Tracking vs. Fleet Telematics… How to choose?

By definition, Vehicle Tracking includes the automatic collection of vehicle location data, combined with software that collects these fleet data to provide the user with comprehensive info on the location of all their vehicles. Most Vehicle Tracking devices make use of GPS and/or GLONASS for accurate vehicle location. This GPS position will then be plotted on an electronic map, such as Google Maps, for the user to easily determine where their vehicles are at a specific moment in time. As such, the primary goal of Vehicle Tracking is to monitor the location of a business’ fleet.Fleet Management, on the other hand, includes Vehicle Tracking as well as a range of more advanced functionalities. Some of these include driver management, speed and fuel monitoring, safety compliance and vehicle health assessments. The primary goal of Fleet Telematics is therefore to reduce the overall cost of running and maintaining a fleet as well as increasing its productivity and efficiency.

For the last couple of years Vehicle Tracking has started to overlap with some of the basic Fleet Telematics functionalities. For example, with most Vehicle Tracking devices one would be able to view one’s vehicles on a map, monitor driver behaviour such as speeding and harsh cornering as well as know which drivers are using which vehicles. If this is the functionalities that you are after, then by all means Vehicle Tracking is made for you.

As a result of this overlap, Fleet Telematics companies have been forced to evolve and really go the extra mile in terms of what they can offer fleet owners. Unlike Vehicle Tracking, Fleet Telematics companies tend to be quite diverse when it comes to their services. As such, it is crucial to evaluate different Telematics providers to find the one that suits your business’ needs. Below are a few things to consider when choosing your Fleet Telematics provider.

1. Consolidation functionality – One Platform

This is by far the most important factor to consider. The reason being that you do not want 5 different providers installed into your vehicle, just because neither of them have all the functionalities in one solution. The reason for choosing a Fleet Telematics device, over and above a Tracking device, is specifically to have a comprehensive solution that provides you with all the required capabilities in one easy-to-use platform.

2. Ease of use and Installation

In today’s tech savvy world, there is no reason for Telematics software to be glitchy and difficult to use. In fact, it is within the software where you will quickly differentiate between good Telematics providers and great Telematics providers. Also note that what is considered great today, might not be so great 3-years down the line. Therefore, it is a good idea to invest in a Telematics provider that has a dedicated Research and Development department. In doing so you would be ensured of constant updates to both the firmware and software, keeping your fleet future-proof. Quick and easy installation is also something that quality Telematics providers are proud of, for example those who plug into the vehicle’s OBD port.

3. Functionality and Customization

Looking at the capabilities of Telematics, one should search for providers whose business is built on pillars that are designed to improve your business. Words that come to mind are productivity and efficiency, meaning reducing the running cost of every vehicle and ensuring optimal performance of each. As such, search for providers that can accurately measure all driving behaviour to reduce excessive idling and the ineffective use of fuel.

Being able to monitor all vehicle activity would also help you to cut down on all maintenance expenses. Some providers go as far as reading engine and drivetrain data, allowing companies to do pro-active maintenance on their vehicles. All this valuable data needs to be quickly accessible and comprehensible, thus Telematics providers with advanced reporting that are flexible and customizable should be something to consider.

4. Safety and Compliance

Not only is the safety of one’s drivers and other road users of utmost importance, but any accident is costly for companies as well as the country. Fleet Telematics providers play a significant role in driving down the number and severity of accidents. Therefore, choose a provider that makes safety an integral part of their Fleet Management offering.

Governments and lawmakers also see the benefit of increased road safety and thus they have started to impose more stringent rules and regulations regarding fleets and the use of them on public roads. Established Telematics providers have taken it on themselves to assist fleet owners with these regulations by building them into their platforms. Features such as Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVIR), Hours of Service (HOS), seatbelt detection and license expiry reminders should be standard on all telematics platforms.

5. Expandability and Integration

Quality providers usually have tailored-made solution for various industries, for example security, mining, transport, food & beverage, medical, construction, etc. The reason for this is because different industries require different solutions. Some might need cameras, others might need route planning and optimization, while others require Iridium satellite connections as they travel in remote areas. Look for a provider that can fulfill all your industry needs.

Well established providers will also have an open platform with a free software development kit (SDK) and APIs, which will allow you to integrate your current system into their fleet management software. This enables one to have that easy-to-use and one central platform solution. Some providers even have their own marketplace from which you can download a variety of add-ons that are tailored to your specific industry.

To make your life easier, take a look at this Fleet Telematics Evaluation Sheet to help you make the correct decision.

Conclusion

So, whether you are after a simple Tracking solution or a more advanced Fleet Management solution, it is important to evaluate each and every provider to determine which will best suit your specific industry and business needs. Providers who believe in their products would typically allow one to have a trial period as well as offer a limited lifetime warranty.

Author: Vishnu Perumalsamy, Managing Director – GEOTAB AFRICA

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