The Telematics Blog
Telematics and Vehicle Maintenance
A 2014 article in Entrepreneur had this to say about telematics and fleet vehicles:
Telematics has revolutionised the management of fleet vehicles, reducing wear and …and how you can streamline the operation of your own company vehicles.
The article uses the global shipping service UPS as the ideal illustration. Pointing out that the use of telematics for their massive fleet of vehicles enabled the firm (which logs around 3 billion miles annually) to cut the preventative maintenance schedule on its 100,000 vehicles in half.
Yes, it went from manually conducting (and paying for) around a quarter of a million inspections each year, to less than half that amount - and all while boosting the actual performance and reliability of those vehicles. In fact, the firm enjoyed 50% improvement in fuel efficiency for the most commonly used trucks.
How? Thanks to the use of telematics! Tracking software installed on the vehicles that was able to report real-time data on driver behaviour, vehicle conditions, and more. Naturally, data alone doesn't work the magic, and the company also had to create systems to respond to and use the data, but the point is that a simple system for vehicle and driver tracking enabled them to cut an enormous expense out of the budget.
The firm also noted "wear trends", recognising unusual and unexpected patterns in certain vehicles. This allowed the company to use their fleet telematics data to recognise when repairs were actually warranty issues. The patterns within their data allowed them to prove that certain parts wore too quickly, enabling a warranty claim instead of a company-funded repair.
Thus, fleet telematics cut down on unneeded inspections, gave ample warning of potential mechanical problems or driver-related wear and tear, identified issues that should not be the company's responsibility to repair, and reduced fuel costs.
Naturally, maintenance also means basic upkeep, and this alone can consume many hours of an employee's time. Fleet managers have busy schedules, and it can be easy to overlook the need for maintenance, inspections and other essential steps. Fortunately, fleet telematics can be used to develop basic schedules, but with far more accuracy.
As we saw in the UPS example, the firm was doubling up on unnecessary inspection. The use of telematics enabled them to track parameters and create preventative maintenance schedules that targeted their specific needs. For instance, they could opt to do maintenance at certain mileage points, when fuel mileage declined, or when an engine had been running for a set number of hours. The fleet telematics might alert the fleet managers with automatic notifications when any milestone is reached; avoiding missed maintenance and also saving on unneeded services.
As one fleet manager said of the use of telematics:
Prior to telematics, vehicle maintenance happened in a preventive and reactive mode. Time and money were spent maintaining vehicles (changing fluids, replacing parts) early in their life cycle to prevent failures while in use…Most fleet managers would follow their old maintenance schedules. That means blindly changing the fluids, oil and breaks at regular intervals, whether they need to or not. Not only are you spending more for preventive maintenance that your vehicles do not need, but you are also spending for these consumables. Imagine how much savings you could get when you only change oil, and everything else when it’s really needed.
Many have started to refer to this as "condition-based" upkeep, and it is due entirely to the availability of telematics, which removes all of the guesswork and waste. Not only will firms find that they get more out of many different (and oft changed) components, but they also can make decisions on their own, pre-selected factors or data.
Driver Training Alongside Data Tracking
Of course, it is important to note that firms like UPS and others also monitor a driver's behaviours. The driver who has a "leaden foot" and who accelerates quickly and brakes hard will be identified as a potential hazard, or at the least a maintenance issue. Even a driver who often forgoes their seat belt will fall under the scrutiny of the telematics software.
With such data, a firm can find it far easier to speak with a fleet driver, show them the data, and implement training to overcome bad habits before they begin to cost the firm in vehicle repairs or higher insurance premiums.
Many firms also use fleet telematics along with the process known as "gamification" to get drivers to behave in a way that puts less wear and tear on vehicles. Gamification uses the data from telematics and enables drivers and managers to create contests or game-like challenges and goals, and then use tracking to indicate success. Some even create company contests designed to support company goals. These could be green initiatives, performance initiatives, efficiency goals, and more.
Maintenance Issues and Advance Warning
Another of the benefits of using telematics for fleet vehicles is the advance warning that can come from the tracking of fault codes and indicator lights.
For instance, a driver may overlook or ignore a warning indicator on a dashboard display. This can lead to a breakdown at a crucial time - such as a truck already on its way to a destination or a car or vehicle already transporting passengers. With fleet telematics, the fault codes can also be included in the data transferred, and management or dispatchers can pull a vehicle before it creates a service problem or demands an even costlier repair.
Relaying fault codes also allows repairs to be done even before the issue may cause performance problems. As one trucking firm reported of its own use of fleet telematics:
One company that makes use of fault code data from trucks on the road … uses trend data from fault codes to develop maintenance schedules and routines with the goal of reducing progressive damage, reducing on-road repairs, avoiding false diagnostics, and avoiding towing fees.
Data can also be used predictively to model or analyse driver habits versus vehicle conditions. For example, a fleet vehicle that is underperforming in terms of its mileage could be suffering a maintenance or repair issue, but might also be getting such low mileage due to driver behaviours. As another fleet owner said:
You can apply modelling to vehicle uptime and look at the types of vehicles, driver habits, the kind of routes they run and other factors. The models are getting much better at being able to say you will have a maintenance issue in 5,000 miles…
Seeking to predict issues and using data to forecast performance of the fleet can enable a firm of any size to achieve the same results as a massive firm like UPS.
Even if you have only ten vehicles in a fleet, you can cut maintenance demands and costs by instituting fleet telematics.
But as we already indicated, the data alone will not provide the solution, and as one expert wrote:
Selecting the appropriate technology, and then turning telematics data into business critical information in real-time, is a crucial factor in an operation’s success and longevity.
This is where organisations like Telematics Pro UK Ltd. can step in and help you combine telematics with vehicle maintenance goals for overall success.
Using the Data and Tools Effectively
Data is really only as valuable as you make, and if your current approach to telematics is limited to collecting data alone, you are not getting anything out of your efforts. At Telematics Pro UK Ltd we can consult with you, using our different technologies and partnerships to help you take the data off the paper or screen and convert it into workable and actionable business plans.
One of the toughest areas to address when vehicle maintenance seems to be due to driver performance is re-training drivers to better standards. This is why we recommend the use of training modules (online and/or in person) that directly address the issues that the fleet telematics has documented. Whether it is just hard driving or dangerous driving, there are ways of helping drivers to alter their patterns.
One thing that should be emphasised is that most experts have found that the "carrot" works far better than the "stick" and this is why we might recommend alternatives to direct training. For example, the GreenRoad in-vehicle displays are remarkable, self-corrective tools. Consider what the firm says about their "Objective In-Vehicle Feedback" system:
Drivers receive objective, real-time feedback whenever a risky driving event occurs, allowing them to quickly self-correct, resulting in safer, more fuel efficient driving.
This approach may also integrate gamification too, as the system will use weekly email summaries, performance data, and options for instructional videos and materials all designed to motivate and improve driver patterns. The software can also provide safety scores, visualise driver "hotspots" where they may be performing risky manoeuvres or idling for lengthy periods. The point here is that we can offer solutions that provide fleet drivers with a sense of self-correction rather than punishment or reprimand from employers.
At Telematics Pro UK Ltd. we offer firms of all kinds and sizes an end to end fleet telematics package. We deliver the tools your needed to make fleet maintenance far more effective, streamlined and efficient. With our flexible solutions, you can easily identify relevant performance data, analyse areas of weakness or underperformance, and use the information to keep the entire fleet in top condition. With driver learning and training systems, we ensure that your outcomes will help you meet performance and earnings goals. If you are ready to discuss your needs for fleet telematics, or simply to learn more about our offerings, get in touch today.