A visible improvement: How the latest telematics solutions can help your fleet

No form of telematics in your fleet? Martyn Collins explores some of the most popular applications and how they can save you money.
Telematics systems have come a long way in a short time. The story starts back in the late 1990s, with the first systems using in-vehicle hardware, which was then connected up to a local server. The data that was produced was then accessed by clients locally, with customers paying a fee for every single update.

Like the connected car, a similarly rapid change is occurring in the field of telematics. With Global Positioning System (GPS) technology now used to triangulate the position of vehicles, and digital cellular networks transmitting other data, such as location, vehicle diagnostics and driving style.

All the information that a modern vehicle can provide, could prove to be very useful in a number of everyday business processes – from invoicing to everyday workflow. For example, using up-to-date traffic data and information on historic journey times to organise jobs, could help minimise time spent on the road.

Plus, should there be any unexpected traffic congestion, adjustments to schedules can be made for delays, and limit the impact on customers.

With such a step-change in technology, we caught up with some of the major players in the market, to discuss their offerings and how they can make quantifiable savings.

RAC Connected Solutions

First up, we spoke to Nigel Humpherson, senior commercial manager, RAC.

Having been at the forefront of the UK motoring industry for more than 120 years, RAC knows about the challenges facing fleet managers. It is this knowledge and insight that has driven the development of its fleet-telematics solution, known as RAC Advance.

The core product is an OBD device, professionally fitted into the vehicle, which continually relays data to the Advance platform and collects footage from optional in-vehicle dashcams. That information is then available to fleet managers and drivers through an on-line portal and the RAC Telematics app for mobile devices.

However, the ‘black box’ is really just the start, as the RAC believes it can offer fleets so much more than conventional telematics. With the future all about the connected car, data insight and using that data to connect with, these products are able to read fault codes and interpret them, connect with a breakdown service and even call you to arrange a fix or a concierge garage appointment.

What is the main attraction of RAC Connected Solutions to fleets?

“From our experience, the challenges facing fleet managers tend to fall into one of three categories; service, cost and safety. Fleet operators face a constant battle to meet SLAs, keep their fuel, maintenance and service costs to a minimum and ensure they keep their fleet safe and compliant.

“While the challenges are broadly the same, the demands and expectations of fleet operators are very different to what they were 10 years ago and technology has had to keep pace. Driver behaviour, diagnostics and advanced crash detection are now common across many platforms. Solutions need to be intuitive, easy to use and have the ability to continuously develop to meet ever-changing market needs.

“One of the key attractions of telematics for a fleet manager is that it gives them visibility of what’s happening to their vehicles, in real-time. The real attraction, however, is about understanding how vehicles are being driven, whether faults are starting to develop or if they’ve been involved in any incidents while out on the road.

“RAC Advance is designed to help manage these daily challenges by delivering actionable and insightful information to help fleet managers make informed decisions. Having the right data at the right time is hugely powerful in terms of productivity and business cost savings. It reduces admin and helps identify the primary issues quickly and efficiently.”

Where do you think cost savings could be achieved for fleets using telematics?

“The applications and benefits are wide-ranging and tend to vary from fleet to fleet. In practice, fleet operators will typically employ telematics to help improve service, reduce cost and maintain safety.

“Whilst there are a number of cost savings that can be made by fleet managers, the most obvious one is in fuel costs. The installation of telematics in your fleet, combined with expert advice and education, can lead to much more efficient driving styles and therefore a better average MPG.

“Insurance is a growing telematics application, with driver behaviour, crash detection, FNOL and in-car cameras being central to reducing risk and improving loss ratios. RAC Advance further enhances this service by using its telematics data to deliver connected accident management and as the enabling technology for a range of market-leading user-based insurance products.”

Are there any negatives to using telematics?

“A few years ago, drivers always associated it with being ‘spied’ on as they did their jobs. A lot of that has subsided as fleet managers are more open about the use of the technology and there’s more understanding of the wider benefits beyond simply tracking.

“What was once a ‘where are you and where have you been?’ type service, has now evolved through better driver engagement and is widely accepted as a valuable, and in some cases invaluable, part of the modern fleet management tool kit.

“The issue that all fleet managers will face is having too much information to work with. Ignoring it because you simply don’t have time to look at it is not an option. Not only does it defeat the object of installing the technology, but fleet operators are legally obliged to act on the information.”

What about data control – who does it belong to and is it a problem?

“Data security and GDPR compliance should be at the forefront of every telematics service provider’s agenda. All data that is collected or used as part of a telematics service should only be used for that purpose.

