Time For Telematics

As technology improves and prices drop, fleets now have plenty of providers and options to choose from


Telematics also provide an extra set of "eyes," whether it's figuring out the most efficient route between stops, the optimal speed for fuel economy or eliminating paperwork.

"If I had an MPG of 20, I don't know where I got my optimal fuel economy unless I could take a look at, from 55 to 57, I was actually getting 25 miles per gallon; 57 to 60, that's when my miles per gallon dropped," Flies says. "So you can really dial in."

TOMTOM

Rob Donahue, manager, business sales channel for TomTom, says he has seen a quantum leap in fleets' knowledge about telematics products in the past few years.

"(Before) the first 20 minutes of the conversation was explaining what the heck GPS is, and nowadays you don't have to do that," he says.

Fleets are asking for telematics for very different reason, but the bottom line is saving money.

"(One) quote was, 'I know my guys are hanging out in establishments they shouldn't be, I just don't know how often and when,'" Donahue chuckled. "An asset monitoring company was really interested because of the unique turn-by-turn navigation we offer; they were looking to increase the number of appraisals that they were able to do, and improve the functionality of their staff by giving them the capability to not get lost. At the same time, they were able to see where the closest or most appropriate vehicle is if they were going to dispatch someone."

NETWORKCAR

It is all about matching your needs with the right system, says Networkcar vice-president of marketing Craig Whitney. One selling point is the ability to get real-time odometer readings--particularly for fleet professionals who run large operations.

"One of the biggest pains in the neck is just keeping track of the odometers so they know when to schedule maintenance and how to balance out the usage across vehicles--you're running around with a clipboard," he says. "We've got that data transmitted automatically, and we plug into Maximus, so that they just plug the odometer readings into that back-end system. We've got fleet managers whose number one reason for using the system is the automated odometer readings."

EARTHWAVE TECHNOLOGIES

Earthwave president/CEO Larry Baker says one of the most popular features of their system is called 'Idle Alert;" where the customer can find out how long vehicles are idling. He says one customer with 153 pieces of equipment had more than 200 alerts that they were idling for more than a half-hour at a time. But not for long.

"Two weeks later, they had less than 10," Baker says. "And now it's rare when they get one. If you can measure it, you can improve it. By tracking productive time down to the minute... it's enabled our customers to radically increase productivity."

WORTH TRYING

While not every fleet has the time or resources to conduct the extensive testing Ryder did, Johansson says the only way to realize the benefits are to roll up your sleeves and do some work.

"There's a lot of good data coming around: fault codes, idle time, driver performance, hard braking and hard stopping," she says. "The reasons why you might look at a device like this to manage your trucks--whether you have two or 200--probably are much greater than they have been in the past."

And when it is time to make a decision, Johansson says there are several factors to keep in mind.

"Truly understand the functionality and the differences being offered across all the different products, as well as the pricing, and make sure you're doing an apples-to-apples comparison," she says. "Also look at the cost, because we've seen some piecemeal plans--hardware, installation, service fees. Make sure you know what you're looking for and make sure you understand what the devices you're testing can do, because there's a lot out there and the marketing pitches are often different than what those devices can actually deliver."

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