Telematics 101:

What is telematics technology and how do companies benefit from it?

Welcome to Telematics 101. This week, we’re going back to the basics to revisit telematics. What does this term mean? How is it different from—and related to—GPS tracking? Where do dash cams fit? Grab a seat, sit up straight, and all eyes on the board. Class is in session and, yes, this will be on the test. 

What is Telematics?

When asked to picture a commercial or public fleet vehicle on the road, most people envision a big, heavy, lumbering old truck creating more traffic.

The reality is that today, most commercial and public fleet vehicles are mobile data stations, packed with innovative technology that helps move them around more quickly, safely, and efficiently—and that tech is called telematics.

Telematics is the technology and practice of sending, receiving, and analyzing information via telecommunications, and is itself a compound of telecommunications and informatics.

Fleet telematics solutions are the key ingredient of successful fleet management and are the main tool to provide fleet managers with the data they need to make informed decisions and increase operational efficiency.

Simply put, real-time fleet telematics help organizations get more from their vehicles and their team.


What’s the difference between telematics and GPS?

We know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking “telematics is just GPS.”

You’re right…but there’s even more.

You’re right in that, like a GPS tracker, telematics is based on devices installed inside vehicles, which then use cellular networks to transmit data back to servers either hosted by the provider or a third-party cloud server. Then, the data stored in the cloud makes the information available to access from any device with an internet connection. The GNSS (Global Navigation Satellite System)—a network of satellites that help triangulate the location of a device—is what makes all of this possible.

GPS tracking is the beating heart of an effective fleet telematics system and is central to collecting the critical data needed to manage a growing fleet, such as vehicle routing and mapping data, vehicle idling, speeding and use analytics, traffic violation, accident information, and more.

But vehicle telematics is much more than just GPS. Telematics brings a level of analysis far beyond simply knowing where a driver is. To fit the definition of telematics, you also need visibility into speed, braking, maintenance, and even time of day…and it incorporates both GPS tracking and smart dash cam technology.

How Telematics Helps

Whether it’s a three-person pool cleaning company, small municipal fleet of trash collection trucks, or a nationwide logistic firm sending semi-trucks on cross-country trips, fleet vehicles are the key to generating revenue.

No matter the size or mission, telematics supports better fleet tracking and management and provides managers a better understanding of how their mobile resources—vehicles, trailers, snowplows, generators, and more—get used every day. The volume and accuracy of real-time data provided by telematics significantly enhance accountability, compliance, efficiency, and safety.

The Telematics Top 10

Here are the top 10 reasons your fleet needs telematics:

10. Improve Driver Experience

Beyond driver safety, the overall driver experience is also crucial to improving hiring and retention efforts.

Telematics provide drivers and managers with location data, routing, dispatching, and more in easy-to-use SaaS manager portals and driver mobile apps, making it simple for fleet managers to run their businesses, and for drivers to access vital information about their daily schedules.

Maximize Uptime

9. Maximize Uptime

Maximizing uptime, optimizing routes, and prioritizing jobs are all key to creating a more efficient fleet operation. Telematics solutions provide near real-time data that helps fleets work smarter—not harder. The data allows fleet managers to streamline work orders, and prioritize routes based on location to plan more effectively and reduce downtime between stops. Maximizing uptime leads to better performance and higher revenue.
Reduce Vehicle Breakdowns

8. Reduce Vehicle Breakdowns

It can be hard to keep track of vehicle maintenance: Which ones are due for an oil change, when did the brakes get serviced, how long ago did your trucks get a new set of tires? Telematics technology helps eliminate the guesswork and allow fleet managers to better schedule and track maintenance based on miles driven instead of calendar dates, to ensure vehicles are serviced according to use to reduce downtime.

Telematics also reduces reliance on drivers and technicians to remember to tell management when something is wrong with the vehicle. Many telematics systems pull engine diagnostics to alert you of fault codes that need your attention, ensuring maintenance is done before a minor issue becomes an expensive problem.

Stop Excessive Idling

7. Stop Excessive Idling

If your employees leave the motors of their vehicles running, they’re cutting into your bottom line. Telematics can show you when vehicles are idling but can also tell you when idling is getting work done. This will equip you to eliminate “true idle.” Also, some commercial vehicles don’t track engine hours. Since odometers also don’t track idling, your vehicles might get used far more than their mileage indicates. That can create waste in the form of excessive wear and tear.
Reduce Speeding

6. Reduce Speeding

It’s not rocket science that speeding burns more fuel than obeying the speed limit. Above 55mph, the consequences of speeding increase. Telematic data provided by GPS tracking sends fleet managers automatic alerts whenever a driver exceeds the posted speed limit by whatever amount you set.

