Used well, telematics can significantly improve heavy vehicle fleet productivity and efficiency, while reducing mileage, operational costs and fuel consumption. However telematics are a measurement and reporting tool only - not a substitute for fleet management and driver training.
Telematics has a range of different meanings. It’s the use of computers to control and monitor remote devices and systems. The largest market for telematics systems is the transport sector as they can give operators an opportunity to manage assets more effectively.
There are many telematics system providers in New Zealand - technology is changing rapidly and systems are evolving, so it can be difficult to compare systems.
Basic components of a telematics system
There are 3 basic components to a telematics system.
- Hardware - the equipment that collects the data and is physically fitted to your vehicles.
- Data transfer - how the data collected is transferred from the vehicle to your office.
- Software - how the data is changed into useful information and reports for your business.
Choosing the right system
Deciding the specification of your telematics system is a 3-step process.
1. What are your business issues?
Take time to identify the business issues you want to address. These may include:
- poor fuel efficiency
- high crash rate
- fuel theft
- lack of driver skills
- poor vehicle utilisation
- delays at customer sites
- disrupted schedules
- paperwork errors.
2. What do you want to measure?
Develop a set of key performance indicators (KPIs) to help you identify what needs to be measured. These KPIs will help you decide what you want the telematics to measure and report on. Examples may include:
- distance travelled
- idling time
- km per litre of fuel used (km/l)
- fuel used per 100 kilometres of distance travelled (l/100km)
- time spent above the legal speed limit for the location
- time spent with the engine idling, not moving the vehicle down the road
- percentage of working time spent on the road versus in the yard or in off-road situations.
3. How should this be reported?
Think about the type of reports you need and who in your fleet will be using them. The reports need to be informative, easy to understand and accurate.
Choosing a telematics provider
When you choose a supplier:
- make sure they have demonstrated expertise in communication and software development and support - not just in the specification and manufacture of on-board hardware
- consider their product as a whole, including its accuracy and ease of use
- remember to look beyond attractive vehicle equipment, maps and displays
- consider all the information you’ll need over time to improve your operation - not just the specific problem you're trying to solve today.
Here are some questions to ask when you’re choosing a telematics supplier.
- How large is the system supplier in terms of staff and turnover? (This is a confidence and customer support issue).
- Are there other companies already using the system that you can visit or talk to?
- Which fleets has the supplier already provided systems for? (If you’re using a new supplier be prepared for some teething problems).
- Can the telematics product interface with your current dispatch and other systems?
- Who will install the product and who will service it?
- What training services and facilities are provided for management, drivers and installation staff?
- What assistance, training and motivational tools can they provide to help you to get your drivers on board?