While a mixed truck fleet, consisting of light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles may have slightly different hardware requirements, from OBD-II to JBUS, equipping the entire truck fleet with a telematics solution is possible, and providers are working to make it as effortless as possible.
In the first of a two-part series on Telematics in Mixed Truck Fleets, subject-matter experts discuss whether a fleet should equip their entire truck fleet with a telematics solution, and any differences in reporting capabilities for fleets with a mix of Class 1-8 trucks.
Equipping a Mixed Truck Fleet with a Telematics Solution
Overall, the majority of fleets do not look at truck class for a telematics solution. Often, decisions are based on other selection parameters.
“In some cases, we see fleets using telematics for only one vehicle type, but more often we see telematics selection based on department, not vehicle,” said Chris Ransom, associate director for sales engineering for Verizon Networkfleet. “If a fleet has only one asset type monitored by a telematics solution, it was mostly likely due to coincidence rather than choice.”
If a fleet does decide to equip only a portion of their fleet, how vehicles are used is one way that fleet managers make the selection decision.
“We do not typically see a difference by class, but by use of vehicle,” said Cyndi Brandt, senior director of product marketing at Omnitracs. “Typically, if a fleet has decided safety is important, they will equip their entire fleet, whether owned or leased. Some fleets will choose to only equip vehicles that are part of delivery or service operations where the GPS track-and-trace is most important to track in real-time the progress of the route and whether or not it is on time as well as provide real-time updates to customers and sales reps.”
One other segment that may not receive a telematics solution is personally owned vehicles.
“Generally speaking, companies will not equip driver-owned vehicles, e.g., sales reps or merchandisers. They prefer to use a mobile application that only does GPS track-and-trace,” said Brandt of Omnitracs.
Projects may also play a part in determining what vehicles to equip.
“The deployment strategy will depend on the fleet’s culture and their specific needs. There are several instances when a fleet might decide to equip a portion of their fleet vehicles. Some fleets may decide to roll out installation and training in stages, because it makes sense to them in terms of project management. Or, a company may set a goal that applies to only one division. For example, they want to increase jobs completed and increase the accuracy of arrival times, so they would install telematics on their delivery and service vehicles but not their sales fleet,” said Scott Sutarik, Geotab’s business development, OEM sales manager.
In addition to segment, some fleet managers may not be able to get the buy-in from upper management to equip the entire fleet or may be looking to test or pilot the solution.
“Although most fleets do roll-out in full, unfortunately, some do not equip their entire truck fleet with telematics. This is due to a number of reasons, including not enough buy-in from upper management to invest more capital into rolling out the whole fleet. Sometimes a business believes that only one or two divisions or groups necessitate the need for telematics. Seldom, a business owner may only want to track one or two poor performing employees. Also, on occasion, when they initially purchase they just want to dip their toe into telematics to test it out, only implementing a small percentage of their fleet, and then stalling to move forward with the rest because of management changes, priority shifts, or ineffective testing/piloting/trials, etc.,” said Ryan Driscoll, marketing director at GPS Insight.
Finally, the overall size of the fleet may be a factor.
“This decision varies as the criteria are unique to each of our customers. ROI is usually a big factor for fleets. Larger fleets are incentivized to use WEX Telematics Service throughout their organizations. So, our challenge is to complete installation and user training as quickly as possible. Customers with smaller fleets usually have a specific problem; such as reducing non-productive idle time, eliminating off-hour usage, or tracking customer visits. Their ROI timeline is dictated by which module or modules they focus on,” said Bernie Kavanagh, VP of North American Fleet for WEX, Inc.
Smaller fleets also may need a reason to look for a telematics solution, perhaps to help solve a problem or decrease specific expenses.
