Fleet telematics systems have become all the rage of late, allowing fleet managers to remotely monitor vehicle performance and GPS location. This “Big Data” technology carries many advantages. Fleet managers can realistically look at the day-to-day operation of their drivers and equipment. But it carries many pitfalls that can stump fleets, making fleet data difficult to access and understand. These include: overloading of data points, inconclusive trends, or difficult implementation.
Midwest Drives, Clean Fuels Ohio’s fleet demonstration program, includes data logging devices that capture how each vehicle performs on the road. By using the FleetCarma platform, data is easily aggregated “in the cloud”, accessible from any computer for a snapshot of all vehicles in the program. In this way, Midwest Drives helps serve as an introduction to those fleet managers who are not familiar with telematics/data logger technology. Through careful collaboration with FleetCarma and other program partners (such as National Trucking Equipment Association and National Renewable Energy Laboratory), we have been able to craft Midwest Drives not only as an opportunity to test alternative fuels and fuel efficient technology, but also fleet telematics.
In general, fleet telematics is a solution to one primary question: “How do vehicles perform in the real world?” While tracking fuel usage and miles traveled tells some of the story, collecting minute-by-minute data allows for a more robust picture. As mentioned up-top however, with so many products and options on the market for fleet telematics, it’s important to focus on three factors for what works best with each fleet:
1) What Data Is Important To You?
This was a question Clean Fuels Ohio faced when creating the Midwest Drives Initiative; what data will we find most valuable from fleet demonstrations? While we decided GPS-enabled, cellular-transmitting loggers that record second-by-second for the purpose of deploying our vehicles across the region while giving us the greatest grab of vehicle data, this is not going to be the case for every fleet. For some, simpler data readouts of fuel consumption and top MPH will be of chief concern. And for data transfer, while cellular connection can carry a subscription fee, Wi-Fi connection or physical SD cards do not, allowing fleets that return to home base an option of transferring data without the need of higher service costs. By focusing on critical data, fleets can minimize cost of telematics deployment while still achieving their analytical goals.
2) What Vehicles Do You Need Monitored?
This can be a big factor for cost and scope of deployment. While blanketing all your fleet with telematics would allow for monitoring of all fleet performance, this is not a necessity. Motor pool cars, specialty vehicles or spare/backup units may not see the in-service use to merit the purchase and installation cost of data logging technology. What’s more, if your focus is overall fleet averages, deploying telematics on these “outlier” vehicles may paint an incorrect picture of how your fleet performs in daily service. Rather, by focusing on high-use vehicles as a first phase of telematics
deployment, this allows fleet managers to gradually dial up their telematics system to answer immediate questions on fleet performance while avoiding hurdles of deploying telematics on vehicles that do not contribute as greatly to the fleet workload.
3) How Would You Like to Share Your Data?
Many telematics services offer a variety of user interfaces, cloud-computing platforms and other ways of seeing and interpreting fleet data. Yet, these various data aggregators will not be of help for the fleet manager who only needs to keep tabs on fuel consumption and vehicle miles of travel (VMT) (or in turn, a fleet manager wishing for robust reporting that chooses a telematics option with minimal data point readout). It is equally important to not just think of how you wish to capture data from your fleet, but how you would like to share that data. It is helpful at this stage to also sit down with others in your organization to better understand what data they would find helpful to have from the fleet. That way, you can choose a telematics system that provides needed data, while also ensuring you can take full advantage of the platform’s offerings.
At the end of the day, there is no one correct telematics system. Yet, bearing these factors in mind can help fleets and organizations start (or continue) discussion of how fleet data can help in recognizing fleet performance and costs.
Join us the Midwest Green Fleets Forum & Expo. We have a breakout session planned dedicated to telematics called “Leveraging the Power of Big Data for Fleet Operations – Getting What’s Most Valuable from Any Telematics System.”