Bart De Muynck
Government regulations requiring greater compliance, the increasing need for visibility into the status of shipping loads, and an increasing responsibility for driver safety continue to drive demand for mobility technology in transport. It remains a top technology investment, according to a recent Gartner supply chain survey.
At the heart of mobile technology for transport is telematics, which is used to monitor a wide range of information relating to an individual vehicle or an entire fleet. Fleet operators can locate and track the movements and monitor conditions of assets in real time, using mobile or satellite links. This gives them visibility into exact vehicle locations, engine performance, fuel usage, hours of operation, maintenance problems, cargo temperature, and tampering alerts via onboard sensors.
Fleet operators can also track drivers to ensure safety and performance. The analysis of driver performance results in improvements in fuel consumption, prevention of workers’ compensation claims and accidents. This leads to lower operating costs, higher compliance, safety and accountability (CSA) scores and, possibly, lower insurance rates.
All of these factors help improve customer service, routing, safety, vehicle maintenance and productivity. It also helps organisations cut costs, reduce and mitigate risks, boost revenue and decrease fuel consumption.
What are the different solutions?
There are three main types of commercial telematics systems to consider for your fleet’s needs:
- OEM-embedded. An onboard computer, also known as a fleet box, is installed during the manufacturing of new vehicles by OEM, such as Mercedes-Benz Fleetboard, Scania Communicator, Volvo Dynafleet and MAN TeleMatics. These systems are capable of engine management and tele-diagnostics. Unfortunately, fleets only replace a small percentage of their vehicles on an annual basis, so this option wouldn’t allow an immediate upgrade for an entire fleet.
- Aftermarket-installed. These systems are at the origin of commercial telematics. The hardware varies from very expensive onboard computers to plug-and-play devices. The main advantage is that they can be installed on almost any vehicle in the fleet, new or old. The purchase of these devices is also independent of the procurement of the vehicles. Aftermarket products will continue to dominate the market, especially in the over-the-road segment. They will also, in many cases, complement OEM-embedded systems.
- Portable. Portable telematics systems don’t need to be installed and are easy to use. Personal digital assistants (PDA), portable navigation devices (PND), smartphones and tablets can be used as portable telematics systems. So, even smaller fleets can compete with their larger competitors. There are also systems that purely use mobile devices to track the vehicle and driver via GPS positioning. Although these systems serve many uses, they can’t be used by fleets to satisfy some government mandates.
Use these telematics in combination with your current routing or other fleet management tools. As more data is collected through these mobile systems, analytics can be used to offer better visibility for both the fleet operator and the shipper.
“The advantages that can be gained will drive your fleet’s efficiencies and increase customer service.”
Adoption of telematics systems is also increasingly growing beyond direct usage in the vehicle or cab, such as in trailers, containers, rail wagons, school buses, local government vehicles, industrial equipment and heavy machinery.
Market continues to evolve
The transportation mobility technology space continues to grow at approximately 20 per cent per year, fuelled by aftermarket and OEM telematics products.
As these have evolved, they’ve become more affordable and effective. The cost of devices, as well as the communication costs, have come down significantly. Most products are also offered on a subscription basis, which means they are no longer limited to larger fleets – smaller fleets can start using them to provide value to their organisation and customers.
Additionally, the increasing penetration of long-term evolution (LTE) technologies and high-speed broadband around the world continue to bolster the demand for commercial telematics in the global market. With 5G networks expected to roll out in the next few years, this will impact the type and amount of data that can be exchanged.
If you haven’t already, now’s the time to invest in transport mobility to ensure compliance with government mandates, ensure productivity for the fleet, and obtain tools that enhance customer visibility and fleet maintenance. The advantages that can be gained will drive your fleet’s efficiencies and increase customer service.
How to get started
- Adopt vehicle-tracking systems when the pain of empty loads, idle drivers and ‘lost’ assets visibly affects customer satisfaction or operating efficiency for fleet operators.
- Implement transport mobility technology to further enhance driver safety, as well as driver and vehicle performance, via real-time monitoring.
- Evaluate off-the-shelf and portable products that support specific business needs via an affordable subscription-based model, if supporting a smaller fleet.
- Explore whether newer, less-expensive systems justify a switch from current transport mobility technology. Or extend usage by using new functionality and integrating the technology into other execution and analytics systems if supporting a larger fleet.
Bart De Muynck is a research vice president at Gartner, specialising in supply chain delivery processes such as transport planning and execution, commercial telematics, freight payment, analytics, visibility, yard management, vehicle routing and scheduling. For more information, visit www.gartner.com/supplychain.