The future is happening now, in real time. Telematics is revolutionizing fleet management and changing how we run construction sites, buy insurance and parent our children.

The internet of things (IoT)—the interconnection of everyday objects via the web—is dramatically impacting telematics. Connected cars can turn up the heat at home when the temperature drops. Smartwatches and other wearables can let you know where your teen is after school. Insurance companies can adjust rates based on a driver’s behavior patterns and performance. Municipalities can pinpoint dangerous intersections and implement safety measures.

Telematics is a game-changer—and a lifestyle. Its impact and reach is at its infancy. Here are just some industries changing how they do business because of telematics:

  • Construction: The construction industry loses almost $1 billion annually in equipment due to theft. Data-driven job sites give project managers information about where equipment is and how it’s functioning and being used.
  • Automotive: Improvements in data transmission speed, connectivity and processing power have opened up possibilities for more personalized services that all automakers are just beginning to explore. Cars are now rolling smartphones and can connect to each other—and to surrounding infrastructure. By 2025, 88% of all new cars will feature embedded telematics.
  • Car insurance: Telematics is being used to analyze driving patterns in order to set auto insurance rates and educate drivers on their risky driving behaviors. Instant accident notifications and detailed second-by-second data make it possible to take crucial and timely action steps. Recording technology can help prove no-fault when accidents happen.
  • Appliances: Smart homes loaded with connected products have endless possibilities to make our lives easier. Your alarm clock can talk to your coffeemaker when you wake up and your toothbrush can monitor your dental hygiene. Your refrigerator can alert you when the milk is low and let you know what ingredients are on hand for dinner.

What is telematics?

The IoT collects data through sensors about the location, performance, usage and operating status of millions of devices. Sorting through that data to gain meaningful information is the business of telematics. Broadly described, telematics is the fusion of telecommunications and information technology. Telematics GPS goes way beyond vehicle tracking—it tells you everything you need to know about your truck and who’s driving it. Good data can offer a view into actual productivity.

Telematics for fleet management provides real-time intelligence that can positively impact your bottom line by helping you make informed choices. Making decisions based on data helps you control costs and generate revenue. Telematics software provides the necessary information you need to:

  • Improve route choices.
  • Audit fuel purchased versus fuel consumed.
  • Track and manage speed, aggressive driving, idling time.
  • Maintain vehicle performance.

Even if you’re tech-shy, there is no getting around telematics. Congress passed a bill in 2012 requiring the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to create an electronic logging devices (ELD) mandate for all American commercial trucks. The new law takes effect on Dec. 18, 2017.

No matter what size your company is, you’ll have to comply with the ELD mandate if:

  • Your truck was made after the year 2000.
  • You drive more than a 150-mile radius from your point of origin.
  • You keep more than eight log-book records in a month.

1. Telematics: Driving the Future of Fleet Management

Imagine being your driver’s co-pilot and knowing when the brakes are getting low or road conditions are particularly hazardous. Imagine knowing if your driver is distracted or if he’s logged too many hours. Imagine having real-time information about construction delays and traffic snarls. That’s the kind of data that telematics puts at your fingertips.

Approximately 8 million GPS/wireless devices are used to manage fleet vehicles. By 2019, the market will almost double to over 14 million units.

Any fleet large or small can benefit from the added visibility, accountability and efficiency that truck telematics provides. Of course there is such a thing as too much information. When considering a telematics solution, make sure the data offered doesn’t overwhelm your ability to use it.

Questions to ask yourself before hiring a fleet management vendor:

  • What type of vehicle and driver information do you want to track?
  • How many vehicles do you need to track?
  • How much do you want to spend on monthly fees and upfront costs?

Truck telematics can help you identify and quantify savings opportunities, and implement initiatives to achieve them. By 2020 there will be over 26 billion connected devices and more than 153 million subscribers of telematics services. You can stay ahead of the curve by executing a data-driven strategy designed to increase your profit margin.

2. Telematics Can Help the World at Large

Truck telematics saves gas, reduces pollution and is predicted to save 26 lives and prevent 562 injuries every year. Real-time road information means faster routes and less idling, which reduces our carbon footprint and conserves natural resources. Defensive drivers and well-maintained vehicles also help ensure a safer community for everyone. Some of the key safety benefits:

  • Drivers are reminded to slow down or buckle up.
  • Accident data can identify dangerous intersections.
  • Traffic information can help drivers avoid jams.

