So I’m curious as to what inspired you to offer free telematics — what you’re calling Hino-Connect — as a standard feature on your heavy-duty 700 Series trucks. Tell us more.
We’ve had telematics available as an accessory for a little while now. Back in 2016, we launched an initial product called Hino-Traq. We’ve seen that this digital space has really been changing, and a lot of customers using that information. We just saw it as a really good opportunity to introduce telematics as a standard feature to allow them to have access to that data in their vehicles.
I guess it’s a great way to introduce telematics to those drivers and fleet operators that don’t already have it, of which there are many. What are your thoughts there?
I think it is. The heavy end of the market is probably the area that does have the most experience in telematics. We thought that that’s really the area we will target. They’re the sort of customers that will utilise data to improve their business more.
In preparing for this interview I was looking back over a story I wrote based on a study of telematics used in Australia by ACA research. They found only 1% of the 460,000 fleets operating in Australia are using telematics in 2020. It beggars belief really, because the benefits of data and analysing the data have been shown to be so profound. So there’s a lot of learning to be done and teaching to be done. How are Hino customers and particularly those ordering the new Hino 700 Series, responding to the Hino Connect offer?
It’s only really early days. The product was only officially launched a few weeks ago, back on the 16th of August, but the initial interest has been really high. We transitioned our current Hino-Traq customers across to the Hino-Connect portal and the feedback on that was that it was very easy to use, and easy to understand the data.
There’s a lot of our major fleet customers that currently do have some form of telematics in their fleet, and we’ve been getting that a lot with those customers. That this is something they want in their vehicles.
I appreciate that some of the most sophisticated users of telematics in Australia are the big national transport fleet operators, and some of them, as you’ve said, are your customers. So how do they get the advantage of having Hino-Connect if they’ve already got a system, or will they be integrated with their existing systems?
We do understand that they’re multi brand fleets, as many of those major nationals are. So, what we do for those customers is provide the data out of their hardware, via an API, or application programming interface, which gives them all of the data that they would get in their, let’s call it, generic aftermarket telematics unit.
But, the advantage that we’ve really got is that because ours is a factory-fitted unit, we have access to a lot more data from the vehicle. Not only can we get things like engine speed, temperatures, brake application, and the sort of things that you would normally see from a telematics system, we can also get information on diagnostic trouble codes, and, safety devices.
The system was developed locally by one of our partners — Directed Electronics —and it allows us to get accurate data that other providers cannot get out of our vehicles. One of the main benefits of that for major fleet companies is it does allow them to really look at driver behaviour, and the performance of the vehicle from a driver safety point of view, and even from a vehicle utilisation point of view.
I was going to ask you what some of the key features of Hino-Connect were and I guess you have just answered that. I thought it might also be good for you to have a word on how this data and analysing this data can help improve the profitability of a company. We know that it’s going to improve safety. But what about how it can help with the profitability of a company.
Our Hino-Connect portal has a really good user-friendly analytics tool. It looks at cause and effect of a whole raft of items. Obviously, one of the key costs for a fleet is fuel. So you can drill down and you can do an analysis on the fuel from the whole fleet. You can drill down to individual trucks and do forecasting. There’s a maintenance reminder section there that will let customers know when their vehicles are due for servicing to try and reduce the downtime and allow them to plan ahead with what they’re doing. Another really, really interesting feature that we’ve got on the system now is what we call Asset Trail. And what that does is it allows a fleet owner to select several vehicles — let’s say, as an example, they’ve got a fleet of five trucks that drive out to western Sydney each day. The next day they can go into the Asset Trail section and overlay those five vehicles and see where they’ve gone and if there is any room for improving efficiency. Maybe some of these vehicles, doing deliveries are crossing over into each other’s area. So it allows fleet operators to then look at that and reallocate where their fleet is going and try and reduce those inefficiencies.
Let’s talk now about the future of telematics as a standard offering in vehicles, and maybe not just Hino vehicles. I’m thinking about a line I keep coming across, I don’t know if it’s apocryphal or not, but that a new vehicle today is more complicated than a rocket bound for outer space. Can you talk about that idea of telematics and data being standard in a vehicle?
Vehicles are definitely heading that way. From when I originally started back in the industry through to now, the amount of the ECUs and computers in vehicles — it’s just a totally different world. But it probably comes back to what I was saying earlier that manufacturers will be the ones that are fitting these units to the vehicles, because we’re the only ones that can get access to all of the data, and read all of these different systems that are in the vehicle to get that information to the customer. And the companies, like some of the other aftermarket telematics providers will probably be more like a customer to us where we’ll be providing the data to them that they can then put into their dashboards, if that’s what the customer wants to do.
Are there any other key features of the Hino-Connect that we should talk about before we move on?
Probably another really key feature is our ability to do case management for our customers. So, Hino-Connect is a bit unique, and allows us to communicate with the drivers directly through an intelligent multimedia unit. What I mean is, in the instance of a fault with a vehicle — a severe fault that renders it disabled or puts it into a limp mode, a notification will be sent to the multimedia unit in the truck for the driver with a call to action. This would generally be to call out our roadside assist to organise a repair. And we’ve also got dedicated Hino-Connect specialists in our Australian call centre, who will then oversee that repair from a case management point of view. They will be in regular contact with a dealer to make sure the repair is progressing, and also be a point of contact for the fleet customer, or the owner of the vehicle, in case they have any questions about the repair as it progresses.
Has Hino offered telematics as a standard in any other range of vehicle anywhere else in the world, or is this a test that may get rolled out worldwide in the future?
No, telematics is standard fit in several countries with Hino around the world. The US has had a product now for many years. Japan has telematics in some of their domestic vehicles, and some of the countries over in Asia also have standard fit telematics as well.
Well thanks so much for speaking with us today Gus. It’s genius to offer telematics as standard on some of your latest trucks. It gives those not using it yet a way to start doing so and for Hino another reason for them to stick with you. Again, thanks for your time today Gus.
No problem, thanks for having me. It’s been great.