Implementing telematics – Learning from truck success

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Telematics systems have been much more successful with truck fleets than among car fleets. What could car fleets learn? Steve Banner reports.

Two Northern Ireland-based heavy truck operators could teach car fleets the world over a thing or two when it comes to making cost-effective use of telematics systems.

Haulier number one is Dungannon, Country Tyrone, international freight specialist Ewing Brothers. Making frequent deliveries to destinations in France, Hungary and Spain, it is achieving savings of around €300/340 per truck, per month, following the installation of Fleet Manager from MiX Telematics some four years ago.

Lower fuel consumption

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Programs such as RIBAS deliver driving alerts and warnings as appropriate.

This equates to an annual saving of 3,710 litres of fuel for each lorry in its 25-strong fleet. As a consequence, its overall fuel bill is down by a claimed 5%, significantly beating its initial 4.3% target.

A key reason for the fall in diesel bills is an in-cab driving aid called RIBAS. Offered as an option with Fleet Manager, it monitors the driving style of whoever is behind the wheel and delivers alerts and warnings as appropriate.

RIBAS disapproves of practices such as excessive engine idling and harsh acceleration and braking and makes its feelings known. As a consequence drivers are more inclined to switch the engine off whenever possible when stationary and to drive more smoothly, cutting fuel usage and putting themselves at less risk of having a collision.

Fleet Manager helps the fleet operate more efficiently in other areas too, says Ewing Brothers managing director, Steven Ewing.

“We use the live tracking function 95% of the time we’re in the office,” he says. “It’s a great time-saving tool that allows us to monitor the location of our vehicles and communicate arrival times to our clients.

“Even when we’re not in the office we can view the system via the mobile phone app, giving us complete control.”

Haulier number two is Newtownards, County Down-based milk collection specialist North Down Grain. Using Fleet Manager has enabled it to achieve savings of up to 12% on its yearly fuel expenditure, it reports. Average diesel consumption of its 29,000-litre milk tankers has improved from 48.7l/100km to 43.5l/100km and in some cases up to 40.4l/100km.

“We’re now into our second contract with MiX and have become very satisfied users of the system,” says North Down Grain director, Philip Davidson. “We had some concerns in the early days that led us to question its value, but when I expressed them we were assigned a MiX Telematics fleet consultant who worked closely with us to help us achieve our goals.”

Achieving fuel targets

That involved setting up fuel targets. “I now have a full set of reports that I run on a weekly basis,” Davidson says. “They give me access to information on fuel usage and driver and vehicle performance, providing me with the overview I need and allowing me to make strategic business decisions.”

One of the techniques used by North Down Grain to obtain fuel savings is to rotate its drivers on different routes with different vehicles over specific time periods. It enables the company to identify its best drivers, its most fuel-efficient vehicles and its toughest routes; all valuable information that helps bring down expenditure on diesel.

Minimising false claims

Fleet Manager has also helped protect the firm against two false claims about the conduct of its drivers made by other road users. On both occasions North Down was able to use historic tracking data to prove that its trucks were not present at the times and places specified.

Based in South Africa, MiX Telematics is an independent supplier of driver behaviour monitoring and tracking services. Truck manufacturers have been busy developing their own in-house packages; with Scania and MAN parent Volkswagen Truck & Bus launching RIO at the recent IAA Hanover Commercial Vehicle Show in Germany.

A cloud-based operating system, it can link an entire distribution chain, and its open-platform architecture means it can embrace vehicles of all makes.

Not to be outdone, DAF launched DAF Connect. It allows hauliers to view real-time data on what their drivers and trucks are up to. An online dashboard is used to display information on everything from idling time to fleet utilisation and its Live Fleet View facility can be employed as an aid to route planning.

Car fleet managers would doubtless love to obtain similar, telematics-derived, information. Some do, but others find that their path to connectivity nirvana is littered with obstacles.

In some cases they can include a downright refusal by fleet car drivers to accept remote monitoring by the boss. It is a refusal that may be backed by privacy legislation in some markets and may be difficult to overcome without a protracted battle if the drivers concerned happen to be trade union members.

