Telematics systems provide commercial vehicle operators with a wealth of information to help fine-tune their fleets, but it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the volume of data on offer, and few fleet managers have the time to examine a full suite of reports and address each action.
Specialists in the technology acknowledge that drowning in data can be a real issue and suggest a variety of ways in which users can get the best of the information more efficiently.
“You can fill somebody’s inbox and life with data,” admits Mike Hemming, UK Catalytix director at Masternaut, “but actually, you’ve got to make it usable to reap the benefits. There are several ways in which you can start to address the problem: one is to try not to achieve everything as soon as the system turns on. Have your priorities and your key elements that you focus on… whether it’s driver behaviour, utilisation of stock, finish times – whatever it might be.”
For those embarking on telematics for the first time, having a clear idea of exactly what you want to concentrate on is a good start. Not everyone has, though, and even those that do may find the data highlights unknown areas that require attention.
“One of the things we say is ‘let’s put something in for, say, three months, trial it and set a benchmark, so that you can actually see what is happening and the areas that you want to delve into’,” says Beverly Wise, sales director at TomTom Telematics. “It’s really easy to then be able to set the parameters and say, ‘I want to look at anybody having more than five driving events in a day,’ for instance. And then you can refine it. If you find that five is too many, you can either bring [the parameters] up or take them down accordingly.”
Most good telematics providers will generate concise reports that limit their focus to only the most relevant aspects for that business, which means any surplus data can be discarded. “Having a system that allows you to customise the data you receive is key, then you can make sure you’re only seeing bits of information you need to react to, and that is going to give you the biggest return on your investment,” adds Hemming.
It’s also possible to segment reports via department, so those analysing them end up with a broader view of what’s going on, rather than scrutinising each driver’s results – though it’s still possible to see individuals’ data if necessary. This makes sense when a company is large enough to be fragmented into subdivisions, potentially with multiple employees accessing the data, but it also has the knock-on effect of allowing management to get a good idea of each department’s behaviour.
“It’s really important to have a hierarchical approach in the reporting, so that the people at the top, instead of looking at individual drivers, are looking at this region in comparison with that region or how this supervisor’s guys look versus that supervisor’s,” says Andy Walters, managing director at Quartix.
Hierarchical reporting can also save time. What Wise describes as a “fully-managed service” means the telematics provider manages the data, the reports and communication with drivers. “We will set it up to text drivers and advise them of their scores, look at their improvements and at what they’re doing,” she says “[You can] set that up at depot manager level, for instance, or at regional manager level, so the regional manager only gets the reports around his drivers and then the area manager will get them on his regional managers. That also gives you piece of mind that something is being done every day and every month… and, if ever challenged, you actually have the proof that these texts and this information are going out.”
If you operate a separate fleet management system and it’s compatible with your telematics data, it is advisable to sync the two for efficiency. “If you are able to configure and administrate the system into your fleet management software – then you are cutting down on the time the fleet manager spends doing that, and hopefully giving them the opportunity to look at other areas of data,” says Hemming.
It’s not unheard of for businesses already operating telematics to reach a stalemate, as Hemming explains, having set up systems and collecting good results, some eventually think they have got everything they can out of it or that they’re spending too much time perusing hefty reports. “We come across it a lot, where people have started on one particular area and they might report back that ‘I don’t see any benefit any more’,” says Hemming.
“We do encounter that,” adds Stephen Watson, product director at Microlise, “Maybe they’ve had situational changes, HR changes, staff changes that mean that the system’s perhaps not being used in the same way as it used to be, or maybe we need to tweak some of the parameters because a bit of complacency has got in.”
This may ring true for many operators and widespread advice includes to seek support from your supplier. Most telematics specialists usually offer consultancy services which assess low or poor usage. For a big data overhaul, the experts suggest meeting with the supplier to address this.
“Get back in touch with your supplier and say ‘look, this isn’t working for us, why not?” adds Watson. “If you have any concerns that you’re not getting the value you think you ought to be, you should be back on to your supplier, and hopefully your supplier should be on to you.”