What Is Telematics? What You Need to Know

by Vector | Oct 5, 2021 12:14:51 PM

"This is the way."The Mandalorian

Today we're looking at the growing area of supply chain telematics. It makes sense that telematics is booming. Companies in every branch of logistics are becoming hungrier for data. And in turn, telematics software is a big source of raw data. The aim with all the data we're collecting is nothing short of clairvoyance. With data, we wish to gaze into the crystal ball and see into the future.

This notion of clairvoyance reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a customer who works for a major North American original equipment manufacturer (OEM). His specific employer shall remain nameless, but what we talked about is universal. We discussed the multitude of challenges facing the supply chain in the post-COVID era.

He described the situation bluntly, stating, "There's a real battle coming." That's a heck of a forecast! It makes me hope he's actually not clairvoyant.

Then again, maybe you have the same sense when you peer into the misty future. Perhaps you know what I mean?

In other words, the new normal involves factors that are driving higher prices and longer lead times across the supply chain. And that always hurts the bottom line for OEMs.

So what to do? Find a way—that's what.

Telematics: This Is the Way

One answer to the coming battle looming over the global supply chain appears to be a dedication to telematics. After all, planning is great. But real change occurs where the rubber meets the road.

Sure, they also say, "the road to ruin is paved with good intentions." But when uncertainty strikes, in general it's helpful to have guiding principles (like the Mandalorian Code, for example) to show you the way forward.

In logistics, it's also helpful to have the guidance provided by telematics fleet management software. The real-time data provided through telematics provides companies the opportunity to not just identify positive changes but also support them.

It makes sense, then, to spend time reviewing telematics and what telematics brings to the table. In other words, is telematics the lifeboat that will help us all ride out the tsunami?

What Is Telematics?

In reality, the logistics landscape has always been rife with stiff competition and daily challenges. Micro changes in things like driver behavior, routing, and fuel efficiency can save pennies. But over time, a penny saved in logistics can mean many dollars earned.

As such, telematics software tracks a truck's real-time location, fuel consumption, idle time, driver behavior, drivers' electronic logging device schedules, and vehicle maintenance schedules. Put another way, the purpose driving telematics fleet management software is increased visibility.

Some drivers might think the purpose of telematics is to watch over them like Big Brother. But those in logistics who see the big picture know telematics is all about saving costs and keeping the roads safe.

A List of Features and Benefits of Telematic Fleet Management Software

There's a host of features worth identifying if you're looking into telematics for fleet management. In general, when considering a new piece of technology, I encourage the concept of right-sizing. You know your organization and fleet best. Not every telematics system will be right for you. Thus, it's worth identifying the right features and fit for your fleet.

Some of the most popular telematics fleet management features are:

  • Real-time tracking of vehicle assets (through GPS): Real-time GPS means there are no lapses in visibility. You always know where your assets are. This feature also helps with compliance with the ELD mandate and other regulations.
  • TMS integration: Seamless integration with your other tech platforms will benefit your team with other tasks like accounting, dispatching, customer interfacing, audits, and billing.
  • Fleet performance tools: Telematics helps you track and optimize vehicle efficiency, schedule routine maintenance, and save money.
  • Tools for tracking fuel consumption: These are important for your IFTA filing.
  • Driver performance tools: Data-based reports about driving habits help you with driver coaching, safety monitoring, and driving efficiency.
  • Video telematics: These are onboard cameras that create a visual record in the event of any incidents or accidents.

Outside of the various features and benefits, it's worth noting the two general types of telematics systems.

  1. Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) connectivity: This means factory-fitted, on-board, telematics hardware.
  2. Third-party software: If a truck doesn't have telematics, or if the existing telematics software doesn't have the features you need, there are third-party telematics options.

What Vector Is Bringing to Telematic Fleet Management

Vector's driver workflow and digitization software integrates with other telematics software platforms. Vector's workflow features—such as driver check-in, electronic bill of lading (eBOL), document scanning, mobile app, invoicing, and auditing—are attractive in their own right.

But Vector has also partnered with several top telematic fleet management companies. Names like Platform Science, Trimble (formerly PeopleNet), and Geotab all have added Vector's product to their telematics toolkit. Let's look at each of these companies in turn.

Platform Science

One trend in telematics that we mentioned above is the desire for factory-installed, on-board telematics hardware. The general logic is that if two telematics systems offer similar features, why not use the one that comes with the truck?

On the other hand, third-party telematics providers may offer features that are better suited to certain fleets. For example, if your fleet happens to feature trucks from different manufacturers, a third-party provider will allow you to synch your fleet with one telematics platform.

That said, Platform Science is an example of a factory-installed telematics provider that also offers third-party adaptability. In short, the company's products are available on many new Daimler-brand trucks. But Platform Science's website introduces the company's collaborative mindset with what they call their open-edge platform.

In essence, "open-edge" means Platform Science welcomes collaboration with other software firms, such as telematics service providers (TSPs), apps, and devices.

For example, Platform Science includes PedalCoach technology from one collaborator, LinkeDrive. PedalCoach helps fleet managers coach drivers on optimal fuel usage and driving habits. And because Platform Science features real-time data, this allows for real-time driver coaching.

Beyond that, Platform Science has some intuitive safety features. These include pedestrian motion detection, driver distraction scores, and low temperature alerts for refrigerated trailers.

Next, let's consider another worthy competitor.

Geotab

Geotab is considered tops in the telematics market, with an industry-leading 2.1 million commercial fleet subscribers. According to the Geotab website, the company uses billions of data points daily.

Geotab's telematics software is driven by this data, plus analytics and machine learning. The result is a reliable and intuitive telematics product.

Geotab's goals are to improve productivity, optimize fleet performance, reduce fuel consumption, enhance driver safety, and help companies comply with regulations.

Geotab also emphasizes data security through authentication, encryption, and message integrity verification. That said, Geotab is also open to collaboration within its open-sourced software ecosystem. The Geotab marketplace is where decision makers can find customized telematics fleet management solutions. Some of these solutions include Vector's digitized document app, in-vehicle camera software, and real-time temperature tracking.

Finally, let's look at another major player in this field.

Trimble

Trimble telematics fleet management software offers a broad mix of solutions. The company has been a leader in logistics software and telematics technology for more than 50 years.

For customers interested in OEM factory-installed telematics, Trimble is installed on Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks. Along with all the standard features of telematics we've discussed, Kenworth and Trimble emphasize driver connectivity. When you're facing a driver shortage, it makes a lot of sense to appeal to the end user.

Generally, Trimble's key features are workflow improvement, back-office fleet management, electronic logging devices (ELDs), driver communications, video, GPS, geofencing, analytics, and reporting.

In terms of Trimble's partnership with Vector, digitized documents are the core workflow improvements for drivers, back offices, and decision makers.

This Is the Way

The guiding principles of the Mandalorian Code (or whatever your code may be) help you navigate uncertain battlefields no matter what your fight is.

But I also noticed another lesson from the Mandalorian. As he proved effective and completed a job, he took his earnings and invested in better technology. For Mando, that was better armor and weapons. That improved technology helped him become even more successful.

So just keep adding intelligent technology, and trust that will make you more efficient, effective, and competitive. This is the way good technology will make us more successful.

This post was written by Brian Deines. Brian believes that every day is a referendum on a brand’s relevance, and he’s excited to bring that kind of thinking to the world of modern manufacturing and logistics. He deploys a full-stack of business development, sales, and marketing tools built through years of work in the logistics, packaging, and tier-1 part supply industries serving a customer base comprised of Fortune 1000 OEMs.

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