The future of telematics is changing. Fleets are constantly figuring out brilliant ways to utilize telematics-based solutions to improve their operations.   - Photo: Gettyimages.com/BlackJack3D

The future of telematics is changing. Fleets are constantly figuring out brilliant ways to utilize telematics-based solutions to improve their operations.  

Photo: Gettyimages.com/BlackJack3D

Typically known for tracking vehicles with a “dots on a map” approach, telematics solutions are growing, changing, and becoming more robust than ever before. Telematics providers share some of the top, innovative uses for a telematics solution beyond simple vehicle tracking. 

1. Monitoring & Managing Speed 

Managing drivers by using optimization software is a simple means to gain efficient operation of the asset. 

“If a driver can no longer break top speeds or jackrabbit start, your repair and maintenance costs go down. It’s also essential to help drive and track costs for employees in the field to a job. Pairing Derive optimization with our telematics solution to ensure the speed is capped and reviewing fuel metrics of before and after,” said Charlie Mahoney, business development at Derive. 

Recalibration is a valuable tool most fleet professionals are not familiar with. 

“Think about your smartphone: just as you make adjustments for the way you utilize your phone, your vehicle is no different. Setting fleet-specific thresholds essentially drives the change from the vehicle — not the driver. This means less progressive disciplinary events and helps ensure compliance regardless of your driver turnover,” Mahoney added.

2. Assisting with Industry Specific Needs

It’s often said, but for a good reason – not all fleets are the same, even within the same vocation or industry. Being able to monitor needs specific to your industry is invaluable. 

“In the instance of waste, capturing the status of bins - whether they’re locked, overflowing, etc., is one solution,” said Adam Kahn, president of Netradyne. “Also, tracking where trucks are is important so fleets can keep customers informed.”

Fleet Managers have been using telematics to look at trends and make more informed decisions to optimize their fleet. 

“Telematics solutions can be used to spot training opportunities for operators. We had a fleet that saw an outlier in the way one truck’s crane was used. With further investigation, it was found an operator wasn’t using his crane remote efficiently, and they were able to correct this, resulting in easier use for the operator,” said Adam Oppermann, product manager for Stellar Industries Inc.

3. Tracking Weather Conditions 

Another innovative use of a video intelligence solution is using the cameras to get a glance at real-time weather conditions on the road. 

“For example, if a driver is out in severe weather, a manager can hit the ‘test camera’ button on the back end of the system to visually check on the weather they’re dealing with, where they may be stuck, etc.,” said Jim Angel, vice president of Video Intelligence Solutions for Trimble Transportation.  

4. Ensuring Solo Driver Safety

Truck fleet drivers often work solo and ensuring their safety can be more difficult. 

“Trimble’s Out-of-Truck notification uses geofencing and vehicle GPS location data to keep workers safe when working alone. When a remote worker arrives at a field site and leaves the truck, a timer starts, and if they don’t check back in at the truck before the timer goes off, a loud siren goes off on the vehicle. If needed, the system also sends a distress message through the wireless network to the safety manager, who can then use the vehicle’s location to provide detail to additional resources, such as an area manager or emergency response services,” said Angel of Trimble Transportation.

Video is a great tool for new drivers. 

“After drivers have their training with a trainer in the cab, video serves as an additional step for training. It is an “onboard coach” for drivers, allowing for real-time communication and collaboration between the driver and fleet manager during the workday,” said Kahn of Netradyne.

5. Beyond Traditional Geofencing

Geofencing is a virtual fence that can be created around a physical location, such as a city’s border or even a job site. 

“Fleet managers who set these up can receive alerts when vehicles or assets cross the invisible geofence border. Some businesses have set up geofences around toll roads, so the back office always knows when a company vehicle pays a toll and can begin the reporting and processing steps immediately. This helps save the business time tracking down the tolls drivers pay and ensure that the business expense is accounted for,” said Kevin Aries, head of global product success for Verizon Connect.

6. Keeping Track of Equipment

Bluetooth-enabled smart sensors can be paired with smart IoT devices to keep track of high-value service vehicles, equipment, and tools throughout a jobsite or yard. 

“Gone are the headaches associated with manual equipment tracking and a difficult recovery process that involves costly law enforcement, legal assistance, and claims professionals. CalAmp iOn Tag service, for example, sends real-time alerts to drivers if a piece of equipment was left behind. This provides an enterprise-wide view of drivers, service vehicles, and related assets. Operations managers can reduce time spent retrieving assets as well as prevent unauthorized use of equipment,” said Jeff Clark, senior vice president of Product Management for CalAmp. 

From a theft prevention standpoint, one fleet affixed “Powered by BlackBerry Radar” decals on the container doors of each of its trailers that showcase Radar’s cargo sensor, GPS locator, and door alert capabilities. 

“The idea behind this is the same reason why many people have ‘Beware of Dog’ and alarm company signs on their lawns – by letting people know that you have a security system, intruders might think twice about targeting you. Matson’s deployment marked the first time that a BlackBerry Radar customer has visibly branded their assets in this way to let people know that they use our smart, IoT-based monitoring tool to reduce theft and improve fleet utilization and operational efficiency,” noted Christopher Plaat, SVP and GM for BlackBerry Radar. 

7. Help with Performance & Training

Telematics providers can also provide back-end monitoring of driver routes. 

“Back-end monitoring enables driver performance to be tracked and monitored so more training can be provided if needed,” said Ted Lee, Head of Business Development and Product Innovation for Magellan GPS.

8. Finding More Areas to Improve

A top priority for many fleet managers is effectively managing the fleet’s total cost and increasing savings. 

“It can be challenging to identify new opportunities for savings. To help fleet managers easily identify additional areas to improve their operations, Geotab has developed the Fleet Savings Summary Report available as an add-in on the Geotab Marketplace. In this report, users can identify a proper proactive driver management program to maximize their return on investment (ROI) and minimize their cost of ignoring (COI),” said Sherry Calkins, vice president, Strategic Partners for Geotab.

9. Providing Contextual Input

Integrated video telematics solutions capture events as they occur and provide contextual insights to fleet operators. 

“Real-time information not only provides valuable driver behavior insights but builds a foundation of data analytics and refined automated intelligence. Smart cameras that feed data into cloud-based networks for analysis provide actionable information about speed or stop sign violations, tailgating, land drift, etc., and can help prevent collisions from keeping drivers safe and improving road safety,” said Clark of CalAmp. 

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The Bottom Line

Fleets are constantly figuring out brilliant ways to utilize telematics-based solutions to improve their operations.  

“During these unprecedented times, the significance of data has become apparent, especially when trying to understand the potential impacts that businesses, governments, and everyday consumers may face. Since this is an ever-changing situation, many of our customers, resellers, partners, and other industry professionals have been requesting more frequent data insights into the health of the commercial transportation industry,” said Calkins of Geotab.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to impact operations not just now, but into the foreseeable future. 

“Social distancing requirements can make it more difficult for supervisors to ride along with a driver for road testing or other purposes. Some of our clients are using our live stream and DVR functionalities to comply with company road testing requirements and stay connected with their drivers,” said Michael Philippi, vice president of technology for Lytx.

It’s clear, the future of telematics is changing.

“The truck fleet industry simply needs to evaluate what improvements are made in the retail vehicle sector. Manufacturers have been putting safety features in consumer vehicles for years, such as backup cameras, side-view alerts, and recommendations for routing. We see more of these coming to the fleet industry soon, and with industries like waste removal being one of the deadliest in the country, these safety features cannot come a moment too soon,” said Lee of Magellan. 

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