With all the benefits it offers, on-board telematics has become a must-have for transport operators.MARISKA MORRISinvestigates telematics solutions and some of the latest products
Technological advancements in the transport industry have enabled operators to access more information about their vehicles, routes and behaviour of their drivers than ever before. With this knowledge, it is possible for fleets to run more efficiently, for downtime to be limited and for transporters to ensure that cargo arrives safely.
As Andiswa Nyembe, public relations and communications specialist at Netstar, explains: “We are living in an age where data is king and access to ‘anytime, anywhere’ information is an expectation from both consumers and businesses. Telematics is the vehicle used to optimise big data for more effective fleet management.
“Through telematics, fleet owners can, for example, monitor driver behaviour, optimise fuel spend, improve route planning and set up predictive maintenance alerts.”
Many telematics solutions also offer important safety features – an essential component when considering the tremendous loss of income due to hijackings.
Henry Smith, fleet sales director for MiX Telematics Africa, points out: “Fleet vehicles are easy targets for truck hijacking syndicates, due to their valuable cargo. As a result, truck hijackings currently cost the South African economy an estimated R3 billion a year, according to the South African Insurance Crime Bureau.”
Telematics solutions like the MiX Fleet Manager online platform can help combat this risk with real-time and historical tracking and a wireless back-up recovery device, which is vital in combatting vehicle theft and hijackings.Other solutions from the telematics company include 24/7 monitoring of triggered driving events (such as speeding or harsh braking) and alarm notifications, such as power-down alerts and panic buttons, in order to increase safety for both drivers and valuable cargo.
These benefits are available to fleets and businesses of all sizes, as Justin Manson, sales director for South Africa for Webfleet Solutions, a division of Bridgestone, points out: “Telematics solutions can benefit any business from small to large enterprises. These solutions enable transport operators to manage their fleets from start to finish.
“Webfleet Solutions gives truck owners the ability to always know the location of their vehicles, to communicate with drivers and to provide in-vehicle training – all of which enable the workforce to be more efficient and to better manage vehicle costs.”
What to look for
Every business will have its own unique challenges. Fortunately, there are many options from which to choose.
“Each business has different needs. A telematics system therefore needs to be flexible,”Mansonexplains. “Whether a client is looking to start with a track-and-trace solution, or have live traffic, in-vehicle driver training and route optimisation, a telematics solution needs to be adaptable.”
Telematics service providers such as Webfleet Solutions can provide a flexible system that allows customers to add devices or services while providing the most current software solutions. While a customised solution is the ideal approach for every business, some challenges are universal.
Nyembe explains: “Common problems faced by commercial fleet owners include reducing fleet costs, fuel optimisation, ensuring fleet (including cargo) and driver safety, streamlining administrative processes, avoiding unplanned downtime, adhering to delivery times and compliance requirements.
“The telematics solution implemented by transport owners should address these issues and be sufficiently scalable to meet any possible changes to business needs with minimal interruptions to the everyday running of the business.”
Raymond Schulz, executive: commercial and marketing strategy, explains that although the software is important, the platform should also be easy to use. “The chosen tracking hardware system needs to provide enough inputs and measure accurate data, while also reflecting the data in an easily accessible platform.
“It must be in a readable format that improves the fleet controller’s assessment of the trends in the fleet. Besides the core product offering, transport operators must also evaluate the options and countrywide infrastructure required to support it. The continued availability of the software that supports the hardware is not negotiable,” he says.
Transport operators have many options when it comes to telematics solutions. For example, Netstar offers its customers global original equipment manufacturer-approved wireless add-on accessories to help improve quality adherence for fleet vehicles. These include temperature control and sensors.
The telematics services on offer include signal-jammer detection, live tracking, route management, impact detection, driver-behaviour monitoring and rating, zone management, service scheduling, maintenance and fuel cost management.
Netstar also provides camera solutions. Nyembe elaborates: “Cameras facing the fuel socket can be installed to vehicles to discourage fuel theft. The system can be set up so that any violations in this regard trigger alerts, for example.”
MiX Telematics offers its MiX Fleet Manager Premium solution with sophisticated on-board technology to gather vehicle and driver data, which is accessible online or through a mobile app. It is compatible with a range of services and comes with optional add-ons and accessories, including video recording systems, in-cab navigation and messaging devices, among others.
There is also the MiX Track and React 24-hour control room, where professional agents manage pre-determined driving criteria notifications immediately by contacting the driver when an event is triggered, thereby increasing safety and driver compliance. Smith notes: “Incidents like hijackings and vehicle theft can be acted on immediately, thus limiting losses.”
Other services from MiX Telematics include driver and road-facing cameras, footage analysis, driver coaching tools and trend reporting. Webfleet Solutions and Ctrack also provides a wide range of telematic solutions to speak to the different challenges facing transport operators.
Solutions to look forward to
However, it doesn’t stop there. Many of the telematics companies will be upgrading their services, expanding their ranges and implementing new services during the year, although not many details are available yet.
“With the backing of Bridgestone, there will be even more new products and features coming out soon. However, we cannot disclose the details of these at this time,” Manson says.
Netstar is similarly vague. Nyembe notes: “The Fourth Industrial Revolution opens a new world of connectedness and is set to unlock new business opportunities. Netstar will have a dedicated focus on bringing more value to our clients through these opportunities.”
MiX Telematics in turn has launched a live-streaming service for its MiX Vision camera solution that enables fleet managers to view footage from up to eight cameras simultaneously. Smith notes: “This heightens the control that fleet managers have over their fleet by giving them immediate, live access to a view of their drivers and vehicles.
“It allows fleet owners to check if the driver is at risk and provide an understanding as to what possible traffic or road hazards the driver may be facing. It also gives the viewer access to monitor sensitive loading or unloading of cargo, as well as witness possible damages that may occur during the process.”
One thing on which all the telematics companies agree is that the industry is growing at a tremendous rate with some exciting new technology – including artificial intelligence and 5G-enabled devices.