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What is Telematics?

Let’s start by giving an introduction of telematics. Telematics is the combination of two sciences—telecommunications (the branch of technology dealing with phone lines and cables) and informatics (the study of the structure, behavior, and interactions of natural and engineered computational systems). Telematics is being used extensively by various businesses today, and this article gives an overview of the applications of telematics and how it helps to reduce unpredictability in operations.

Working Principle

The components of telematics devices typically include a GPS tracker, an engine interface, an input/output interface (expander port), a SIM card, an accelerometer, and a buzzer. All these are connected to software that collects data from the devices, stores them in a cloud, and sends them to the relevant parties who analyze and interpret the data.

The GPS device and other sensors attached to a vehicle collect location data as well as several other vehicle-related data like speed, idle time, harsh or unusual acceleration or braking, fuel consumption, and vehicle faults. This is transferred through GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) or mobile data to a central server. From the server, the data goes to the end-users, who can access the data from their computers or smartphones.

Applications of Telematics

1. Fleet Management

Fleet management covers the management of ships and motor vehicles such as cars, vans, and trucks. It can include a range of functions like vehicle financing, maintenance, telematics (tracking and diagnostics), driver management, fuel management, and so on. GPS fleet monitoring is the most common application of telematics, as every other application is just an extension of this.

2. Trailer and Asset Tracking

Apart from vehicle tracking, non-movable assets and attachments like trailers also need to be tracked. This is particularly useful in the food industry for trucks transporting cold or fresh foods. Telematics is used to gather data on the temperature within the cargo container, and if the temperature goes beyond a threshold, either an alert can be sent, or temperature systems can be triggered to regulate the temperature again.

3. Vehicle Maintenance

Vehicle maintenance can often be an expensive and time-consuming task, especially if not done regularly. This is why telematics systems can help businesses by predicting when the next maintenance is due by keeping track of engine diagnostics like battery voltage, coolant temperature, and other malfunctions. Keeping track of these parameters will also make it easier to upgrade the vehicles to meet the latest safety standards.

How Logistics Businesses Benefit from Telematics

The five core areas that telematics enables businesses to achieve are:

  1. Productivity
  2. Safety
  3. Optimization
  4. Compliance
  5. Integration

Telematics has become a necessity for logistics businesses to regulate vehicular trips better and, in the process, reduce risk and unpredictability. Here are a few ways how telematics helps achieve this.

1. Driver Monitoring

The purpose of driver monitoring systems is to track the behavior and alertness of the driver. Apart from recognizing the driver to make sure they are correctly assigned to the vehicle, the system sends an alert to a manager or some other concerned person when the driver of a vehicle is drowsy, drunk, sleepy, or distracted. There is a camera placed on the steering which scans the eyes of the driver to collect the relevant information.

Telematics can also ensure that the driver is wearing seatbelts throughout the journey. Other functionalities of this include warning the driver by flashing lights and warning sounds when something unusual or unsafe behavior is detected. If no action is taken, the vehicle automatically halts till remedial action is taken.

2. Optimal Scheduling and Routing

When a company operates dozens or hundreds of trucks and other vehicles across a country for transport operations, optimization becomes a key factor in reducing costs and maximizing revenues. The GPS systems installed on vehicles can guide the driver to take the optimum route from the pickup point to the destination, taking into account accidents on the way, risk of each route, time factor, and so on. With sufficient space in the truck and delivery dates are taken into consideration, multiple deliveries can be combined if they occur along the same route.

On the other hand, the company can use the data collected by telematics to assign trucks and drivers optimally so that drivers get sufficient rests between trips, and the overall downtime or idle time is minimum. Keeping track of routes also make it easier for the company to alert the checkpoints at state borders to inform them of the vehicle so that the time spent in verification and checking is reduced.

3. Emergency Assistance

Accidents  and emergencies can be prevented most of the time, but it is equally important to have measures in place if something does happen. With a proper vehicle tracking and alert system in place, a logistics company can immediately take action if a vehicle experiences an accident, breakdown, or some other emergency en route that prevents it from completing its journey. This should either be triggered by the driver or automatically, based on the damage done.

For example, the company can check if some other truck is available nearby to take over the load or at least to offer help. The telematics system can instruct the driver (assuming he is not injured) to go to the nearest mechanic to fix the truck. The company can also have a tie-up with a mechanic or repair shop so that they are instantly alerted in case of an emergency.

4. Rope in the Customer Too

The logistics company collects all the data of the vehicle, but it can selectively reveal some data to the customer so that they are satisfied with the transport operations. Regular updates on location, vehicle condition, ETA, and so on can be shared with the customer so that they are confident of getting the delivery in a safe condition and on time.

Does Your Business Use Telematics?

As technology advances, more and more OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) and businesses in the logistics sector are incorporating telematics in their vehicles. It may be an expensive investment initially, but in the long run, you are sure to see an increase in ROI. Consult a telematics firm and upgrade all your vehicles with the latest devices and telematics technology today!

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