Future-Proofing Telematics in the Fleet World

Alphabet’s report, What moves Britain? finds that 73% of British workers believe their vehicles are essential for their daily commuting.

Cars often freedom of choice of where to go, and they don’t wish to lose this benefit. However, within corporate circles, there is much interest in mobility solutions. Pressure will also be put on the use of cars within urban environments as new policies are emerging to encourage alternative modes of transport.

There is a push for better air quality, reduced traffic congestion and improved safety. While decision-makers and employees are interested in mobility solutions, they are seen as being either supplementary or as a partial alternative to the traditional fleet. This is because employees value the benefits that a fleet vehicle brings them. In some cases, it’s also because cars are the only practical option.

Time to prepare

Even so, the general view in the industry is that fleet managers should be preparing to adopt new, cleaner technologies – designing their driver policies with eligibility criteria that consider charging infrastructure for electric vehicles and employee responsibilities. Fleet telematics will in some circumstance that they’ll inevitability need to consider, not just for delivery vans and lorries because telematics is a fundamental cornerstone of usage-based insurance (UBI).

Ptolemus Consulting’s December 2019 email newsletter says fleet insurance telematics premiums will reach $22Bn globally, by 2030.  It reports that it has seen “rapid growth of connected fleet solutions in commercial vehicles and company cars: from 37 million in 2016 to 64.1 million in 2019”. It also finds that connected fleet UBI policies will reach 10.95M in 2030, with the US retaining its lead, followed by China and Japan.

Meanwhile, in the US logistics sector, there is also a need to look at future-proofing – not just telematics but fleets themselves.  Samantha Thompson, fleet telematics and customer manager at Penske reminds us why telematics is so important. She asks: “Where is my fleet, and what is it doing?” Even for car and van fleets this information can often be crucial, and so for fleet managers generally it is essential to have it at hand.

Connectivity is crucial

Connectivity across fleets, therefore, plays a role – particularly where there is an unprecedented amount of data to be collected. This data can be used to improve productivity and efficiency. Thompson adds: “It’s more about the outliers versus the status, the part of my fleet that I need to manage. It can point out the areas I need to focus on. There are also safety programs, validating that drivers are conforming with their training. It can also ensure that they are compliant with regulations.”

Over the last few years, truck fleets have adoption electronic logging devices (ELDs) to comply with regulations. Nowadays ELDs are supplemented with dashboard cameras or back-up cameras. “It’s less about Big Brother and more about protecting their fleet,” she says. In essence, they offer fleet companies cover against losses and she finds that some insurance companies are either suggesting or requiring them before giving discounts on insurance premiums – much like they offer whenever UBI is used in cars.


Investing in telematics

This still leaves the question of whether investing in the future-proofing of fleet telematics is worth it from a return-on-investment standpoint. Thompson says this is a complex question but the answer is that investing in fleet telematics is worth it. ELDs and cameras will inevitably have an impact – particularly if they are used to their full extent. Yet people will often buy things and then not use them.

She therefore explains: “Many software technology providers have that struggle, so they need to help them to use it to manage their fleet better. This will hopefully help them to justify the cost.” She subsequently advises that it’s vital to have a good on-boarding and customer success program to ensure “the solution does was the customer is expecting it to do. We try to be a full-service provider here at Penske.”

Understanding pain-points

To future-proof fleets and telematics, there is also a prerequisite to consider the potential future pain-points that may affect them. Data security is one of them but there is also the issue created by shifts in hardware, which is leading carmakers to jump into the telematics space.

Thompson adds: “Many of our customers have adopted third party technologies. It’s becoming more about the platform, software and data. The hardware is becoming a gateway to it. We are seeing trends where the device is becoming moot, and the installation of third-party black boxes that can pull off the data from the vehicles.”

She reveals that some fleets have put their own boxes in the trucks. This is creating more competition between telematics service providers (TSPs) automakers. However, she explains that there is also reason for them to work together: “If I am a fleet operator and I use the same OEM across the fleet, that won’t be much of a problem – unless several different OEMs are used across the fleet, which would make it more complex.”

ELD uses

However, ELDs can be used for “a ton of stuff” besides tracking hours of service (HOS). They can provide fault code monitoring and GPS. So, in essence ELDs are not just for recording HOS, and Penske is seeing more consolidation in the marketplace. “Five years ago, TSPs needed to integrate with several other providers to provide add-on services, and even in the driver’s truck they would have different devices”, says Thompson.

This consolidation isn’t so much about one company buying another. It’s about providing more services from one provider, rather than from several providers. This consolidation can reduce complexity and make it easier for fleets to use the same solutions. Yet, besides cyber-security and driver objections, there are still some obstacles and technical issues that need to be overcome as a result of the ELD Mandate.

Thompson explains what they are: “Not all vehicles are capable of providing the data that the US government needed and many drivers often work for many firms, which means they may use several different ELDs. It, therefore, behooves the industry to make the different systems to be able to work together.”

Offer interoperability

There needs to be a core set of data to offer interoperability. “In one fleet they could have one or two ELDs or telematics systems: A fleet may be owned by the same company but they operate using different systems in different locations,” she says.  As part of the ELD Mandate there is a need for each driver to have their previous seven days of hours of service data. So, in terms of future-proofing telematics and fleets, the industry isn’t there yet.

Thompson concludes that it’s about device stability, regulatory compliance and cyber-security is also something that concerns fleet customers. Cyber-security is increasingly being seen as a crucial aspect of regulatory compliance, and the penalties for data breaches can be severe – much depending on which jurisdiction the data resides. Nevertheless, Shell’s Future of Fleet Report suggests that there is an exciting road ahead. It’s a future where telematics will play a key role for fleet cars, trucks and vans.

One comment

  1. Avatar George Sttaford 9th March 2020 @ 6:49 am

    The blog lays emphasis on how telematics would play a big role in defining the future of mobility. In the fleet industry, connectivity becomes all the more important to ensure effective and efficient operations.

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