- Photo: Getty/5m3photos

Photo: Getty/5m3photos

Fleet management has always been challenging. Juggling people, assets, and schedules amid the unpredictability of road accidents and rising insurance costs, and ever-changing regulations. 

With the electronic logging device mandate, it's now required to use technology to remain in compliance. ELDs are changing the way many fleets manage both trucks and drivers, but they still may not be as efficient or productive as they could be. One solution? Bundle your ELD  with telematics. 

A bundled ELD-telematics system can help businesses track driver behavior, vehicle speed, and route efficiency to mitigate risk, cut costs, and improve productivity — all for the benefit of the bottom line.

Why Telematics Matters

An ELD will keep a fleet in compliance and its drivers on the road and productive. A telematics solution augments compliance with productivity. As a fleet management solution, telematics can provide comprehensive real-time vehicle monitoring with dashboards, reports, maps, and visual tools. 

Here are some key reasons why telematics should matter for your organization:

Fuel Economy

Fuel cost is often the highest expense for a fleet operation. Cutting fuel spend is likely a top-of-list goal for trimming a fleet’s budget. Telematics provides the necessary tools to achieve this challenging goal. It can gather and analyze data related to fuel-wasting behavior, including speeding, idling, or tire pressure. 

For example, speeding leads to a decrease in fuel efficiency. Similarly, under-inflated tires can make engines run harder, waste energy, and slash tire life. An idling vehicle wastes fuel and adds non-productive wear and tear on the engine. However, it’s difficult to identify the extent of these fuel-wasting behaviors without relevant data or the capability to monitor the way the vehicle is being operated. Telematics provides the information in a manageable way, so you can take action to eliminate these fuel-wasting behaviors, addressing them as soon as they occur. 

Security and Safety

While making sure drivers are complying with hours of service rules, a bundled ELD-telematics solution can proactively stop vehicle misuse and theft. Vehicles can be tracked and geofences can be set, which will alert fleet personnel if a truck has strayed off a set route or territory. If a vehicle is stolen, vehicle and asset recovery is typically easier and more successful, avoiding costly losses to both the fleet’s company and its customers.

Telematics can be used to monitor day-to-day driving behaviors and vehicle health to improve the safety of each vehicle. If you notice a specific driver is consistently driving aggressively, you can address it in near real time and correct it with coaching or other measures outlined in fleet driving or safety policies. 

Telematics systems can use sensors to gather diagnostic information about vehicles and send alerts about any emerging maintenance or operational issues, minimizing maintenance downtime. In the case of an accident, vehicle tracking tools can help with at-fault determinations and insurance evaluations, helping to minimize budget-busting liability judgements.

Operational Efficiency and Cost Reduction

Telematics can help fleet managers improve various aspects of business operations. For example, you can look at the driving stats and coach or remove high-risk drivers. Or you can track vehicle performance by individual vehicle to make decisions about cycling out vehicles, purchasing decisions, utilization, and right-sizing. 

Telematics bundled with an ELD can also integrate driver vehicle inspection reports (DVIRs). 

Customer Experience

A telematics solution can take the guesswork out of routing and dispatching. No matter the scope of your trucking operation, because of customer expectations and the need to remain on time and in compliance, scheduling and routing have become increasingly complex. Calculating routes with paper and pencil is time-consuming and results in routes that are not optimized, which could result in a driver running out of hours, with the result being a delay in a delivery or the driver facing the possibility of a violation if he or she presses on. 

Tracking systems monitor vehicles in real time, so you can dispatch more efficiently, and provide to-the-minute updates to customers, providing greater transparency, all while monitoring the driver’s hours of service. Optimized routing increases your reliability and mitigates risk factors, such as heavy traffic or road hazards, allowing your drivers to better serve your customers and remain in compliance. 

Predictive Maintenance

For the past few years, maintenance costs have been trending upward. With a bundled ELD-telematics solution, fleets have visibility into every aspect of vehicle health, allowing for the implementation of effective preventive maintenance programs. 

Telematics solutions can alert drivers and maintenance staff about mechanical issues long before they become expensive roadside repairs.

And the data from a telematics system can be used to start developing true predictive maintenance programs. Some fleets are even starting to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to crunch the numbers in ways a fleet manager can't.

Finding the Right Partner

Telematics can be appropriate for any size or type of fleet, from a small delivery operation to a large over-the-road fleet. But not every provider is right for every fleet. The following are some key factors to consider when evaluating potential providers: 

Complementary Business Cultures: It is crucial to find an ELD-telematics partner whose business practices and culture complement yours. Are transparency, communication, and accountability key values in your business culture? Your business partners should also share these values. If they don’t, you will likely have significant friction in your working relationship. 

Pricing: While pricing is a key consideration, looking only at the sticker price will only get you a good value on the front end – but may cost you down the road. Providers whose solution is significantly cheaper than that of an equally experienced or ranked competitor may not be telling the whole pricing story, which you’ll only learn when contracts are signed and installation is under way, or later, when you need support and it's not there. This is a particularly important consideration for fleets who may be installing a bundled ELD-telematics solution and don’t have leeway to cancel orders midstream. 

Alert Systems and Access Points: A good ELD-telematics system needs to provide a reliable alert system that is easily accessible. Consider the types of alerts, customization options, and endpoints that are important for your fleet operation. Vendors might also vary in terms of providing web, text, email, and mobile-based access. Your organization's objectives will dictate which features are right for you. If you have specific needs, it’s crucial that your partner can demonstrate that it can meet them. Ask for references of existing clients in the same industry or who had similar needs for customization, and ask detailed questions about implementation, effectiveness, and ongoing support.

Usability: An ELD-telematics solution should be easy to use. If the technology baffles your drivers and other staff, then it won’t be productive, and they’ll likely find ways not to use it – including disabling it, which could cause significant issues related to compliance. Piloting one or two finalists with a random, statistically significant number of vehicles will identify if the solution both meets your needs and is easy for drivers and other personnel to use.  

Customer Support and Training: Customer support should be provided both during and after implementation to address any technical issues and provide training, whether it’s because of a new update or part of an employee’s onboarding process. Without adequate support — which should be another question you ask vendor references about — the solution will likely cause more headaches than they solve.  

The right telematics offering, whether it’s standalone or bundled as part of an ELD or other solution, should help you better manage your fleet, improve operational efficiency, save money, and make your business more competitive.

Get quotes from telematics suppliers at HDT sister publication businessfleet.com

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