If trucks are a driving factor in your day-to-day business, then you know a thing or two about fleet management software, and you’ve most likely heard telematics thrown around in conversation. The two terms are often used interchangeably, and they do share some similarities, starting with how quickly the new logistics-enhancing products are popping up in the marketplace.
Today, more and more transportation and trucking companies are turning to one or the other of these trending digital technologies to help:
- Improve efficiency
- Increase safety
- Lower costs
- Reduce risks
But when it comes to overall use and functionality, there are some distinct differences between fleet management and telematics software. Understanding the ins and outs of each fleet solution will help you decide which (or neither) is a better fit for your particular needs.
For example, long-haul service providers may benefit more from the features offered by enterprise fleet management service providers, while dump truck fleet owners may want to leverage the insights telematics systems provide.
The Basics of Fleet Management Software
You can think of fleet management software as a digital file cabinet--but one that’s firing on all cylinders. These fleet solutions simplify overseeing your operations by organizing and sorting the information you need at any given moment and putting it right at your fingertips. With a couple of clicks you can pull up documents relating to:
- Vehicle purchases or leases
- Maintenance schedules
- Repair histories
- Fuel consumption and emissions
- Driver records and licenses
- Regulations and compliance
- Risk management
- Parts and inventory
But there are more fleet management features that add up to more than just a convenient method of storing and accessing information. With robust reporting tools built in, you’re able to analyze all kinds of data to make better management decisions about your operations.
Instead of searching through files or logbooks for a vehicle’s engine hours and miles logged, with a fleet solution you can quickly see an in-depth analysis. With the accurate information in hand, it’s easier to develop preventive maintenance schedules and plan the timing of vehicle replacement.
Additionally, the software can be configured to set alerts for critical dates regarding compliance and license renewals or the need for reordering inventory. And as most platforms integrate seamlessly with third-party systems such as ERP or billing software, invoices can be generated automatically and sent directly to your customers.
All these features combine to streamline the tasks and processes you deal with every day managing the life cycle of your fleet. By using fleet management software, you’re more connected, efficient and well positioned to improve your ROI.
Take Telematics Along for the Ride
In the broadest sense, telematics--a buzzword in trucking fleet management these days--merges the two scientific concepts of telecommunications and informatics, or information processing. It’s the blinking dots moving on a map, loaded with all the information they represent:
- Vehicle position
- Driver behavior
- Real-time fuel usage
- Odometer readings
- Trip history
- Real-time vehicle mechanical issues
Simply put, telematics makes it possible to remotely monitor a vehicle.
A growing number of vehicles are rolling off the assembly line enabled with telematics technology. But for the millions of vehicles that aren’t already equipped, implementation is not complicated.
An electronic tracking device is typically installed through a vehicle’s onboard diagnostics port with a SIM card. But as noted above, a telematics system tracks more data points than a GPS location. Speed, cornering, harsh acceleration and braking, idling times--all can be monitored in real-time. Instantaneously, the captured information is transmitted through a secure server to a company’s computers or mobile application.
Armed with this “black box” information, fleet owners or managers can use the real-time data to make immediate decisions like rerouting a vehicle or sending help and also make better informed decisions about identified areas for improvement. For example, with real-time and historical data about drivers’ behaviors, you could develop training or incentive programs to encourage more responsible driving.
Up until recently, telematics was limited to a set of data points collected on each trip, but the field has now expanded to include more sophisticated features, including predictive analysis and live video monitoring through in-cab and out-of-cab cameras. Driver activity can be monitored continuously or pre-set to record when triggered by specific events.
Even with these new advancements, only a handful of businesses with a fleet-based workforce--car rental companies or consumer delivery services--depend solely on telematics systems. The technology is exponentially more useful when it’s implemented as one aspect of a comprehensive trucking fleet management platform.
Fleet Management Plus Telematics Equals A Powerful Solution
The advantages of having both types of software working in tandem are more than the sum of the two parts. The real-time information a telematics system collects combined with the accessibility of data, visibility and transparency that a fleet management application provides means fleet managers can look forward to the following benefits:
Ensuring your drivers are driving responsibly is of the utmost importance to save lives--their own as well as others on the road.
Not only can fleet managers review a driver’s history, but they can receive real-time notifications alerting them to dangerous driving. They can monitor speeding, cornering and harsh braking or acceleration among other behaviors. The intelligence gained helps managers take appropriate action to avoid problems down the road.
A positive side effect of monitoring is that overall level of safety is increased because drivers are aware that their performance is being watched and recorded.
Safe vehicle handling is also crucial to reducing insurance and repair costs and eliminating the unnecessary downtime of equipment.
Reduced fuel costs
In-depth monitoring of unnecessary acceleration, harsh braking and excessive idling reveal driving patterns that result in higher fuel costs. Then coaching or training can be tailored to address the wasteful behaviors specific to your team. Drivers are more receptive to feedback that’s supported with data than generalized critiques.
It’s not just abrupt stops and starts that waste fuel. With a fleet management solution in place, drivers can be redirected to avoid routes where idling commonly occurs. Another fuel saving advantage is that drivers can be alerted to cheaper places to fuel up.
Improved vehicle maintenance
One of the shifts in many industries world-wide is to adopt more preventive maintenance practices. Getting on board this trend is simplified with a fleet solution.
All the information you need to put a preventive maintenance schedule in place--engine hours, miles travelled, breakdown rates, number of jumpstarts and tows, fuel usage--is readily available with a fleet management platform.
Following a schedule based on your specific data means the potential for real savings in terms of extending the life of your vehicles and avoiding costly repairs.
With GPS tracking, you gain real-time insight and updates. This instant information means both efficiency and productivity improve. Being able to reroute drivers results in speedier deliveries and better fuel economy. In addition, the risk of an accident is reduced when your drivers avoid heavily congested routes.
Along with GPS tracking, geofencing can play a key role in reducing driver detention at pick up and drop off sites. By setting up virtual parameters, you’ll know when your drivers enter and exit a location--and know how much unnecessary time they’re spending there.
Improved customer satisfaction
What customer doesn’t like to have accurate and up-to-the-minute information on a delivery or pick up? Real-time vehicle tracking allows you to know your drivers’ whereabouts and the road conditions that could impact their ETA, so you can keep your customers informed and happy.
Furthermore, your software solution makes it easy (automatic, in most cases) to send your customers reminders about bookings and other notifications, giving you another competitive edge.
Use Caution When Approaching Generic Solutions
As revolutionizing and exciting as they are, many enterprise fleet solutions are generic tools geared to serve the needs of the long haul trucking world.
If you’re in the construction industry or manage a fleet of dump trucks, there aren’t a lot of alternatives built especially for your business. Not a lot, but a few applications have hit the market in the last few years.
These newer solutions have been designed with the specific needs of your business--scheduling, dispatching and tracking--in mind. They include features that are function-fit for trucking to and from jobsites.
Look for a fleet management tool that includes a telematics component for GPS tracking, an intuitive dashboard to make the tasks of dispatching and scheduling a snap, eTicketing, and automatic invoice creation to make back office work effortless.
Here at TRUX, we can help you find the right trucking logistics tool for your business, no matter what size fleet you have. Schedule a demo today to learn how our easy to use software can ramp up your productivity, efficiency, visibility and customer satisfaction.
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