“In many cases, especially in small- and medium-sized businesses, business owners will turn to a fleet solution after discovering issues such as unauthorized vehicle use, a collection of missed service calls, or excessive fuel costs. In some cases, this may result in publicized stories about unsafe driving involving a vehicle displaying a company’s logo. These can also be related to workforce safety issues from a different perspective. Knowing the whereabouts of your drivers or mobile workers is an important tool in making sure you can assist your team in case of health and safety issues that may be encountered on the road,” said Keith Halasy, senior director of marketing for Azuga, Inc.
But, the vast majority of fleet managers equip their entire fleet with a telematics solution, regardless of vehicle class, type, or use.
“The vast majority of fleets choose to implement their entire fleet, encompassing all truck classes, and very often the equipment they are hauling, such as dry vans and reefers. We are actually seeing a dramatic increase in the light-duty vehicles of sales teams and merchandisers (especially in food and beverage distribution) also being included in the fleet management/telematics scope. Long gone are the days when it made sense to only roll out telematics to just one class of vehicle because the ROI and benefits for cost-efficiency, safety, and productivity are so high,” said Kelly Frey, vice president of Product Marketing for Telogis.
Updates in technology are helping move the adoption of telematics across the entire vehicle fleet along.
“People generally equip their entire truck fleet, as there is equipment ready to support all types from several providers. If forced to choose for budgetary or other reasons, we have seen some preference to large vehicles given their relative cost and impact on items like safety and fuel costs,” said Todd Ewing, director of Product Marketing for Fleetmatics.
And, equipping the entire fleet makes the most sense from a reporting and data acquisition standpoint.
“To receive the optimal benefits from the telematics solution, it’s best to outfit all vehicles. Improved productivity, driver safety, cost reduction, and regulatory compliance apply to all vehicle types,” said Roni Taylor, vice president of Industry Relations for Spireon. “Some of our customers have thought that just one class of vehicles needed the telematics solution more than another class, but quickly changed their minds once they saw the productivity improvements from the telematics and quickly deployed it on the balance of the fleet.”
Although a fleet may start with one segment of vehicles, they often expand beyond.
“It’s been our experience that once one section of a fleet sees the benefits of reduced risk and lower claims costs as the result of our video telematics program, the rest of the fleet adopts the solution, because our DriveCam is not about improving the vehicle, but rather, the driver behind the wheel,” said Del Lisk, vice president of Safety Services for Lytx.
For fleet managers looking to expand their use of a telematics solution across all vehicles, the benefits are clear.
“Installing telematics devices fleet-wide is beneficial because it increases a fleet’s visibility and ROI. The more data you collect, the more meaningful the results. If a fleet is using telematics to support their policy, then fleet-wide deployment enables them to gauge the company’s performance in areas such as overall accident rate,” Sutarik said.
For the fleets still holding out, regulatory compliance may play a factor in the decision to equip some units.
“Historically, companies have definitely leaned toward equipping their entire fleets to maximize the value of their telematics platform. We imagine that some of the holdouts will only outfit vehicles required under the new FMCSA regulations,” said Gabriel Nave, director of business development for CalAmp.
Handling Reports for a Mixed Truck Fleet
While there are differences in reporting capabilities, telematics solution providers are looking to make reporting easier for fleets. The majority of providers are looking for ways to ensure their solution will work through a common dashboard across all applications.
“Many of our customers have our base system on their light-duty vehicles and will add an in-cab display to enable applications such as hours-of-service and navigation on their medium- to heavy-duty vehicles,” said Pete Allen, executive vice president of MiX Telematics Americas.
According to Nave of CalAmp, reporting comes in two classifications. “The first data set may generally be classified as ‘driver behavior’ and the second as ‘vehicle data.’ The data reported is generally consistent across vehicle types, but may have different qualitative meaning,” Nave said.
One of the biggest differences between telematics solutions for light- and medium-duty trucks versus heavy-duty trucks is the vehicle data that can be collected.
“Reporting capabilities can vary based on truck class. For example, a heavy-duty truck is going to report engine hours, as that is a critical factor to maintenance, while a light-duty truck may show odometer and calendar time for maintenance purposes, such as oil changes,” said Ransom of Verizon Networkfleet.
