Overall, using telematics in trucking enabled industry growth in safety, efficiency, and profitability for trucking companies. It will continue to play an essential role in the industry in the coming years. Those companies who’ve focused on harnessing telematics data already see the lower total cost of ownership, reductions in breakdowns and safety infractions, and a more robust understanding of how their fleet operates over time.
But is it that easy? What are the blockers in enabling most companies to see a significant ROI on their telematics investments? And are providers in the space genuinely allowing fleets with data, or are there barriers to accessing and synthesizing raw vehicle-level data? Let’s explore telematics in trucking.
Telematics is a relatively new technology that has only been around for a few decades. It involves using various electronic devices and communication technologies to provide real-time information about vehicles’ location, status, and performance, including trucks.
The development of telematics in the trucking industry can be traced back to the late 1990s when the first commercial telematics systems began to be used by trucking companies. These early systems typically consisted of GPS tracking devices installed in trucks, along with specialized software that allowed dispatchers and other personnel to monitor the location and status of their vehicles in real-time. In these early days, this was primarily based around satellite or celestial systems, and this technology was quite cost-prohibitive.
Over time, the use of telematics in the trucking industry continued to grow, and new technologies were developed to improve the accuracy and reliability of the systems. For example, wireless communication technologies, such as cellular networks, made it possible for telematics systems to provide more detailed and up-to-date information about the location and status of vehicles. To the layman, this may sound like a no-brainer. However, this technology is still an investment, featuring monthly data charges and, at times, hefty costs for new hardware to be purchased and installed, not to mention the time when trucks are not operational (downtime), costing carriers money. So, why do most carriers today have telematics devices installed on board? Enter the ELD mandate.
In short, the ELD mandate is a federal regulation requiring trucking companies to use electronic logging devices (ELDs) to track their drivers’ hours of service (HOS). The mandate was introduced in 2017 to improve road safety by reducing truck drivers’ work hours without taking a break. ELDs automatically record the time a truck is in motion, and they can generate reports that show compliance with the HOS rules. The ELD mandate applies to most trucking companies and drivers operating in the United States and has significantly impacted the trucking industry. Stay tuned for a deep dive into the legislation in a future blog.
Three core areas of valuable vehicle-level data from telematics include location, performance, and behavioral data.
Location data is one of the most commonly collected types of telematics data. It tracks the location and movement of trucks and other vehicles in a fleet. This data can be used by trucking companies to monitor the locations of their fleet in real-time and to optimize routes and schedules to improve efficiency and reduce fuel consumption.
Performance data is another critical source of telematics data. This type of data is used to monitor the performance of vehicles and drivers and to identify areas for improvement. Telematics systems can be used to collect and analyze engine diagnostic data, which can help trucking companies improve the performance and safety of their fleets. The data can be used to identify potential problems before they become serious, such as an engine running at the wrong temperature, critical fault codes in the system, or even an oil leak. The data can also be used to monitor fuel consumption and emissions, which can help trucking companies save money and reduce their environmental impact.
Behavioral data is another type of telematics data used to analyze driver behavior and identify potential safety issues. This data is typically collected through sensors and other devices installed in vehicles. It can monitor speeding, sudden braking, and other potentially dangerous driving behaviors. By analyzing behavioral data, trucking companies can identify and address potential safety issues and help to prevent accidents and other incidents on the road.
One of the biggest challenges of harnessing telematics data is the vast amount of information generated by these systems. Telematics systems can cause massive amounts of data, which can be overwhelming for laypeople to understand and analyze. For example, a single telematics system can generate millions of data points daily. It can be challenging for non-experts to make sense of this data and extract valuable insights.
Large datasets can be challenging for the average person to extract value from in trucking because of their complexity. Furthermore, these datasets are often highly variable, with different types of data collected at different times, making it challenging to identify patterns or trends in the data that can be used to drive decisions or take action. Finally, there can be significant time, cost, and technical barriers to working with large volumes of data, making it difficult for the average carrier to find critical insights for their fleet.
When it comes to the telematics service providers (TSPs) who sell the technology, how you interact with the data is abstracted. Abstraction removes unnecessary details and focuses on an object’s or concept’s core features. Take Geotab, for example, a leading TSP in the United States. Here’s a view of the standard dashboard:
This dashboard above shows summary data across a fleet of 150+ vehicles, giving some relatively easy-to-grasp metrics, including a safety score and the average fuel economy. These stats are aggregated across the entire fleet and provide quick insight into performance.
Alternatively, above, you’ll see just two hours of data points from one vehicle’s acceleration data being gathered by the telematics device. The scale of data points is enormous, and for even a seasoned telematics expert, finding the value without a data background and the proper tools can be challenging at best. This is where the lack of abstraction requires expertise and know-how to break down the value of these granular data sets. In other words, you need the right partner to boil the oceans of data into actionable business insights.
So, why is this important for your fleet? The founders at MetaFuel recognize the inability to harness, interpret, and implement data insights as one of the core problems remaining to be solved in this space. Trucking companies operate on thin margins and must make this investment per regulations. To that end, what if there was a better way to think about your telematics as an opportunity instead of a burden? Enter: MetaFuel.
Intuitive design, clean user interfaces, and a fast & easy system to adopt for teams of any size.
MetaFuel today integrates with multiple telematics providers and gives you a cloud interface to interact with your information. Take the IFTA process from days and hours to just minutes through our streamlined system for compliance. MetaFuel today enables you to understand your IFTA-related data, trends, costs, and how that impacts your bottom line. Further, through the unlimited storage in the cloud document dashboard, you can access your information anytime & anywhere. This makes the process a breeze for audits as you search for the vehicles and dates in question and can see everything on one page.
MetaFuel tomorrow will simplify this even further & aggregate your telematics and financial data. Through the MetaFuel Card (look for an upcoming blog), your drivers will swipe for compliance to be entirely handled; this means no fuel record retention is necessary and true automation takes hold. Further, MetaFuel will expand use cases to make clear the ROI of a tool that ties things together and serves up insights that matter to industry users by being built alongside them, not for them. Schedule a demo here to see the product first-hand, or reach out directly to get started today.