“At the RAC, we deal with around eight million customers every year. Data security is therefore important to us as an organisation. We have robust systems and all managed service providers are accredited to ISO 27001. We are very clear about our responsibilities to our fleet customers whether they operate five or 5,000 vehicles.”

TomTom Telematics

Fleet World spoke to Beverley Wise, sales director for the UK and Ireland, to find out more.

TomTom’s view is that its Telematics proposition is unique in the marketplace – as it design, develops and manufactures its own hardware and software. For example, the company has recently launched its own robust CANBus connection for vehicle fleets, to gather fuel and odometer readings directly and present the data back via its ‘under the dash’ hardware, with in-cab devices, resulting in industry-leading fleet management tools, driver coaching, navigation and order scheduling.

Another unique TomTom Telematics feature is the fact that the WEBFLEET API can be integrated with third-party suppliers of software and hardware – such as other camera systems and workflow or planning software.

What is the main attraction of TomTom Telematics to fleets?

“The Telematics proposition has progressed significantly from its humble track and trace origins. It now plays a central role in delivering driver safety, fleet efficiency, utilisation, compliance and more.

“Integration capabilities are now driving telematics into a new era, as the hub of a ‘connected business’. Telematics can now also drive positive culture amongst peers, encouraging healthy competition over driver performance.”

Where do you think cost savings could be achieved for fleets using telematics?

“The question is why wouldn’t you use a telematics solution? It is now a well-established and proven fleet management solution, with a strong return on investment and ticks all the right boxes for keeping fleets compliant.”

Are there any negatives to using telematics?

“Only rarely can telematics be used for the wrong reasons and if not communicated properly, it can have a negative perception amongst drivers and business owners. Choosing the right supplier, who fully understands the implementation process and lifecycle support, will ensure any downsides are never met.

“There is an onus on a business that adopts telematics to ensure it doesn’t simply ‘sit’ on the data and work with its supplier to reap the benefits. For those customers who have limited resources, TomTom Telematics can offer fully managed services to ensure you are reaping the rewards.”

What about data control – who does it belong to and is it a problem?

“TomTom Telematics has been built from the ground up as one of the most secure data telematics platforms, with the ISO/IEC 27001:2013 international standard.

“We are fully GDPR compliant and act as the data processor, whereas the data control remains with the company that has taken our services. Additional privacy options for company car drivers include the ability to remove a driver’s private trips from the system, which builds engagement and trust with them.”

Camera Telematics

Fleet World spoke to Mark Stamper, group managing director, to learn more about the Camera Telematics solution.

Unlike other telematics providers, which are basically tracking systems, Camera Telematics’ Street Angel solution provides tracking functionality, coupled with the most advanced onboard vehicle camera solution available – which is also scalable to include additional cameras.

Once installed on a vehicle, Street Angel works by using 4G connectivity to continually record video evidence of the journey and the vehicle’s surroundings onto its internal memory. Sophisticated accelerometers measure g-force in all directions, to detect any impact or harsh events, such as braking and cornering. Should the g-force parameter be breached, the device instantly uploads a video clip of the event to the cloud – usually seven seconds leading up to the breach and three seconds after that.

It also generates an instant email alert to the fleet manager, notifying them of the event, including the date, time and vehicle registration, the location and the type of event. The email also contains a link that the user can click on and watch the video straight away. This data is accurate and admissible evidence, should it be required to defend or mitigate an insurance claim.

What is the main attraction of Street Angel to fleets?

“When a roadside incident or accident occurs, the availability of visual evidence delivered by Street Angel gives drivers the highest levels of protection from insurance fraud and accident management assistance. In addition, Street Angel has no SD card, which ensures no loss of memory, which is typically an issue for dashcams that use SD cards to record data.”

Where do you think cost savings could be achieved for fleets using telematics?

“A fleet manager will see a number of improvements across their fleet when utilising the features of our Street Angel vehicle camera. Risk management is a large part of reducing road traffic accident and incidents. By using the driver behaviour scorecard and point system, a fleet manager can quickly and easily identify potentially high-risk drivers through viewing the video and event monitoring. This helps reduce risk, as well as maintenance issues relating to harsh braking, and other bad driving practices.

“Liability can be identified easily and action can be taken with insurance companies, driver support and third parties to ensure swift resolution. Reduced time spent defending cases, can increase productivity and protect your drivers and assets from false claim allegations, which will have a very positive impact on your running costs.”

Quartix

The Quartix vehicle tracking system has been installed in over 500,000 vehicles, it offers a vehicle tracking option to suit every business, large or small, throughout the UK, Europe and USA. Customer industries range from Construction, Security, Landscaping and everything in between. Sean Maher, the company’s field sales manager, told us more.