Agreeing is Halasy of Azuga. “Light/medium and heavy truck telematics solutions do differ —right now the focus is on eLogs/HOS reporting, common in heavy truck/OTR solutions. Other specialized solutions, where load conditions are a key reporting requirement, differentiate capabilities of light/medium vehicle solutions versus heavy truck solutions,” said Halasy of Azuga. “The challenge we most often see for organizations using our solutions is allocating someone to take the data and make best use of it. Very often the solutions give more data than an organization ends up using with any degree of consistency.”
The biggest differences appear to be engine hours and hours-of-service reporting.
“At MiX, the reporting in the system is consistent for all vehicle types when practical. For example, reports related to hours of service for ELD and AOBRD are only practical for heavy duty vehicles requiring electronic HOS logs,” said Allen of MiX Telematics.
Another difference may be solution-based, and what capabilities each level within a solution itself provides.
“We do not have a variance in what is offered, however, the data elements may vary based upon the level of the solution used. For example, our mobile app telematics will not report driver or vehicle behaviors. We have worked hard to eliminate reporting issues by consolidating the user interface for varying degrees of use — all the data is in one place for reporting whether you use the app or the telematics hardware. The data also rolls up into a domain-specific business analytics tool so companies can easily see historical information and uncover trends about their business,” said Brandt of Omnitracs.
But, telematics solution providers agree that the differences shouldn’t be apparent to the end user.
“The heavy lifting in reporting should be done on the vendor’s side, giving the fleet manager the ability to organize reports according to the organization he or she manages. Managing by location, squad, or truck type is easily done with our online coaching portal,” said Lisk of Lytx.
Each provider discussed a goal to help manage the data that comes from the different asset types and place them into one cohesive location for fleet managers to view at a high level specific to their needs, with the ability to drill down deeper as needed.
“The real trick of a progressive mobile enterprise management solution provider, such as Telogis, is to provide a seamless experience exposing operational data and actionable information across the entire operation, without any difference between light-, medium-, and heavy-duty vehicles. The incoming information can appear overwhelming unless organized appropriately into actionable data, dashboards and well-designed workflow automation,” said Frey of Telogis.
Working with your provider and integrating as much data as possible into the platform, from all vehicle classes to fuel card use, can help a fleet manager get the whole picture.
“Look for a solution that allows you to set up your fleet hierarchy so that you can group your like vehicles by year, make, model, and geographical region. This will enable you to better manage your reporting. Also, if you have a fleet management software system, we encourage you to integrate the telematics data into that system for a seamless solution. You should also integrate your fuel card data with your telematics so you have precise geographic location information tied to fueling stops,” said Taylor of Spireon.
Providing specific requests for what data is needed is one way to help decrease the potential of data overload when utilizing a telematics solution across all assets.
“Core reporting doesn’t necessarily change in terms of activity tracking. Good systems help customers configure each vehicle’s software record in the account so it effectively measures factors such as harsh driving against the vehicle class and considers engine type and size when calculating fuel burn rates. The best thing a fleet manager can do to help is to provide a very specific model and engine information if requested by the telematics company so we can properly ship and equip, then configure the software appropriately,” said Ewing of Fleetmatics.
At the end of the day, the goal of all providers is to provide the information and data the fleet manager requires.
“On our solution, the reporting capability is identical between the platforms. We provide fleet managers a variety of tools to help make the massive amount of information headed their way usable. First and foremost is our portal. Second is our training. We believe in giving fleet managers all the data they would ever need and training them on how to use it,” said Driscoll of GPS Insight.
As your fleet operations change, remember that telematics solution needs will change as well. Stay informed on updates and request new report capabilities as the needs arise.
“Our reports can be customized and cater specifically to what’s important to the fleet rather than based on truck size. A company’s priorities will likely change over time. So, flexibility in a telematics solution is important. The best solution will accommodate a fleet’s growth and evolving needs,” said Sutarik of Geotab.