Fleet tracking solutions are maturing from simple GPS functions to programs that can integrate a wide array of vehicle-related data while providing a rapid return on investment.
“Fleet tracking technology is no longer simple ‘track-and-trace’,” says Wyn Partington, director of marketing, NexTraq. “It has transformed into a complete solution that helps distribution companies manage all aspects of their fleet operations.” Three areas have been improved most significantly:
• Driver safety through improved driver behavior monitoring
• Worker productivity with new mobile apps designed more around the driver than the vehicle
• Complete fuel management centered around fuel card integration.
Tracking fleets has moved far beyond simply pinpointing vehicles on a map, notes James McDonald, business development representative, Fleetmatics. Citing his company’s product as an example, he says, “Today’s fleet tracking solutions integrate a variety of new technology ranging from easily discovering which vehicles need maintenance to responding to an emergency quicker than ever. That’s combined with detecting and curbing unsafe driving habits, reducing insurance costs and cutting down on overtime and unauthorized vehicle use.” One of Fleetmatics’ clients was able to defend itself during a lawsuit using historical data of where its fleet was traveling.
“Fleet managers who have implemented wireless fleet management systems report a quick ROI, due primarily to significant savings in fuel and other operating costs,” says Chris Ransom, director of sales engineering, Verizon Networkfleet. For example, BLS Trucking, a delivery company, saved an estimated $188,000 in fuel costs during the first year using the telematics solution. (Telematics deals with the long-distance transmission of digital information.) “The company was also more proactive about its maintenance and reduced roadside breakdowns, which helped lower repair costs,” he adds.
One large food and beverage customer of Telogis saw an 18 percent reduction in engine idling and a 38 percent reduction in out-of-route miles, resulting in more than $2 million in fuel savings, says Ray Zujus, business development director. “Another customer saved over $18,000 in perishable foods when the temperature monitoring solution we had installed notified them after midnight that a reefer unit had gone down,” he notes.
Devices typically cost $300-$350, based on volume, explains Ryan Driscoll, marketing manager, GPS Insight. Monthly service is typically $30 per vehicle. Both can be bundled in a subscription/rental model for $39.95 a month, he says. “The software has come a long way over the years. It is no longer just dots on a map, but robust and actionable information that simplifies and enhances the effectiveness of fleet management,” he says. The core functionality of all GPS fleet tracking software typically consists of a dashboard interface, mapping, geofencing/landmarks, alerting, reporting and messaging, he adds.
The telematics industry is maturing globally, comments John Day, product manager, Geotab. “While still not used by all fleets, awareness and an understanding of the benefits of fleet management systems is very widespread.”
Trends and Solutions
Geotab: Day identifies three trends. One is the integration with “big data” that is part of many technology initiatives. “Fleets are no longer simply satisfied with ‘tracking’ their vehicles, however. Because the capabilities are there, they are looking more to take their telematics data, slice and dice it, look for trends and potential issues,” he says.
A second trend is the desire to lower operational costs beyond reductions in fuel and savings in safety. “Specifically we are seeing customers integrate vehicle and driver data into back office environments and other third-party systems to automate as many of their operational processes as they can,” Day notes.
A third trend is the growth of smartphone use by drivers and fleet managers, which is driving a need for new and productive mobile apps. “But standalone apps will not be enough. There is a need to interface and integrate these apps. It is these trends that motivated us to spend so much effort on our APIs (application programming interfaces) and SDKs (software development kits), to make them publicly available, and to work with partners to build out an ecosystem of applications that will be available to fleet managers and drivers alike,” he said.
Verizon Networkfleet: Telematics technology is continually improving to better meet the needs of fleet managers. Among the features of Verizon Networkfleet’s telematics solution are Garmin/laptop integration, data integration, a mobile website, and advanced driver safety tools. The Verizon solution includes the Networkfleet 5000 Series device with an antenna that incorporates both cellular and satellite communications.
