Telematics’ new dimension

From the November 2017 issue.

Inspired by the prospect of autonomous driving and V2V communication, the telematics industry’s focus has shifted from facilitating data collection to fundamentally reforming the notion of modern fleet management.

It is one of the most fascinating success stories in the history of commercial road transport: A mere decade after GPS tracking started becoming more widely available to a civilian audience, telematics has evolved into a global megatrend allowing us to fundamentally reimagine the transport industry’s century-old business model.

“Modern-day telematics technology can take a big bite out of [the industry’s organisational] waste with data-enabled fleet management that will make both customers and drivers more satisfied and boost profit margins every day,” explains US business journalist and transport industry veteran, Gary Wollenhaupt – noting that telematics is not just about collecting data anymore, but applying it in an operational context. “Today, the power of data and open communication can improve compliance, driver efficiency and fleet performance … so fleet management can do away with overspending and improve overall safety.”

As such, he says businesses are able to provide more transparency across the board and adjust the industry’s old ‘A to B’ business model accordingly – allowing for a degree of accountability, compliance and efficiency unlike anything in the history of commercial road transport. But, that doesn’t mean the concept of telematics or the vast and fragmented marketplace it has created have reached maturity yet. With the advent of platooning and advanced Vehicle-to-Vehicle (V2V) technology in series production vehicles, Wollenhaupt says the maturation of the technology is far from concluded.

“Advanced telematics and fleet management solutions will serve as the foundation for the next step in connected vehicle design,” he explains. “Transport businesses will soon use dispatch, routing and navigation technology to identify and facilitate opportunities for trucks to form a platoon, for example, including those from different fleets.”

Until that next evolutionary stage is reached, however, Wollenhaupt says industry has to agree on a host of new communication and cyber-security standards to ensure a safe and reliable operating environment – and experts from around the world agree. “Instead of just following a dot on a map, we can now digitise a whole vehicle – but there’s still a lot of confusion around what it can and can’t do, and what it should and shouldn’t be doing,” says Gavin Hill of Transport Certification Australia (TCA), a special government body for the telematics industry with strong international ties to Europe and the US. “We’re only just reaching a state where we fully appreciate that complexity.”

According to Wollenhaupt and Hill, the process of adopting telematics and transforming fleet management best practice is still incremental in many countries – arguably because a lack of regulation caused the market to swell up and become too confusing for a period of time – but slowly gaining pace in line with the technological advancement of the trucking industry.

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