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30 ways to better telematics

By / 9 years ago / Features / No Comments

Is telematics finally coming of age? It is a sector of the fleet industry that has had more than its fair share of cowboys over the years, but now seems to be maturing and stabilising, and with that comes more and more evidence that telematics can work to reduce cost and accidents as well as improving business efficiency.

A recent report from analyst Frost & Sullivan reported fuel savings of 15% being achieved from companies who have successfully implemented telematics, while other research has suggested this figure could be as high as 20%. 

The fuel spend on Tesco’s fleet reduced by 12% too, with a 6% reduction in vehicle damage since telematics was introduced, while insurer Zurich estimates that telematics could result in a 11% improvement in fuel consumption and a 20% reduction in the number of vehicle collisions.

So with more and more fleets turning to telematics, what are the questions to ask when starting on the road to implementation? We asked the firms offering these products to come up with the questions you should be grilling them with to get the very best system and implementation.


1) Avoid third party lease finance contracts

This is a very quick and simple way to eliminate the market’s weaker players. Remember, only strong, well-established providers are in a position to invite you to enter into an agreement directly with them: they have no need to involve third-party finance. To understand the importance of this point just go to YouTube and search for Lease Finance for Vehicle Tracking.

Andy Kirk, sales and marketing director, Quartix

2) Keep your options open

When looking for the right solution you should ensure your provider has all the components you might need as your business grows or requirements change, without having to pay for more than you need for your initial deployment. Ideally, you want a full-service, end-to-end provider that can offer an “a la carte” menu of options so you can start with what you need now and easily scale-up later.

Nick Mitchell, VP Global Sales, Trimble Field Service Management


3) Ensure your system will deliver expense management 

Expense management focuses on reducing unnecessary journeys in the first place; making sure that business mileage is necessary and authorised, is recorded accurately, and is then reconciled with payroll.  Administratively cumbersome, paper-based logs are being increasingly replaced by online journey reporting, integrated directly into payroll, with mileage bills dropping by as much as 25% when such measures have been introduced.

Keith Allen, managing director, ALD Automotive


4) Treat purchasing like any other software solution

When selecting a product treat it like any other software solution i.e. CRM.  Consider what benefits you want to get, how you will achieve this and what operational changes will be needed.  Apply these requirements when carrying out your research rather than being overly influenced by what you are ‘told’ you need.

Steve Blackburn, European Vice-President for Navman Wireless


5) Does your supplier offer training?

Even if the tracking product has been installed for years there is always be something new to learn, so opt for a provider that can deliver insightful training via varied media: on-site training, online sessions, video tutorials, step-by-step user guides and hints and tips from customers. Not only do these easily accessible training resources ensure the greatest possible return on investment from your tracking system, they’re especially helpful for new employees.

Chris McClellan, joint managing director, Remote Asset Management


6) Do suppliers offer short contracts and no termination charges?

Check that the supplier is able to offer 12-month or shorter contract terms with no termination charges at the end of the period. You should do this even if you expect to have the system for years to come. Before committing to longer contract terms, you can always have the supplier provide the service for 12 months to check them out. 

Andy Kirk, sales & marketing director, Quartix


7) Intelligence rather than tracking delivers the savings

Delivering savings and return on investment requires more intelligent technology than tracking, and that’s where telematics plays a significant role. Telematics solutions give fleet managers the ability to look at driving styles and performance of company vehicles online, delivering the fleet manager reports and statistical evidence of how drivers are performing. Simple tracking devices fail in that respect.

Keith Allen, MD, ALD Automotive


8) Use cloud-based systems

Innovation is rendering traditional telematics systems obsolete as fewer fleets want traditional data. Management now needs to evaluate solutions that take advantage of cloud computing and open APIs. A cloud-based service can share data and insight about vehicles, driver behaviour, risk and fuel economy with drivers, depot managers, insurers etc, to improve decision-making.

Aidan Rowsome, general manager, GreenRoad


9) How often does your system update?

Active tracking has become the most popular method of GPS vehicle tracking because of the huge benefits to having real-time location information of each vehicle which, in turn, allows fleet owners to make on-demand management decisions. Be cautious of systems that only update every five minutes or so as this isn’t truly real-time and often you can be charged for additional ‘pings’ if you need to locate a vehicle between intervals.

Richard Brooks, Director of Marketing for Europe, FleetMatics UK


10) Communicate with staff

Communicate with your staff about the new tracking system – why you are implementing it and what the benefits are.  Don’t assume people will know – change is often unsettling and facts about the software and the benefits to the business and ultimately their jobs shouldn’t be led by the rumour mill.

Steve Blackburn, European Vice-President for Navman Wireless


11) Avoid third party suppliers

Check you’re dealing with a true telematics provider – an organisation with full design ownership and control over all the technology used – and not simply someone who purchases third party boxes and adds some software.

Andy Kirk, sales & marketing director, Quartix


12) Prioritise your priorities

Before you dive in, be sure to identify and understand the business needs that you are looking to meet with telematics; this will help identify the solutions and functionality most appropriate for your business. For example, with customers becoming increasingly demanding, are you looking to make frontline improvements to aid customer service? Or perhaps your focus is on reducing fuel consumption?

Nick Mitchell, VP Global Sales, Trimble Field Service Management


13) Buy cheap, buy twice…

Be wary of extremely low cost tracking solutions because the danger is if you buy cheap you buy twice.  It is more important to consider the long-term savings that can be achieved from a proactive system that cleverly help to reduce the time and resources required to effectively administer the technology.”


