Fleet Telematics Explained

The term ‘telematics’ is a combination of ‘telecommunications’ and ‘informatics.’ It is how telecommunications devices send, receive and store data related to mobile, yet connected objects. As a system, telematics describes data collection that offers practical information and guidance.

Naturally, commercial fleet management teams prefer fleet telematics systems because they improve business productivity while eliminating risks. They also save valuable time.

A fleet telematics system enables a commercial vehicle fleet to share information to their central office, such as a dispatching office. Usually a fleet telematics system is comprised of a stationary fleet communication system and a mobile vehicle system. From municipal governments and forestry trucking to general fleets, telematics is collecting valuable data to optimize how fleets operate across the world.

The fleet communication system may be an internet service operated by the supplier of the system or a stand-alone application maintained by the motor carrier. It typically features a database where all vehicle positions and messages are kept. Digital maps allow visualization of vehicle traces and positions. The fleet communication system transmits by satellite, cellular connections, or trunked radio transmission.

Fleet managers and the telematics industry

Fleet managers strive to lower costs and ensure a reliable and safe trucking fleet. This means that fleet managers must be knowledgeable on the operations, financial and technical aspects of automotive technology as part of the fleet telematics industry.

How fleet telematics works

Behind the fleet telematics system are physical devices and software that interact to show how well your equipment is working. A variety of communications technologies keeps both dispatch and drivers in the know simultaneously and seamlessly.

Technologies used in fleet telematics include:

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In-vehicle devices

Hardware devices mounted in vehicles connect to the internet using wireless network or satellite modems, to the GPS satellite network, and to the vehicle engine (using either the J-bus connection or the OBD-II port).

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Wireless data communication networks

As wireless data connectivity has improved, this has become the predominate method of transferring data from in-vehicle devices to the internet. Gaps in wireless coverage (rural and wilderness areas) mean that data captured must be stored on the in-vehicle device until wireless connectivity is restored (known as store-and-forward).

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Satellite data communication networks
Initially the only method of communication from in-vehicle devices, satellite connectivity is more expensive but provides connectivity to in-vehicle devices without coverage gaps.
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GPS
GPS modules contained in the in-vehicle device capture latitude and longitude coordinates and elevation (with 4+ satellite connections). This data is provided in coordinate format, which can be mapped and geo-coded to match physical addresses.
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Mapping engines and data
Using mapping service providers (Google, Bing, Here, Mapquest, Apple, others), GPS data is entered and displayed graphically in web browsers and mobile applications. Additional tools like geofences, landmarks, traffic data, road speed data and more help fleet managers to derive powerful insights from location data.
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Vehicle engine computer module
In-vehicle devices connect to vehicle engine data, include speed of travel, fuel usage, engine fault codes and use of vehicle systems such as braking, acceleration, seat belts and more.
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Cloud services
Data captured from in-vehicle devices is passed to cloud services through internet or satellite data connectivity, where the data is housed, manipulated and analyzed.
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Internet browsers / mobile apps
SaaS services for fleet management have developed extensive web-based and mobile-application based tools for viewing and manipulating data from fleet vehicles with connected in-vehicle devices.
Fleet telematics allows GPS tracking to provide much more than location information. It gives fleet management insight on mileage covered and vehicle speeds through a GPS tracking device or from the vehicle’s GPS connection. After the data is sent to an online portal, it can be analyzed and processed. Reporting can also show a fleet’s fuel economy, idle times and allow managers to create geofences (geographical point of interest).

Seeing vehicle locations in real-time is also a great advantage of fleet telematics. This feature helps boost route optimization, allows fleet management to share feedback with driver scorecards and helps raise customer service standards

Recent advances in telematics

Cameras
Fleet managers strive to lower costs and ensure a reliable and safe trucking fleet. This means that fleet managers must be knowledgeable on the operations, financial and technical aspects of automotive technology as part of the fleet telematics industry.

Asset Tracking
Asset tracking is a companion technology to fleet telematics, and the two are increasingly used by motor carriers, private fleets, construction companies and service providers of all types. They use the location data and sensor information to better manage intricate operations involving trucks and the trailers and specialized equipment they haul. Asset trackers use hardware devices that are attached to trailers and equipment, and provide GPS and sensor data (such as power/operating hours, temperature and more if available) through wireless network or satellite connectivity, similar to the way fleet telematics works. Asset tracking hardware can be powered by batteries, wired connection (in connection with batteries) and even solar. Asset tracking hardware may be ruggedized and weather-proof.

Asset tracking helps companies locate assets in the field and in yards, offering benefits including:

  • Locating remote assets and equipment
  • Better coordination of dispatch involving trucks and trailers/equipment
  • Efficiencies in yard checks and locating specific trailers and equipment
  • Asset recovery in case of theft
  • Capturing billable time for equipment at customer sites

Who needs fleet telematics?

In only a few years, modern telematics has become standard protocol for numerous industries. Those adopting fleet telematics have done so to increase reliability, raise customer service standards, boost efficiency and improve revenue.

Construction, transport and site excavation trucking companies are just a few examples of industries using commercial fleet telematics. Others include general fleets, utility companies, taxi companies and car-sharing services, governments and municipalities, researchers and powertrain manufacturers.

Benefits of telematics

The fleet telematics industry offers motor carriers several advantages. Here are some of the most popular ones:

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    Improving productivity
    Fleet telematic systems are modernizing quality of service and efficiency for truck fleets. Data is being integrated with other business applications which enables a full view into operations, helping managers carefully make decisions.
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    Lowering maintenance and fuel costs
    With fleet telematics, data management provides real-time data, allowing for better tracking of costs associated with vehicle maintenance and fuel. It can help reduce breakdowns and preventable accidents, too. Vehicle downtime is minimized because routes and drivers can be adjusted accordingly.
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    Reducing administrative costs
    Fleet telematics software can can translate to simpler office work, and best of all, less paperwork!
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    Notification functions
    Fleet managers appreciate receiving electronic alerts through telematics because it allows them to take immediate action if drivers speed, vehicles idle excessively or when accidents occur. They’ll also know where their vehicles are and when. This helps cut down on unauthorized vehicle use across the fleet.
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    Tracking cargo
    Trailers and shipping containers can be tracked even when off-road. This can mean less misuse and fewer losses or theft.
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    Improving driver safety
    Real-time tracking of driving regulations and vehicle health keeps drivers off roadways when it’s unsafe. It makes them mindful of everyone’s safety, not just their own.

    Telematics privacy and tracking concerns

    The ELD mandate includes provisions that safeguard the driver’s privacy. For example, if driving for personal conveyance, the driver’s location data is only available within a 10-mile radius. Managing driver expectations is critical to successfully implementing a fleet management system.

    It’s also advantageous to provide incentives to drivers based on the driver benchmarking fleet management software can provide This might be done through bonuses given to drivers who are improving their safety metrics or being more fuel efficient.

    Data sharing

    While fleet telematics is very useful, protecting the data security of fleet telematics is critical. Be sure to implement security best practices in both product and software development.

    First, create a committed team of managers and security specialists at your organization. Then, establish thorough and clear privacy and security policies and procedures. And fully train all company staff, end-users and partners on them regularly.

    EROAD – a leader in fleet telematics

    EROAD is a leader in innovative solutions in the fleet telematics industry. EROAD’s fleet management enables you to run a safer, more efficient fleet and reduce the burdens and costs associated with manual paperwork. Our superior accuracy provides your business with the best data available to help you improve productivity and customer service, reduce operating costs and maximize uptime.