-  Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

In the years since the first fleet telematics solutions were introduced, the ubiquitous black boxes have become the equivalent of a Swiss Army knife for optimizing vehicle and driver performance. Asset location? Check. Fuel consumption and idling? Check. Engine diagnostics? Route optimization? Identification of risky driver behavior for scorecarding? Check, check, check.

These are essential insights for fleet managers, and the knife keeps acquiring more blades. Whether assisting operators in complying with new regulations, aiding in planning the transition to electric vehicles, or enabling telematics service providers to offer new capabilities, the data collected by telematics systems is now being applied for purposes that go beyond improving fleet efficiency and safety – in large part with the help of artificial intelligence.

Some of the newer applications take advantage of the standard onboard diagnostic Parameter IDs (PIDs) that telematics hardware uses to capture information such as ignition status, acceleration, braking, mileage and engine temperature, using AI to evaluate the data in a fresh way. Others leverage metrics from custom PIDs that vary from hardware manufacturer to manufacturer, allowing the development of new solutions using data that is typically not available to Telematics Solution Providers (TSPs) or fleet managers.       

Here are five examples of newer telematics uses that are emerging to address the evolving needs of automotive and work truck fleets.  

1 – Preventive and Predictive Maintenance

The rise of AI and machine learning is opening the door to utilizing PIDs data to detect anomalies in engines, brakes, transmissions and aftermarket add-ons like tire pressure monitoring systems before they force a vehicle out of service. This ability to prevent unanticipated downtime is currently in its infancy but eventually will become a key benefit of telematics systems, helping fleets operate at peak capacity to maximize revenues.

2 – Carbon Emissions and ESG Reporting

Greenhouse gas emissions from transportation account for about 27% of the U.S. total, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Efforts to reduce the toll have led to proposed regulations by organizations ranging from the California Air Resources Board, which has drafted a rule that specifically addresses fleets, to the EPA, which last month proposed new pollution standards for both cars and trucks. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has also proposed rules requiring publicly traded companies to include climate-related disclosures in their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) reporting. PIDs data can be instrumental in monitoring progress toward compliance with these rules.

3 – More Fuel-Efficient Routing

In another application related to emissions as well as fuel economy, telematics data can also help fleet managers adjust routes to reduce fuel consumption. Some TSPs are developing reports designed to identify opportunities to limit driving in stop-and-go traffic and/or construction zones, maximize expressway driving to get better gas mileage, and determine whether existing routes should be reversed to avoid rush hour traffic or other variables that burn more fuel than necessary.

4 – EV Transition Planning

As fleets begin to transition to electric vehicles, they need to conduct a cost-benefit analysis that considers factors such as driving distances, speed, elevation, local temperature, charging locations and a variety of other variables to ascertain whether EVs are a good fit for their needs as well as which models to purchase based on range requirements. This is especially important for work trucks, which are ideal EV candidates because they generally drive relatively short distances, in local traffic and at lower speeds that help maximize EV range. TSPs and their fleet customers are beginning to use telematics to help perform these analyses, which eventually will be simplified via the use of AI algorithms. 

5 – Tracking of New Mileage-Based Road Usage Charges

Multiple states are currently experimenting with mileage-based road usage charges in order to compensate for shortfalls in the funding needed to maintain their road infrastructure. Some consultants have suggested that the U.S. government adopt similar federal regulations to build up the Highway Trust Fund, which has been unable to meet infrastructure needs for several years because the federal gas tax has not increased since 1993 while construction costs have continued to rise with inflation. Telematics provides the tools to track these road usage charges (RUCs) as they come online.

All of these capabilities feed into the changing demands of the fleet industry. Fleet operations are no longer just a line item on a budget, segregated in their own silo. They are now increasingly interconnected to a variety of environmental, regulatory and overall business issues. The ability of telematics to adapt and support these needs continues to equip fleet managers with new tools for doing their job – and doing it well. 

Michael Bloom is Head of Marketing for Sensata INSIGHTS, a global business unit of Sensata Technologies that provides end-to-end IoT solutions spanning the entire supply chain including logistics, telematics, and worksite monitoring and management.

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