14) Establish KPIs

Establishing a company-wide series of key performance indicators and performance benchmarks, businesses can set well-defined targets and use telematics data to measure how successfully they are working towards them.

Giles Margerison, Director UK & Ireland, 

TomTom Business Solutions


15) Are you getting the latest tech?

Check the supplier is able to provide the latest technology. The latest telematics units are fully integrated, including internal GSM and GPS antennas – they do not have connectors mounted on the enclosures which can lead to problems with connectivity and tampering. Ask to see the unit.

Andy Kirk, sales & marketing director, Quartix


16) Get references 

In the past, the industry has suffered damage to its reputation because businesses have had their fingers burned by fly-by-night operators. Brands offering first-class service should also be able to provide references from their existing customer base and be able to provide expert consultancy throughout the selection and installation process.

Giles Margerison, Director UK & Ireland TomTom Business Solutions


17) Will you need proprietary software?

Many GPS vehicle tracking solutions use proprietary software that can only be used on computers with the proper installation and can be subject to manual upgrades. The best GPS solutions provide the information securely over the internet and, as long as the login and password are known, can be accessed from any internet-enabled computer. The flexibility and 24/7 accessibility of an internet-based solution makes it the far superior choice when deciding on a specific GPS vehicle tracking solution.

Richard Brooks, Director of Marketing for Europe, FleetMatics UK


18) Have you got good technical support?

Enquire about the technical support offered.  When you need support you will want answers quickly and from someone technically competent.  Is the support UK based and accessible, is this support dedicated and adequate to support the number of customer that the supplier has.

Steve Blackburn, European Vice-President for Navman Wireless


19) Drive improvement through incentives

Use telematics data to formulate incentives designed to encourage efficient and safe driving practices. One of the most effective schemes is a driver league table, where top performers earn a percentage of the savings made through efficient driving.

Steve Blackburn, European Vice-President for Navman Wireless


20) Transparency on costs is vital

Check all costs have been revealed, and stay clear of companies that charge for extras later – such as providing older historical data. Reputable suppliers will not expect you to sign a separate airtime or warranty contract: such services will be covered by the original fee, payable directly to the telematics supplier. Don’t be shy to ask whether the supplier has the resources to honour a comprehensive on-site warranty.

Andy Kirk, sales & marketing director, Quartix


21) Find out about resilience and reliability

Ask about what measures are in place to ensure the system is resilient and reliable.  The hosting of a tracking solution is complex so consider getting some IT support to assess the information and to ask the right questions. 

Steve Blackburn, European Vice-President for Navman Wireless


22) Make sure it can integrate with scheduling software

Integrating the vehicle tracking system with the routing and scheduling software also enables companies to improve service levels. They can proactively manage the deliveries and notify their customers of arrival times using text messages or by email. This ensures that staff are ready to receive the delivery and can work on other jobs right up to the time of the delivery.

William Salter, Managing Director, Paragon Software systems


23) Get precise journey readings

The ability to accurately determine when a journey truly starts can be notoriously difficult: do you judge by an engine’s running time, journey time or average speed? Many tracking products deliver false “idling” readings so talk to those providers that have the capability to detect electrical noise to accurately determine engine use and therefore provide the most precise data.

Clive Girling, Technology Director, TRACKER


24) Don’t be a slave to data

During deployment, processes should be put in place to rationalise the vast amount of data available. Don’t become a slave to data and waste time and resources sifting through information you won’t use productively. Building in the correct level of analysis and reporting is essential for maximising ROI.

Nick Mitchell, VP Global Sales, Trimble Field Service Management


25) Train your staff 

Businesses see greater value from a tracking system when both office and field based staff are comprehensively trained. Choose a provider that offers initial product training and has training resources which can be accessed on demand.

Steve Blackburn, European Vice-President for Navman Wireless 


26) Work out your ROI profile

Businesses can receive a return on investment (ROI) after using GPS vehicle tracking for as little as six months, with a vast majority reaching positive ROI in under a year. With proper management of the system, we’ve seen some customers realise an immediate ROI within a week simply by reducing excess overtime.  

Richard Brooks, Director of Marketing for Europe, FleetMatics UK


27) Driver profiling could save cost

Driver profiling focuses on improving how vehicles are driven and this is where telematics can really make a big impact. There are quick ‘wins’ to be had if fleets are serious in wanting to cut costs, not just in reducing excessive speeding but reducing harsh acceleration, heavy braking, over revving and unnecessary idling.

Keith Allen, MD, ALD Automotive


28) Will it give you street names?

It seems an incredibly straightforward thing to say, but when you’re watching a demonstration of a tracking solution, check that the system actually shows street names on the reports produced. Some products will just display facts such as “0.4 miles south-west of X” which has limited value when monitoring the activity of your fleet. 

Chris McClellan, joint managing director, Remote Asset Management


29) Can tracking protect assets?

The recession has brought about a new breed of professional vehicle thieves who steal to order. The upfront cost of fitting a fleet of cars or vans with tracking systems may put many operators off, but the long term benefits – cost of losing equipment and time, a reduction in insurance premiums and improved residual values – can outweigh the initial outlay. 

Andrew Smith, Managing Director, Cobra UK


30) The financial argument for telematics 

Calculate how much money you could save by reducing fuel consumption by monitoring driver behaviour to help build a sound business case.  Monitoring driving style will enable you to identify drivers that habitually speed or take regular detours on route. The savings that can be made through changes to driver behaviour mean that a telematics system can more than pay for itself.

Clive Girling, Technology Director, TRACKER

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