Using telematics for predictive analytics, such as predicting traffic, helps drivers avoid congested roadways and potential hazards. Information on speeding or harsh deceleration, turning radius, and idling without ignition off, can be analyzed to tell a story about what is happening on the road.

Combining telematics information with other data sets opens up extensive possibilities. For example, if ambient air temperature data was crossed with information from weather networks, drivers could be alerted to storms or icy roads ahead.

With telematics you can:

  • Identify where excessive idling occurs by pairing it with GPS location data.
  • Pinpoint roads where vehicles typically drive slower than the speed limit, which is a sure sign of traffic jams.
  • Reduce the amount of fuel a vehicle burns by driving safer and less aggressive.
  • Validate the carbon emission and fuel efficiency claims of vehicle manufacturers.

3. The Dollars and Sense of Telematics for Fleet Management

Economic conditions challenge companies across all industries, often forcing businesses to focus on maximizing bottom line returns in the face of poor top line growth. This often means minimizing operating costs in order to grow margins.

Although there are costs associated with implementing truck telematics (hardware and a monthly service fee), prices have dropped dramatically as technology improved and networks expanded. Further, the ROI from telematics is evident almost immediately as fuel costs drop and efficiency increases.

The trucking industry is expected to save more than $1 billion annually once the ELD mandate kicks in on Dec. 18, 2017. You can expect to reduce operating costs by at least $50 per vehicle, per month, after accounting for the cost of the system.

As the integration of vehicle and user lifestyles become seamless, telematics can assist the driver in a myriad of ways. For instance, a truck could sense a driver’s fatigue level or the end of duty time and automatically reserve a parking spot. Or it can automatically link the vehicle to the nearest truck with platooning capability and instantly share the benefit of fuel savings.

Driver behavior management has become an important area for fleet owners; warding off accident-related expenses optimizes operating costs. Further, truckers can get certified based on their style of driving, thus impacting their scores positively or negatively.

4. How Truck Telematics Works

Data is aggregated and transmitted from the vehicle via a cellular device into the cloud, where it can be accessed by fleet managers and analyzed into dashboard insights. The vehicle data that is collected for these dashboards comes from two main communication pathways.

The first pathway follows a standard protocol for every vehicle, providing historical data, speed and government-mandated information. The second pathway is more specialized and is coded with data specific to the OEM and the vehicle. Both of these pathways provide access to important vehicle system data.

Minimal hardware—hard-wired, plug and play, or battery-operated—is needed to collect vehicle and driver data. The effectiveness of the solution comes from the software and its ability to interpret and present data in a relevant manner.

5. Satisfying the ELD Mandate

There are many myths surrounding the federal ELD mandate, so much, that naysayers took the matter all the way to the Supreme Court. Despite ongoing protests, the mandate is happening whether you’re ready or not.

And two out of three truckers are not ready; nearly 1 million have yet to comply. Some people think ELD technology is cost-prohibitive while others just don’t want to be monitored. Some fear the information won’t be kept private.

The fact is, ELD monitoring isn’t spyware and won’t be used to track truck drivers 24/7. Only the trucking company will know the location of a vehicle. When truckers are in off-duty mode, the device will only pinpoint them within 10 miles of their actual location. Also, the data collected from telematics is not automatically fed to the government, as some people erroneously believe. Only fleet managers see that information. Fleets will have to keep the following data on hand for six months:

  • The time the driver reports for duty each day.
  • The time the driver is released from duty each day.
  • Total number of hours on duty each day.
  • Total time on duty for the preceding seven days.

Your ELD must satisfy FMCSA requirements and unless you fall within the covered exemptions written into the mandate you must comply in order to legally drive. ELD non-compliance can cost thousands in lost revenue. The FMCSA has already published the Out of Service penalties that will be levied on a driver as of Dec. 19, 2017 if a vehicle is not equipped with an ELD. Out of Service, which means sitting for 10 hours, can be very costly.

Don’t wait until the last minute to source a vendor. It’s important to allow drivers and fleet management staff sufficient time to transition to the new system. Training also has to be factored into the plan. The last thing you want is frustrated and distracted drivers because they’re unsure how to proceed with the ELD solution.

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