5. Eliminate Bad Routing

Getting from Point A to Point B is priority number one. It’s also a vector for wasted time and fuel. If your employees are taking the long or wrong way to the job, they will take longer to arrive and waste more fuel in the process. Telematics can provide insights that show you how drivers and technicians are getting to job sites. By knowing the locations of your vehicles, you can assign the team member closest to customer sites, which saves both time and fuel.
Increase Efficiency

4. Increase Efficiency

When you imagine ways of wasting fuel and time, what comes to mind? Speeding? Bad routing? Excessive idling? Vehicle breakdowns?

An integrated fleet telematics system can help with all these problems. It provides the most important information that fleet managers need to monitor, like driver behavior, driver hours, and details of routes taken are all recorded and can be analyzed to spearhead improvement within the company.

Comply with Regulations

3. Comply with Regulations

The trucking industry runs on a complicated set of regulations. Telematics help fleets comply with those regulations.

For example, Hours of Service regulations ensure that your drivers aren’t too fatigued to operate a Class 8 vehicle safely. Electronic Logging Devices (ELD) and software aim to simplify complying with these regulations—and to provide drivers with accurate logbooks should they be inspected for any reason.

Maintaining compliance also helps avoid costly penalties, including fines or drivers being sidelined. Telematics help fleets of all sizes more easily navigate potential issues to remain in compliance.

Safe Driver

2. Improve Safety

Improving driver safety is a paramount concern of fleet organizations, and telematics solutions—particularly in-cab cameras—are key to that effort.

Vehicle cameras are available in many different forms, ranging from the standard dash cam you could buy on Amazon to smart cameras equipped with Artificial Intelligence—and it’s the AI-equipped smart cameras that are having the biggest impact on safety. The best cams can automatically track and analyze every minute your vehicles spend on the road. They automatically tag both bad and good driving events and provide a monthly safety score for the entire fleet and individual drivers.

Smart cameras and video telematics also identify behaviors including distracted driving, following distance, stop sign/red light violations along with a number of positive driving actions.

For example, a GPS tracking solution can show that your driver made a harsh stop and automatically inform the management team. Since there’s no context, this can look bad for the driver. The right smart camera, though, can show that the driver made the hard stop to avoid a child who suddenly ran into the street. The GPS Insight Driveri camera, for example, can automatically analyze scenarios like these and even award a Driver Star that increases the driver’s safety score.

And the #1 reason your fleet needs telematics:

Increased Accountability

1. Increased Accountability

GPS tracking and telematics enhance accountability by not only establishing and reinforcing driver safety guidelines but also by providing clear evidence in problematic situations. Today, with smartphones, any road incident can go viral and spark a great deal of negative publicity. Having hard data can protect fleets when these incidents arise. Telematics can prove where vehicles were and how fast they were going, and in-cab cameras provide additional details that can be a huge asset in exonerating drivers.

With telematics providing insights into vehicle use, you’ll have a level of accountability that was never possible before. You’ll also find that people who depend on you, whether customers or constituents, will feel like you’re truly delivering for them.

Consider this real-world example: When a winter storm drops four feet of snow, many residents depend on their cities or towns to clear the streets. If residents don’t feel safe to drive or they simply can’t, they’re going to complain. A lot.

Telematics for municipal fleets can determine which areas need services and when. With certain types of equipment monitoring, fleet managers can even tell when a vehicle raised or lowered its snowplow. That’s great for confirming which streets need more attention.

It’s also a perfect way to let people who rely on you know that help is on the way.

Class Dismissed

Telematics is already making a huge difference for private and public fleets. More than half the commercial and government vehicles you see every day are equipped with telematics in some form. The organizations that own these vehicles have seen how telematics helps them get more from their vehicles and their employees.

If you want to get extra credit, read our “Third Level Telematics” blog post. It provides even more evidence of why telematics is pivotal to improving fleet performance and serves as a roadmap for innovative ways you can use these technologies to mitigate your risk, boost profits, and increase efficiency.