“Telematics is transforming the way fleets operate by providing actionable data that improves efficiency and accountability,” Ransom says. “The Networkfleet solution offers 24/7 visibility into fleet assets with access to near real-time vehicle data such as mileage, speed, fuel consumption, idle time and diagnostic trouble codes to improve operations and significantly reduce costs...Drivers become more aware, drive safely, reduce speeding, have fewer accidents and become more productive.”
Fleetmatics: “Implementing a fleet management system is all about cutting unnecessary costs, increasing customer satisfaction and ensuring the safety of our drivers,” McDonald says. “The benefit of reducing fuel costs alone can quickly pay for the system, and that’s on top of other cost-savings, like lowering insurance rates, recovering stolen vehicles and increasing fleet productivity. Drivers can also feel safer on the road knowing their vehicle’s maintenance is constantly under a watchful eye.”
Beverage distribution is “fiercely competitive, facing pressures like reducing margins, increasing fuel costs and making sure the customer is satisfied. A fleet management system can address all those issues,” McDonald notes. For example, Texas beer wholesaler M.L. Wismer Distributing has 64 trucks in its fleet and uses Fleetmatics for detailed reports and alerts: real time location data of any vehicle, speed, routes, distance traveled, engine start up and shut down time, and fuel usage.
Telogis: Zujus at Telogis reports that his company is seeing the future moving from locally installed, proprietary hardware point solutions to cloud-based applications that offer multiple transportation-related functionalities, such as telematics, routing, commercial-grade navigation, asset tracking, mobile applications, business intelligence, among others. “This configuration allows access to features that aren’t available in point,” he says.
For example, Telogis Route can be used to route product deliveries, merchandising visits or service calls, and feed those routes to WorkPlan, a mobile solution that enables the worker to see the customer information, the job and any other specific information that is part of the plan. “Because Route and Telogis Navigation run on the same platform, the worker can also get turn-by-turn directions to the customer site along the exact route that was planned, eliminating the gap between plan vs. actual miles that affects both cost and productivity,” Zujus says.
NexTraq: Fleet tracking technology provides a comprehensive safety solution using telematics that helps companies protect against unsafe driving behaviors, expensive accident claims and liability, and the damage unsafe driving can cause their reputation, Partington says.
Additionally, “Employees can now enter time and attendance, receive job information and schedules, update job statuses in real time and navigate to customer locations with turn-by-turn directions, all from their personal or work-issued cell phones,” he notes.
While mobile devices enhance productivity, they also can be distractions. As part of its safety solution, NexTraq offers the DriveGuard distracted driving technology, Partington notes. “It uses Bluetooth coupled with a mobile application on a cell phone to stop the temptation to call, email, text or surf the web while driving,” he says.
GPS Insight: Last year saw the emergence of hours of service solutions being coupled with GPS tracking solutions to become a “one-stop shop” for fleet management, Driscoll says. GPS tracking software can be linked with electronic on-board recorders to provide powerful location data, exception alerts, and in-depth, paperless reports that will accompany the hours of service data needed to stay Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration compliant, he notes.
“The adoption rate of fleet tracking is quickly increasing and within the next five years, I predict that GPS tracking will be viewed as a standard tool for all fleet managers across all industries,” Driscoll says.
Ryder: A major trend addressed by fleet tracking software is the reduction in drivers’ hours of service mandated by the government, says a Ryder spokesperson. Ryder’s RydeSmart solution makes sure hours are logged and tracked to keep fleets in compliance with the new requirements.
“RydeSmart 3.0 is a GPS fleet location, tracking, and vehicle performance management system that Ryder offers its lease and rental customers. Existing RydeSmart customers can track their vehicles and access real-time data on their fleets from their iPhone and iPad mobile devices at any location, any time of the day.
“In only seconds, customers will be able to access detailed maps and check the movement and status of their fleets,” the company spokesperson points out.