With additional safety mandates, including electronic logging devices (ELDs), telematics is...

With additional safety mandates, including electronic logging devices (ELDs), telematics is increasingly helpful. 

Photo: Geotab

When most fleet managers think of telematics, the first image that likely pops up is a digital map with dots showing where their vehicles are at any specific time.

“While many fleets have realized the benefits of location tracking, the most successful telematics deployments are those that go beyond GPS. Telematics sits at the heart of numerous daily routines and can form the basis for modern digital workflows that make fleets more efficient and less error-prone. Electronic DVIRs can help capture critical maintenance data and automate scheduled maintenance programs,” explained Neel Sheth, director of product management at Samsara.

There are a ton of benefits of utilizing a telematics system beyond simple vehicle tracking. Work Truck rounded up the top 14: 

1. Enhanced Safety

Mentioned the most often by our team of telematics experts, safety is likely the No. 1 benefit of telematics for work truck fleets beyond simple vehicle tracking.

“Going beyond simple vehicle tracking, telematics technology can help improve driver safety. By allowing fleet managers to monitor and manage driver behavior, telematics technology allows customers to identify risky driving events and protect fleets against claims easily. By integrating a telematics platform, fleet managers can deliver in-vehicle driver coaching to identify risky driving, provide near real-time feedback, and use trend reports to identify when fleet drivers need additional training,” said Steven Berube, senior business development manager for Geotab.

With additional safety mandates, including electronic logging devices (ELDs), telematics is increasingly helpful. 

“When the ELD mandate took hold, it was for safety first. And, it’s proven to be effective — the mandate statistically improves safety — it prevents 26 fatalities in the U.S. yearly based on ATRI studies,” said Doug Schrier, senior VP of strategy for Transflo. 

Telematics is also essential to monitor driver fatigue. 

“Beyond simple hours of service (HOS) compliance tracking, telematics data can be used to track drivers’ sleep cycles and optimize rest breaks to best suit their needs. Telematics devices also track critical events such as hard brakes and roll stability control that can be used for driver coaching,” said Chris Orban, vice president of data science for Trimble.

2. Engine Insights

Many telematics systems can pull engine diagnostics to alert you of fault codes that need attention (essentially when the check engine light turns on). 

“The ability to do this eliminates your reliance on your drivers and technicians to remember to tell management when something is wrong with the vehicle. Utilizing this piece of a telematics offering can increase vehicle uptime and reduce maintenance costs by knowing the real issue and addressing it quickly,” said Ryan Driscoll, VP marketing at GPS Insight. 

Maximizing uptime, optimizing routes, and prioritizing jobs are all part of running a more...

Maximizing uptime, optimizing routes, and prioritizing jobs are all part of running a more efficient business. 

Photo: Verizon Connect

3. Vehicle Health & Maintenance Insights

Understanding vehicle health helps with proper preventive maintenance. 

“Engine data collected by a telematics device helps identify issues we can’t see with our eyes. Fleets can often access this data remotely as well, helping streamline maintenance activities at times that are most convenient and efficient, rather than dealing with repairs on the road,” said Orban of Trimble.

4. Maximized Uptime

Maximizing uptime, optimizing routes, and prioritizing jobs are all part of running a more efficient business. 

“With the power of the near real-time data that comes from a fleet management software system, fleets can work smarter not harder: 1) Spend time wisely by streamlining work orders, 2) Better prioritize based on location to plan days more effectively and finally, 3) Reduce downtime between stops and easily match the right resources to the needs of their customers,” said Kevin Aries, global lead, Product Success for Verizon Connect.

5. Increased Productivity

Telematics solutions can help make it much easier for drivers to be more productive and compliant. 

“This increased productivity allows drivers to be safer on the roads, as they won’t have to deal with multiple systems or, in some cases, keeping written records. This helps with driver retention because they’re not overwhelmed with having to understand several different solutions, making their ride more relaxed,” said Jason Walton, product marketing manager for Omnitracs. 

Tracking fleet productivity is a top concern for many businesses, especially when labor is one of their highest costs. 

“Fleet management solutions automate day-to-date operational tasks, allowing customers to focus on more pressing items on their schedule. These tools provide greater transparency and control over vehicle location, speed, and battery level and can help customers make more data-driven decisions regarding loading, dispatch, and delivery practices,” said Berube of Geotab.

6. Operational Efficiencies

A telematics or fleet management solution provides insights into overall operations. 

“Telematics data from vehicles can help identify patterns that could affect a fleet’s profitability or scheduling, such as extended delays on certain routes or with certain customers, that could lead to opportunities for revenue,” said Orban of Trimble.

Telematics and ELDs identify near misses or events picked up by the accelerometer, including a hard break, harsh cornering, and cruise control kicking off. 

“With this information, fleets can more easily follow up with training and accountability for their drivers. And they can manage and help prevent injury and fatalities based on near misses,” said Schrier of Transflo. 

Among the benefits, beyond tracking, telematics can also help with monitoring driver fatigue and...

Among the benefits, beyond tracking, telematics can also help with monitoring driver fatigue and unsafe driving behaviors. 

