– By Gerard Norsa –
Clearly one of the hottest topics at the recent 2016 Australasia Fleet Conference and Exhibition in Melbourne was the potential that telematics can introduce to fleet management cost reduction, productivity improvements and safety.
While GPS tracking has been around for years, continues to provide value and is being used in an increasing number of applications, it is just the beginning of possibilities when you combine the power of cutting edge telecommunications and informatics.
A plenary session focusing on telematics at the conference included two fascinating case studies that demonstrated how one reduced speeding driver incidents by 90 per cent while another gained a 22 per cent productivity increase and a safety improvement of 69 per cent by their chosen metrics.
It is for this reason that vendors are boasting aggressive ROI for their solutions. Shaun Wilson, National Channel Manager for telematics solutions provider, Securatrak said there are many providers offering a lot of choice a wide range of technologies.
“There are over 200 companies in Australia with telematics offerings at the moment and a lot more looking to do something in Australia,” Wilson said. “Where it traditionally started as a dot on a map to a position now where it is very much a real tool that provides you with just about any data you want in relation to improving fleet management.
“So much so, that now the big challenge is not collecting the data but actually doing something with the massive amounts of data you are collecting. If you are utilising telematics in your fleet management and you don’t have people who know what they are doing analysing that data and integrating it with your back-end systems, then you are wasting your time.”
Safety, productivity and fleet health
According to the case studies that were a part of this session, the ROI on telematics capital expenditure comes in three main areas; safety, productivity and fleet health – all three have direct bottom line impact.
Adrian Hyde, General Manager at Asplundh (Australia) told how his organisation has used telematics to track productivity and address driver safety in their global business which is focused on trimming trees mainly around power lines.
Prior to adopting a telematics solution, Hyde said that they had absolutely no idea where their 15-20,000 vehicles were at any particular time.
“We were flying blind,” Hyde said. “We didn’t know how much fuel they were using, who was driving them and we didn’t know how safe they were.”
Tracking locations and speeding
Hyde said that like most fleet management organisations, Asplundh’s first goal was just to be able to know where their vehicles were in real time but when installing technology to do this they quickly realised that the data they collected from that had many more layers to it. They quickly realised that they a powerful tool in their hands to improve productivity and safety.
“We realised that we could then start tracking vehicles that were late leaving the depot or early returning and how long they spent at each location,” Hyde said. “That added accountability of crews gave us immediate productivity gains.
“Next we wanted to make the vehicles safer so we start to track the speeds at which they travelled and set up a notification system that identified every speeding incident and patterns of vehicles and drivers that were speeding regularly.”
So by being able to warn speeding drivers the incidence of speeding quickly reduced dramatically as well which was a clear safety benefit. Meanwhile, through anecdotal evidence, Asplundh knew that crews worked better when there was a manager present so they mandated managers to spend more time on site, which they could also track and match to crew truck data through telematics.
After a six month trial study in America in two regions where managers were required to spend a minimum of five hours per day with their crews, the data showed productivity increase of 22 per cent and safety increased by 69 per cent over crews without their manager on-site for five hours.
“Obviously, when you multiply that out to our full 20,000-vehicle fleet, there are significant bottom line benefits,” Hyde said “Sending out notices on incidences of speeding also had an immediate effect with speeding events dropping remarkably.”
Then the next “layer of the onion”, as Hyde described it was to match fuel purchase data against other data recorded about fuel use and where the trucks were as purchases were made.
“In reviewing 15 months of fuel purchase data, we found out that 16 per cent of all transactions were made when the vehicle was nowhere near the location where the fuel card was used,” Hyde said. “Over the 15 months of the trial, that theft, because that’s what it is, dropped by 69 per cent.
“Again, if you multiply that result across our entire fleet and we are talking about a lot of money being saved.
“There is no doubt in my mind, that utilising telematics technologies in our fleet has significant changed our business making us far more productive, far safer and it has saved us a significant amount of money on fuel purchases and insurance.”
This is just the beginning, according to Hyde. Asplundh is now working on two-way telematics where they can directly communicate with the trucks and deliver information in real time about vehicle safety, routes and driver behaviour etc.
What speeding problem?
In the other case study, Nathan Reynolds, National Assets Manager for NGO Life Without Barriers demonstrated how telematics, amongst many other cost, safety and productivity improvements, facilitated a massive reduction in speeding by drivers using its 1,130 fleet vehicles.
“We didn’t even know we had a speeding problem until we started measuring it through telematics,” Reynolds said. “Data collected showed that we had 12,000 speeding events per month where vehicles had exceeded 120 km/h. That represented a major liability and OHS issue for us.
“After engaging with our legal and HR specialists as well as consulting with the unions, we addressed the issue and implemented a warning system. Within 12 months the incidence of speeding fell by 86 per cent and that was directly due to the telematics.”