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What is Telematics?

Let’s face it – most people don’t think much about all the commercial vehicles on the road. For most drivers, they’re big, heavy, slow-accelerating impediments to getting where they need to go.

What they don’t realize is the huge role technology plays in getting those commercial vehicles around safely and efficiently.

That technology is called telematics.

It’s not exactly everyday vocabulary for most people. In short, telematics is the technology and practice of sending, receiving and analyzing information via telecommunications.

It also happens to be the basis for businesses to keep track of their vehicles and other mobile assets (trailers and generators, for example).

Is Telematics Just a Fancy Way to Say “GPS?”

If you’re thinking about GPS, you’re on the right track. Like a simple 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.

But there’s more to it now, especially with the emergence of smart cameras.

Just about everyone uses GPS for navigation in their personal vehicles, right? But nobody really thinks of that as “telematics.”

Telematics brings a level of analysis on top of simply a driver knowing there they are. To fit the definition of telematics, you also need visibility into speed, braking, maintenance, and even time of day.

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How Telematics Helps Organizations With Their Vehicles

Many organizations rely on vehicles to generate revenue. The scope of these organizations ranges from a three-person pool cleaning company to your hometown’s trash collection trucks and response vehicles, up to nationwide logistic firms sending semi-trucks on cross-country trips.
No matter the size or mission, any organization can make enormous gains from better understanding how their mobile resources – which includes vehicles, trailers, snowplows, generators, and more – get used every day.

Most of them find the increased visibility provides huge improvements in accountability, compliance, efficiency, and safety.

Here are a few examples of each category:


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.

Here’s an example: When winter rolls around and snow starts falling, many residents count 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.

Telematics can prove which areas were services and when. With certain types of equipment monitoring, it’s even possible to 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.


We mentioned trucking earlier in this blog post. You know that the trucking industry runs on a complicated set of regulations. Telematics can help truckers, dispatchers, and business owners comply with those regulations.

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


Quick – think of ways to waste fuel and time.

If you thought of speeding, bad routing, excessive idling, and vehicle breakdowns, you hit some of the most-common ones.

Telematics can help with all of these problems:


Speeding burns more fuel than obeying the speed limit. Above 55mph, the effects of speeding get even higher. GPS tracking can send automatic alerts whenever your driver exceeds the posted speed limit by whatever amount you set.

Bad Routing

Getting from Point A to Point B is critical. It’s also a vector for wasted time and fuel. If your employees are taking the long 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 employees are getting to job sites. By knowing the locations of your vehicles, you can assign the drivers and technicians who are closest to customer sites, which saves time and fuel.

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 it can also tell you when idling is actually 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.

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 services, how long ago did your trucks get a new set of tires? Telematics can eliminate the guesswork. You can schedule and track maintenance to ensure that you keep vehicles out on the road rather than wasting time and resources on unscheduled maintenance.


Earlier, we mentioned how GPS tracking can help you reduce speeding. It can also address harsh driving and seatbelt use.
But the biggest safety advance in telematics is coming from in-cab cameras.
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.

It’s the AI-equipped smart cameras that are poised to make the biggest impact on safety. The very most-effective models can automatically track and analyze every minute your vehicles spend on the road. These cameras automatically tag both bad and good driving events and provide a monthly safety score for the entire fleet and individuals.

Some smart cameras can 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. It can automatically inform the management team of the harsh stop. 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 Driveri camera can automatically analyze scenarios like these and even award a Driver Star that increases the driver’s safety score.

Final Thoughts on the Question “What is Telematics?”

Even if you’ve just thought of it as GPS tracking, telematics is already making a huge difference for businesses in governments. More than half the commercial and government vehicles you see are equipped with telematics in some form.

The organizations that own these vehicles are finding that telematics is helping them get more from their vehicles and their employees. Some of them are also considering whether their current solution is getting results that matter.

You can learn more by reading our “Third Level Telematics” blog post. This post discusses why it’s important to approach this issue with a strategic mindset. And it provides an overview of the innovative ways companies can use these technologies. You’ll get a better idea of how to approach fleet management on levels beyond “dots on a map.” Finally, you’ll discover ways to mitigate your risk, increase profits, and cut inefficiencies.

By that point, you’ll have a ready answer if your organization’s decision makers ask “what is telematics?”