The ability telematics gives them to refute false claims of misconduct at the wheel is a powerful counterargument however – especially if the telematics package is combined with a dashboard-mounted camera – as is their awareness that their employer has a duty of care towards them.

Legal obligations

The European Union’s Lone Worker Directive obliges companies to put policies in place to help protect employees who regularly have to work on their own away from home base. That can include setting up arrangements that allow their vehicles to be tracked remotely.

In this context it is worth noting that eCall will be mandatory for all new car Type Approvals in the European Union (EU) from 31 March 2018 onwards. If there is a major smash then it automatically rings 112 – Europe’s single emergency number – and alerts the fire, ambulance and police services to the stricken vehicle’s precise location.

The EU emphasises that this does not mean the car is constantly tracked. The SIM card used to transmit the alert stays dormant until there is an impact.

There is no denying however that SIM cards allow mobile smartphones – and their users – to be tracked when the phone is switched on. The implicit acceptance by users that this is the case may mean that telematics and the ability it gives businesses to monitor vehicles remotely will become more widely accepted by employees as the years go by.

If this is the case then car manufacturers are determined to offer businesses the services they will require. In some cases they are forging links with independent telematics specialists in order to do so.

OEM and fleet telematics links

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A number of manufacturers and telematics companies are working on more advanced solutions for fleets.

Earlier this year PSA Group and Masternaut announced that they were joining forces to offer telematics packages to fleets. The move will see the Masternaut Connect platform made more easily accessible to Peugeot, Citroën and DS connected cars and light commercials in Europe.

Two months ago Nissan announced that it was teaming up with Telogis to provide a European fleet telematics solution. NissanConnect Fleet can be deployed using hardware installed on the production line or fitted by a certified Nissan dealer and connects the vehicle to the Telogis Mobile Resource Management software platform.

Determined not to be left behind, the major leasing companies are marketing telematics systems to their car and light commercial clients too.

Arval for example has been rolling out Active Link, which is now available in France, Italy and Spain among other countries. It allows customers to access data on a vehicle and its driver’s on-the-road behaviour and take advantage of a variety of optional services including GPS tracking and mileage capture for audit purposes.

Arval is also working with PSA to ensure that data from the latter’s vehicles can be delivered to its clients more easily under the Arval Active Access banner. “We will be paying close attention to any opportunity to extend this collaboration for the benefit of our customers,” says Arval chief digital officer, Angela Montacute. “It definitely represents the future for manufacturer/ leasing company relationships.”

“The accuracy of the data generated by our on-board calculators will enable Arval to enhance its offer and deliver even more value to customers looking to reduce the total cost of ownership of the vehicles they operate,” says PSA director of connected services and new mobility, Brigitte Courtehoux.

Mileage capture and taxation

Mileage capture is particularly important in markets that require private and business mileage to be reported separately. It is a service provided by the TomTom PRO 2020 terminal from TomTom Telematics, which among other things enables drivers to improve their performance through visual and audible feedback as they drive.

Woven around all the foregoing is the trend towards vehicles being able to communicate with the surrounding infrastructure, with vulnerable road users and with each other. Continental Automotive is among those Tier One OE suppliers playing a key role in developing the necessary technology; technology which will be vital if the semi- and fully-autonomous vehicles now being developed are to function properly.

Insurers are encouraging car fleets to invest in telematics and behavioural monitoring devices because of the positive impact they can have on driver behaviour and because of the volume of useful data they can generate. One potential drawback could be that yet another in-vehicle device will increase the risk of distracted driving.

In the USA Ford is already redesigning its vehicles to accommodate the growing number of digital products that many Americans carry around with them; although it is to be hoped that they will not attempt to use them while at the wheel if they are hand-held.

The latest Fusion has 59% more storage space compared with its predecessor so that drivers and passengers will have somewhere to put all their smartphones, tablets and e-readers; and the trailing cords that regularly accompany them.

Like telematics systems, they all draw power; so expect a steady swing towards 48v in vehicles.

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