What is the main attraction of Quartix to fleets?

“Our award-winning system offers a wide range of valuable features for fleet managers. With live tracking, comprehensive driving style reports, driver timesheets and management dashboards, you can easily identify your best drivers, make sense of mileage and fuel costs and improve the safety of your teams.

“Telematics has been proven to bring unprecedented benefits, from reducing fuel spend to improving customer service and driver safety. A strong area of focus for many organisations using telematics is driving style. This impacts a whole host of important factors, for example, road safety, fuel costs, brand reputation, carbon emissions and vehicle maintenance costs.”

Where do you think cost savings could be achieved for fleets using telematics?

“An organisation can transform its operations for the better with a little insight. Insight is powerful, and telematics offers businesses data in a way that is not only measurable but also actionable. A vehicle tracking system not only documents activity over time, it tracks progress, highlights trends and alerts you to any unusual behaviour so that it can be addressed right away.

“Our vehicle tracking customers continue to demonstrate just how much impact this can have on operational costs.”

Are there any negatives to using telematics?

“In short, there are none! The benefits are vast – valuable, otherwise inaccessible, information is uncovered and can be put to great use.

“However, telematics can highlight issues that may be difficult to address, such as the behaviour of staff. There is lots of advice available to help companies manage this effectively, and fleet managers should not be deterred from using the data they have acquired.”

What about data control – who does it belong to and is it a problem?

“GDPR does impact companies using vehicle tracking and telematics systems, as it is deemed to be ‘collecting and storing personal data’.

“Vehicle tracking can improve operational performance and reduce costs, but fleet managers do need to ensure the correct processes and documentation are in place to comply with the GDPR legislation.”

Teletrac Navman

Via its Director platform, Teletrac Navman gives fleet managers access to real-time data in one easy-to-use interface. Fleet World spoke to UK vice president of sales, Scott Hutchins to learn more.

Where do you think cost savings could be achieved for fleets using telematics?

“The Director platform can determine the location of individual vehicles (in real-time), monitoring fuel usage and driver performance.

“It can also help to significantly cut fuel costs, through more effective route planning, optimise vehicle use, increase business productivity, improve driver behaviour and potentially reduce insurance premiums.

“With telematics and tracking, operators can address issues like navigating around charge zones and congestion, excessive idling, speeding, harsh braking or acceleration, which all contribute to the rise in emissions.”

Are there any negatives to using telematics?

“Operators should embrace technology to help adapt to the changing conditions, stay compliant and run as efficiently as possible.”

Airmax Remote

Airmax Remote is Airmax’s own telematics solution that connects to the OBD port, with a proprietary patented cable design and therefore obtains data-rich, advanced and leading CAN bus data from the vehicle’s ECUs.

It relays data in real-time straight from the vehicle for more accuracy – allowing you to get to know your fleet inside out. We spoke to the managing director, Richard Perham, to get more information as to how it helps fleet.

What is the main attraction of Airmax Remote to fleets?

“Technology systems such as telematics and data-driven software are very useful tools for fleet managers, for compliance and enhanced visibility of their assets, which extends to both vehicles and staff.

“These systems can provide data or information that, once processed, deliver the insight and information a fleet operator needs to make strategic and/or daily decisions, potentially transforming their fleet operation and delivering significant cost savings; such as optimum fleet size and removing underutilised vehicles and overall mileage reduction.

Therefore, there are fuel cost savings, plus blameworthy collisions resulting in cost savings for accident repairs.

“Decision makers should remember however, that to achieve overall success in effective implementation of technology, requires thorough research, planning, monitoring and the correct product to accurately produce and analyse the data generated.”

Are there any negatives to using telematics?

“Any negatives of using telematics are typically down to a lack of planning and poor internal communication, which create an inherent risk and reduce any rapid and tangible results – just like any new system or supplier.

“The general perception of ‘black box’ technology is also changing and being much more widely accepted. Historically a negative was that telematics provided too much data; it was ‘dumb data’ and increased a risk to organisations of not acting on the information.”

What about data control – who does it belong to and is it a problem?

“It is a question that is raised at almost every customer discussion. However, there is a notable change in context when you discuss data generated from a passenger car or commercial vehicle driver. There is a much more accepted position, that the driver doesn’t own the data.

“When the point is raised about who owns telematics data, the debate continues between manufacturer, leasing provider and the end-user or the driver of the vehicle. The general debate tends to identify at least three categories of discussion; privacy, protection, security.

“Taking everything into account, it seems that the ‘owner’ is typically the leasing company of the vehicle – as they have the strongest position to defend.”