Managing a fleet of vehicles is never easy. A long list of things that could, and inevitably always does, go wrong. Vehicle breakage, driver dissatisfaction, traffic jam, bad weather, just to name a few. Remote telematics has being seen as the god-send for fleet management, promising you always up-to-date information on your fleet, all from the comfortable of your office; however, is remote telematics really the right choice for your fleet? Does it really deliver all its promises?

  1. Do you really know what information to collect? Nowadays, with the technology at hand, you can pretty much collect all the information you want from a vehicle, from its fuel consumption, driving speed, engine RPM, all the way to the temperature of the cargo hold and even the number of times your driver has pressed on the breaks. With all this information readily available, do you really know what you need for your business? It’s very easy to get lost in this sea of real-time information, all of a sudden your dispatcher finds him/herself with a lot more to process than before. Information is good, but only if they relate to what you do. For example, a 3PL provider obviously doesn’t really care about fuel consumption and someone who delivers cement wouldn’t give a toss about cargo temperature, those are the easy calls, but things like break applications, engine RPM’s, you really have to decide if they are critical features or just nice-to-have’s. Nothing is free, picking out the right feature would ensure you get your money’s worth.
  1. Are you ready to process all the additional information? With all the in flood of information, does your organization have the manpower or technology to handle all that? Not only is it a waste of money, it’s downright disgraceful to have all the information at hand but let it go to waste because you lack the technology or expertise to process them. Remote telematics solution in most cases will only give you raw information or slightly processed raw information, you have to have an infrastructure in place to be ready to process them into useful reports. For example, it’s useless to gather the fuel consumption of a vehicle if you can’t compare that data against historical records, even more, it would be much better to be able to aggregate the information against different make and model of the vehicle. Information extraction requires expertise and IT infrastructure, be sure to have that ready before spending the money on a remote telematics solution or else you’ll find you will indeed get a handful of information but have absolutely no idea what to do with them.
  1. Is your business ready for a telematics solution? Remote telematics solutions are good for business but they are only great for fleets of a certain size, namely big fleets. If your fleet is not that big, you may find spending the money on remote telematics solutions wouldn’t give you the cost reduction you’ve being hoping for. For large fleets where dispatching and maintaining vehicles has already became a manually intensive work, remote telematics will be a god-send. Not only will it free up dispatchers and fleet managers for the important decision, it will also decrease the wastage from human errors. If you’re the fleet manager of a large fleet, I think you’ll agree with me when I say human error accounts for a large percentage of wastage (both time and money) and it’s directly proportional to the size of the fleet. In general, over the years, I found if you have a fleet of 50 or less vehicles and these vehicles are rather localized in the same area then I would caution against implementing a remote telematics solution; however if on the other hand, you have a much larger fleet or it’s spread across a great distance then investing in a remote telematics solution will definitely be the way to go when it comes to increase in efficiency and decreasing cost in the long run.
  1. Do you have the support of your employees for a telematics implementation? This question may seem odd, that for a remote telematics implementation you will need the approval of your employees. Of course, you are the boss or the decision maker of the company, surely such an implementation only need your approval? What I’ve found is that remote telematics solution will always reflect on the conduct of the driver, or the dispatcher, or the fleet manager. Of course, the decision maker(s) of the company would want it this way also, at last the owner(s) can see some real hard data on how well everyone is performing. While this is great from the owner(s) perspective, it probably doesn’t sound all that wonderful to the employees. They will feel like they are being constantly monitored and judged, pressured into performing all the time. From my own previous experience, I’ve found all the “good” implementation of the remote telematics solutions are from companies where they’ve tied the data collected by the system to positive management methods. For example, they would set a goal for the weekly fuel consumption and will reward the driver for anything lower than the goal. The “bad” implementations are from companies that have tied the data to negative feedback methods. An example of that would be where the drivers’ salaries are deducted if they failed to meet the fuel consumption goal. In cases of the “bad” implementations I’ve found the drivers and middle managers would end up actively and creatively vandalize the system. Having said all that, it’s important before investing in a remote telematics system to know how it’s going to fit into your corporate structure. To ensure a successive implementation, it’s important to have planned all the management methods before even considering which provider to purchase the system from.

Remote telematics solutions have revolutionarily changed the way we look at fleet management over the years. The amount of transparency and the real-time information it provides are invaluable to fleet managers. Nevertheless, what worked for others may not work for you, it’s important to think carefully before investing in such a solution; however, if you have found yourself answering positively to the above four questions, then a remote telematics solution should be on your corporate agenda as your next worthwhile investment.

fotoJohn Yu is Operation and Logistics Manager at Uber