Photo: Trimble

7. Maximized Asset Usage

By implementing a telematics solution, fleets can get the most out of their assets by turning their data into actionable insights to help improve their operations. 

“Data insights can help improve key operational factors including safety, route planning, and fuel usage, thus increasing their overall efficiency, cost savings, and maximizing the full potential of their assets,” said Berube of Geotab.

8. Smart Camera Integration

The integration of a vehicle tracking solution with a smart camera is a great way to improve fleet safety. 

“Video gives you the ultimate context needed to help coach poor driving behavior and reward great driving. Smart cameras can tell you more about driver behavior than telematics alone. For example, if a child runs out in the street to chase a ball and the driver slams the brakes to avoid an accident,” said Driscoll of GPS Insight.

A normal telematics/vehicle tracking solution would see where the event happened and see the hard braking event and count it against the driver in his driver scorecard. 

“With cameras integrated, not only do you know where the event took place, the camera knows it was a good defensive driving response and give a positive score. You can also see the clip showing the child running in front of the truck and reward that driver for doing the right thing,” Driscoll added.

9. Speed Monitoring

Speed is one of the most significant concerns in the industry because of the weight of trucks and their ability to do more damage in accidents

“What are fleets doing to control their driver’s speed? With telematics, managers can see this data and train accordingly. This equals more compliant fleets. Also, we can (pretty much in real-time) know what lane a truck was in, what the engine parameters were, and know the mechanical issues with the truck (if there were any). Sometimes the data is overwhelming (with so much to analyze), but we help focus on the data that matters most and organize it for fleets to make real changes,” said Schrier of Transflo.

10. Improved Driver Experience

Beyond driver safety, the overall driver experience is also important, and an area telematics can help. 

“Telematics solutions can help improve the driver experience tenfold. New solutions pool location data, dispatching, routing, and more into a single mobile application, making it much easier for drivers to log and access important information while on their routes so they can focus on the road,” said Walton of Omnitracs. 

11. Optimized Operations

Fleet managers may think they know what is going on with their fleet.  

“Telematics provides a view of the data around how the fleet performs and allows for quick changes when problems are found. This could be as simple as understanding if policies on set-point and run mode are followed. Switching from cycle-sentry to continuous run will consume much more fuel but may not gain anything on product temp control,” said Carl Breczinski, product manager for Controls and Digital Solutions at Thermo King.

Fleet management solutions also cut costs by providing fleet manager customers with data on how trucks are being driven, fuel purchasing options, routes, and maintenance needs that can help them save significantly on fuel. 

“Additionally, reducing wasteful idle time is an easy way to cut fuel use, and integrating fuel card data makes fleets more efficient and can help protect them from fraud,” said Aries of Verizon Connect.

Understanding vehicle health helps with proper preventive maintenance. Engine diagnostics as...

Understanding vehicle health helps with proper preventive maintenance. Engine diagnostics as well as driver risk assessments are valuable. 

Photo: GPS Insight

12. Compliance Assistance

Seamless compliance is essential to efficient and safe fleet operations. 

“Whether regulations are coming from the government or company policies, telematics solutions help drivers more easily follow the rules. With these tools, drivers can more effectively track their stops and miles driven and have that information instantly reported to dispatch. This creates full transparency from drivers daily and gives fleets peace of mind knowing systems are in place, helping them remain compliant at all times,” said Walton of Omnitracs. 

13. Increased Security

Fuel theft is a big concern for work truck fleets. The cost of fuel is rising, and demand is higher. Branded fleet vehicles can be prime targets for identifying fuel theft as well as cargo theft. 

“Our telematics solution monitors a number of different data points on a refrigerated trailer that can improve the security of cargo and the trailer overall.  By monitoring the status of when doors open, you can be alerted if the doors are open when you aren’t expecting them to be — this can be even if the refrigeration unit is off.  By monitoring fuel levels, it’s easy to tell if and where fuel theft is occurring. Telematics can also help in the event of a trailer theft to know where the trailer is at,” said Breczinski of Thermo King.

14. Switches & Sensor Insights

Switches and sensors may not seem like something that needs to be closely monitored, but there are many vocational fleets where this is an essential insight into operations. 

“For many businesses with work trucks, there are important insights to gain from knowing when the vehicle’s switches are engaged. A few examples include knowing when the boom is engaged on a boom truck, when the tow bed is down on a tow truck, and when sirens are on for an ambulance. This additional insight gives more context and actionable insight to management when reviewing daily operations,” said Driscoll of GPS Insight.

The Bottom Line

Telematic solutions provide fleets with so much more than basic dots-on-a-map vehicle tracking. 

“With access to critical information such as vehicle faults, trouble codes, DVIRs, fuel usage, and driver behavior data like speeding, cruise control, and idling, organizations can quickly identify opportunities for cost-savings and deploy programs including driver coaching and maintenance to take corrective action,” said Neel Sheth, director of product management at Samsara. 

About the author
Lauren Fletcher

Lauren Fletcher

VP of Content

Lauren Fletcher is Vice President of Content. She has covered the truck fleet industry since 2006. Her bright personality helps lead the team's content strategy and focuses on growth, education, and motivation.

View Bio