Telematics

Big data is taking hold in our society and its benefits are constantly growing.  Even the trucking industry is using data to improve operational efficiencies. The fastest way to gather data from a truck fleet is through telematics, and it is also a fast way to get information back out to the drivers who control the tractors and trailers.

Benefits

If piece of equipment has a live telematics system on-board it is easy to locate. This can improve accuracy and response times to downed trucks and help keep mobile technicians more accountable when being managed remotely.

With the proper telematics system, existing fleet information systems for maintenance, back office systems, driver training and more need to be linked for optimized data sharing.

Fleets can create systems that meet their specific needs through the use of tools such as a Software Development Kits (SDKs) and Application Programing Interfaces (APIs).

Telematics can provide fault codes directly and instantly to the fleet maintenance manager.  Some fleets look at the fault code and have the driver exit the interstate for service and avoid a towing bill if the situation demands it.

Telematics allows a high level of two-way communications.  The ability to measure more behaviors more rapidly enhances management’s ability to understand what is happening in real time.  The capability to coach and send advice or performance scores to drivers while they are on the road makes feedback instantaneous.

Using the diagnostic data, fleets can reduce unscheduled vehicle downtime with more proactive maintenance, which can also lead to extending the life of the vehicle.

Many basic telematics solutions offer simple fuel monitoring tools to reduce unnecessary waste from idling and other factors.

Most telematics solutions have some basic safety monitoring systems to monitor and report unsafe driver behavior like speeding, hard acceleration and hard braking.

Many fleets rely on telematics solutions to help improve overall operational efficiency. By comparing the data collected across an entire fleet of vehicles, fleet managers can easily identify and compare individual and groups of drivers to determine where help is needed.   Data analysis can also highlight issues with a particular make of vehicle or a group of vehicles to help guide specifications changes to future orders.

Telematics forms the basis for many of the more advanced systems in trucking such as predictive cruise control, platooning and autonomous operation.

Challenges

Prewiring or retrofitting vehicles to integrate the telematics system can be anywhere from very easy to a time-consuming effort requiring interior disassembly and integration.

Like most any electronic devices, with telematics there are hardware and software updates that occasionally need to be made.  That can be a challenge with a rolling fleet of vehicles.

Some telematics providers require customers pay for the telematics hardware (the part that connects to the vehicle) and a recurring monthly service charge. This service charge typically includes the cellular or satellite connection charges, which need to be discussed in detail prior to a purchase decision.

Introduction & Rationale

In detailed analysis of the Run on Less fuel economy demonstration, one of the conclusions was the need for telematics in fleet operations. There is a saying that “you can only manage what you can measure” and telematics is a primary path to accessing many different forms of measurements. Definitions vary widely, but “telematics” refers specifically to systems that track the location (GPS) and onboard diagnostic data for vehicles. There are many more applications that rely on telematics data access (such as electronic logs), but these are not considered true telematics solutions.

Available Systems

Whatever the fleet’s need, it’s likely that sensors and a telematics system exists to provide a solution from watching trailer doors to watching the driver. Both satellite and cellular systems are in used in the industry.  Transportation-specific systems are available as solutions for trucks, buses, passenger cars, off-road equipment and more.  Cellular systems are the most common and popular method of data transfer with wide coverage and high data rates.  Satellite systems are still used in remote or very high priority areas.

Manufacturers

Geotab

GPS Insight 

Omnitracs (previously Qualcomm)

Orbcomm

Peoplenet

Teletrac Navman

Telogis

Zonar