to evolve and interest in the technology has stayed consistently relevant for the industry, which includes the realm of e-commerce.

Mobile resource management systems for fleets will continue to have strong demand in the near term, according to a study from C.J. Driscoll and Associates titled “Overview of Connected Fleets and Commerical Telematics Market.”

Indeed, the emerging issue of last-mile delivery and its importance in the growth of e-commerce is a current trend that some fleets are looking to address.

With the growth of on-demand or same-day delivery, e-commerce delivery fleets have struggled to keep up. Indeed, e-commerce accounted for 10.5% of retail sales in 2015, but grew to 11.7% in 2016, and continued to grow in 2017, according to the study.

Telematics solutions are increasingly relied on to help expedite e-commerce deliveries through features such as optimized routing, considering traffic and weather, and monitoring the shipment’s location as it moves through the supply chain to its final destination.

Elsewhere, telematics is blossoming as a tool to fleets in other countries.

While fleets in the U.S. and Europe continue to be engaged in the technology, other global market have expressed interest in this burgeoning technology. According to a study from Technavio, developing markets such as India and China are extensively adopting commercial vehicle telematics systems.

“The high growth potential of the commercial vehicle tracking system market is encouraging several global players to enter the market. As a result, the market is witnessing a number of consolidations and M&As. Our market research analysts have estimated that this market will grow steadily at a compound annual growth rate of more than 14% by 2021,” observed a Technavio in a recent study.

The trucking industry is also going to see a continued interest in telematics services. Not only via the Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) mandate introduced by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), but also the integration into truck platoons, according to the study from Technavio. Wireless connectivity will help trucks in a platoon communicate. Sensors play a crucial role in maintaining distance between the moving trucks.

“Freight companies are adopting truck platooning owing to various advantages such as high fuel efficiency and lower carbon emissions, efficient productivity from drivers, safe driving, improved traffic flow, and fast and cheap road transport,” the study observed.

A Return on Investment

Fleets looking to reduce fleet costs but have not implemented a telematics solution may want to consider investing in the technology.

A recent study found that more than half of fleets who invested in a GPS fleet management system have recouped their investments of the technology.

The study from C.J. Driscoll and Associates found that 66% of fleets reported have recouped the investment in their systems.

“GPS Tracking has so many applications, from controlling and reporting behavior, to a time keeping device, I cannot see an application of this technology that would not be a benefit to a company and in fact should pay for itself in a very short period of time,” said Nielsen of Whitton Companies.

Meanwhile, 25% from the survey said they did not recoup investment, and 9% said they weren’t sure.

However, Perez of Bridgewell noted that improvements could be made to telematics technologies.

“One of the few flaws that we have experienced in a number of occasions is malfunctioning of the technology depending on weather conditions,” he said. “We have seen faulty location readings specifically during cold weather.”

Editors note: This article is part of a three-part package that addresses the future of fleet technology. Read related articles that offer an in-depth look at accident prevention and fuel.

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