The Evolution of Telematics

As the Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow and society becomes more connected, industries are increasingly leveraging mobile data to make their operations smarter. The vehicle fleet industry is no exception. Whether you’ve been in trucking for decades or are just building up your fleet, you’ve undoubtedly heard the term “telematics.” You probably even have an idea of the significant benefits it can offer to fleet management, safety, and efficiency. But what exactly is telematics, and how can you integrate it into your daily operations?

The History of Telematics

First mentioned in a French government report on the growing computerization of society in 1978, the term telematics is a blend of the French words for telecommunications (télécommunications) and computing science (informatique). Originally used to describe a wide range of disciplines, it is today primarily associated with vehicles.

Most people are familiar with the telematics tracking devices their personal vehicles use to help them arrive safely at their destinations. But today’s telematics are growing increasingly diversified. Insurance companies can track driving behavior to adjust individuals’ insurance rates. Rideshare bicycles come equipped with solar-powered tracking devices. Dash cams can record and transmit important information to help resolve accident reports. Farmers can track their farm equipment to ensure all their fields have coverage. The bottom line: tapping into telematics makes daily life more efficient and accurate. 

How Telematics Work

Telematics tracking typically involves an in-vehicle device that sends real-time data to a cellular network and the parent company. In trucking, telematics tracking devices tell fleet managers where their vehicles are located at any given time. With telematics vehicle tracking systems evolving all the time, fleet management software tools are becoming more powerful and easier to use, offering a wide range of applications and insight. What was once a simple digital map can now serve as a tool for two-way communication between drivers and route managers, a performance management system, an inspection and maintenance aid, and a vehicle safety system.

Telematics in Trucking

It’s easy to see how this type of data holds great potential for the trucking industry, especially for larger fleets. Benefits range from the back office to the driver’s cab, providing real-time insight for directly improving efficiency, safety, job satisfaction, training, compliance, and more. For example: 

Fleet Maintenance: Telematics tools directly report on your vehicles’ health—including fault codes and lamps—and identify critical issues before they cause an accident or further vehicle damage. Vehicle health reporting also aids in preventative maintenance and compliance without costly downtime and trips to the shop.

Driver Performance: Real-time behavior monitoring and critical event reporting help you identify potential areas for improvement and assist with driver coaching. Monitoring routes and road conditions enables drivers to stay safe and on schedule, ensuring they arrive home when expected. These features go a long way in increasing job satisfaction and improving driver retention rates.

Compliance: More accurate and up-to-date information on your fleet makes staying compliant easier through preventative maintenance and ranking of repairs based on severity. Additionally, HOS timers and status updates help you easily comply with labor laws, while certified electronic logging devices ensure you’re meeting state law and regulatory mandates.

Safety: From providing fleet dispatchers more accurate route information and vehicle component statuses to enabling remote ignition disablement in case of theft, telematics tools can keep your drivers and your assets safer around the clock. 

As fleets continue to optimize their operations, each new connected technology offers greater insight into key measurements that impact their bottom line, safety performance, and driver retention rates. Utilizing fleet management software helps fleets make the most of their data by putting into action changes that truly make a difference, proven with results they can see and share.

The Future of Telematics for Fleets

So what does the future hold for telematics in trucking? While fleets will undoubtedly continue to update and modernize their current vehicles, the future could see trucks coming off the assembly line with full telematics features already built in, seamlessly integrated, and ready to go. With hardware and software tools installed and tested just like any other piece of vehicle equipment, we predict the next generation of trucks will eliminate the headaches and downtime associated with aftermarket hardware installations.

At the same time, leading telematics software will likely remain open and evolving, creating room for new application integration with tools for communication, navigation, and inspection. Using the Cloud, fleet software tools and reporting mechanisms will remain current and updatable without requiring new hardware. Fleets will save money by customizing their data insights, choosing the apps and reporting tools that mean the most to their operations and preparing their businesses for integration with tomorrow's technologies as they emerge.

Telematics as the Key to Optimized Operations

The smarter data you have, the smarter decisions you can make. Taking advantage of telematics and the rich insights it offers enables you to accurately identify your fleets’ areas of strength and points of needed improvement. Telematics helps you not only increase efficiencies, but also improve the job satisfaction of your entire team—from the back office to the driver’s cab—by making work more streamlined and less redundant. Today’s trucking fleets can work smarter, not harder, by equipping themselves to make the most of current trucking technologies while also evolving with whatever the industry may bring in the future.

Learn more about Platform Science and our powerful yet easy-to-use fleet telematics tools.