What is Telematics?

What is telematics

Telematics, in its broad definition, refers to remote communications and informatics. In a more specific sense associated with fleet tracking, telematics describes the technology used to manage a vehicle or group of vehicles and other assets, most often in transportation, service and construction industries.

There are many functions under the telematics umbrella  — and many advantages this technology affords fleet managers and operators.

GPS-Based System

Telematics technology for vehicle fleet management incorporates GPS fleet tracking. The global positioning system comprises a network of satellites that communicate with a ground-based receiver. By measuring the distance between the ground unit and multiple satellites, GPS can determine the exact location of the user.

For navigation and tracking, GPS is a proven, accurate technology that’s been active since the 1970s in military, commercial and personal applications.

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Hardware and Software

Fleet telematics systems generally include a portable device that a fleet driver driver may carry or place inside the cab of the vehicle. At the driver’s base of operations — for example, a transport company’s office — central software applications are used by fleet manager or dispatcher. This forms a communications loop to send and receive data. In a fleet set-up several vehicles are sending and receiving information with this central component.

Fleet tracking software facilitates rapid data exchange, transforming these streams of telemetry into usable information. Managers or dispatchers can analyse the results and make informed decisions to manage the fleet’s activity.

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What Telematics Can Do

The types of information exchanged between office and remote location include more than the physical location of the vehicle. A complete fleet management telematics solution can record and transmit whether the vehicle is in motion or stationary, engine performance (power-up, shutdown, idling), engine malfunctions, vehicle speed, driver actions such as hard braking and more.

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Improve Service

Knowing the exact location of each vehicle in the fleet means that over the course of the day a dispatcher can make constant routing adjustments based on changing traffic or vehicle availability, and send the nearest vehicle to the next assignment.

The gain in efficiency can deliver impressive dividends — for example, Starplan Furniture reduced fuel costs by 15% and increased customer satisfaction rating to above 90%

Improved routing can improve delivery times, and help in keeping the client informed as to estimated time of arrival. That can increase customer satisfaction — and provide a competitive edge.

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Lower Fuel and Maintenance Costs

Improved routing trims the number of miles traveled. Fuel is a major expense in any fleet operation and telematics technology provides the opportunity to manage it more precisely. Reducing fuel consumption also reduces emission of greenhouse gases and the company’s carbon footprint.

With fewer miles traveled, not only is wear and tear on equipment reduced,  but mechanical problems can be remedied before a failure through preventative maintenance scheduling, saving on both repairs and downtime.

Telematics can report on driver behaviour as well as vehicle activity, exposing patterns such as speeding or hard braking that consumes fuel at an excessive rate and can also shorten equipment life. 

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Improve Safety

Telematics can be an effective tool in encouraging safe driver behavior. In-cab feedback may alert the driver to unsafe practices, and when combined with driver coaching incentives can create an environment of safer driving. 

A 900-vehicle fleet in Britain saw tremendous gains in safety since its adoption of telematics: a reported 97 percent reduction in speeding, 47 percent reduction in crashes and savings in both fuel economy and maintenance expense.

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Adoption Industry-Wide

Now widespread among fleets of any size, there are expectations that this technology will become an integral part of every fleet operation within a few years.

Several factors will drive that change. One is the decreasing capital cost in implementing telematics, making it more accessible for any sized business. Another is the competitive aspect: like computers a generation before, this technology will soon be essential to any fleet operation that intends to offer a level of service equal to its competitors.

In 2016 the Financial Times reported, “There is a growing consensus among industry executives that, in five to seven years’ time, the technology will be an integral part of all vehicle fleets.”

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