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How does telematics work?

Data Blocks
Data Blocks

Telematics systems perform a range of functions by gathering vehicle location and activity data, and turning this into business insight. Telematics works by:

1. Capturing vehicle location and driver behaviour data via a device installed in a vehicle.
2. Transmitting data captured over secure cellular networks
3. Using a web-based software platform to present and visualise vehicle location and driver activity data



The technology has been widely adopted in the fleet industry since the turn of the millennium and has provided fleet managers with previously unheard-of insights into both vehicle and driver performance. This has drastically simplified fleet management processes, and enabled significant improvements in efficiency and productivity.


Q: How are vehicle telematics systems installed and set up?

A: Once the vehicle tracker is installed, another device is fitted which clips on to the CAN wiring. Some telematics systems pull the vehicle data through the on-board diagnostics port (OBD-11) which in turn pulls the vehicle diagnostics; this is most common in the industry and is mainly used for smaller vans. However, CAN click technology can also be used for this purpose and, it should be noted, does not run the risk of invalidating vehicle warranties. Vehicle trackers are equipped with SIM cards, which then transfer vehicle data to servers from where it can be accessed.


Q: Which telematics datasets are particularly important to fleets, and why?

A: The most valuable data is that relating to productivity – including trip reports, inactive reports and site reports – as this enables business owners and fleet managers to effectively manage remote resources. Location-based data is of particular importance to fleet operators, allowing them to keep track of assets and implement routing in real time. Fleets also look for data on fuel efficiency (in other words, the true miles per gallon reading), vehicle engine idling and harsh usage (such as over-revving of the engine, rough braking and aggressive acceleration)). Each fleet that chooses to adopt telematics does so for its own individual reasons, but there are some overarching reasons common to all fleets. In particular, fleets adopt telematics because they want to reduce risks, improve driver safety and reduce running costs. They will then look at individual datasets with these overall objectives in mind, and establish where improvements can be made. They may also examine telematics datasets over time, to see if any patterns emerge which may indicate any longer-term deterioration or improvement in specific areas.


Q: How can fleet managers make effective use of telematics data?

A: Having the raw telematics data to hand is one thing, but making good use of it is another. There is a need to simplify the process of interpreting telematics data and putting it to work; after all, there’s little point in having finely-detailed data unless it is relatively simple for fleet managers to understand. Fleet management systems use telematics data and allow fleet managers to organise and deploy their resources with both minimum difficulty and maximum efficiency. These systems, using telematics data, enable fleets to optimise routing, schedule maintenance (thereby potentially preventing unnecessary downtime, and cutting the costs associated with it), monitor fuel usage and more.


Q: How can telematics help deliver improvements in driver behaviour?

A: Telematics data can give fleet managers an exceptionally detailed view of the way their drivers conduct themselves while on the road. This in turn can highlight a wide range of driver saftey concerns , alerting fleet managers to the need to devise a plan for addressing them. However, just having this data alone cannot deliver improvements in driver safety. Instead, fleet managers need to incorporate the information provided to them by telematics into a broader driver training and development programme. For example, positive rewards and healthy competition (such as driver league tables, with prizes for the safest and most-improved drivers) can help to improve driver safety standards and inculcate a culture of commitment to road safety among the driving workforce.

One of the key advantages of telematics is that it provides fleet managers with the hard data they need to develop training programmes tailored to the needs of individual drivers, addressing specific areas of concern.