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How telematics cut maintenance costs, up fuel efficiency

May 15, 2024
Telematics data can help fleets encourage fuel-efficient behaviors while also reducing component wear and tear.

The vehicle telematics market is poised for explosive growth, surging from an estimated $59.21 billion in 2023 to $172.4 billion by 2032. This expansion is fueled by technologies like embedded systems, tethered devices, and smartphone integration, which are revolutionizing how we manage vehicles, navigate routes, and ultimately, experience driving.

Telematics goes beyond simple GPS tracking. It gathers data on driver behavior including speed, acceleration, braking, and cornering. These factors significantly impact fuel efficiency and the risk of collisions.

Trucking companies leverage this data in powerful ways. By identifying unsafe driving habits, they can pinpoint which drivers need training and in what areas. This not only improves safety but also protects drivers from unfair blame in the event of an accident.

Still, the benefits of telematics extend beyond safety. With better visibility into driving behavior and its impact on fuel consumption and vehicle wear, telematics helps trucking companies reduce fuel and maintenance costs. This translates to a win-win-win: safer drivers, a lower carbon footprint, and a healthier bottom line.

How telematics increase fuel efficiency

Helping employees drive more efficiently and optimizing their routes is great for any fleet’s fuel budget.

Speed, acceleration, and braking data all give insight into fuel consumption as well. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) testing indicates that frequent, heavy braking and quick acceleration could reduce fuel economy by 33% during highway driving, making the ability to track this behavior invaluable for driver coaching to increase fuel efficiency.

Idling—identified by tracking the engine on time—is another cause of excessive fuel use. Monitoring driver behavior and identifying optimal driving conditions helps trucking companies build robust training and recognition programs to empower drivers to meet fuel consumption targets. This helps drivers recognize what behavior causes fuel consumption and how they improved over the year. 

Plus, understanding where there’s regular traffic build-ups and helping drivers avoid these areas ultimately saves time and fuel. Trucking companies can then feed GPS and real-time vehicle tracking data into route optimization software to redirect trucks in real-time and pick better lanes going forward.

Promote safer driving habits

We all hate the beeping noise when someone doesn’t put their seatbelt on, but when wearing one halves the chance of fatality, it’s really a no-brainer. Still, in 2021, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety, 31% of large truck drivers who were fatally injured in 2021 were not wearing seatbelts.

Read more: High-tech tools to reduce fleet emissions

To combat this, certain telematics sensors can read seatbelt usage, contributing to greater highway safety. Another habit to avoid is texting while driving, and with a phone connected via Bluetooth, trucking companies can monitor for increased drive call frequency, which could indicate distracted driving. And there are in-cab, AI-powered cameras that can track for phone distraction as well. However, trucking companies must be mindful of privacy concerns when using this data.

With these telematics applications, fleets can also identify general patterns of poor driving for coaching. Frequent or sudden braking might suggest tailgating, while swerving or lane departures could be signs of fatigue. This data helps differentiate between bad habits and potential burnout as well.

Interestingly, telematics data might even reveal a correlation between peak seasons and risky driving. If bad behavior spikes during these times, it could suggest that pressure to meet targets is putting drivers at greater risk.

Extend vehicle lifespan

Finally, fleets can apply telematics to lengthen their vehicle lifespan and decrease maintenance costs. Engines and related systems dominated maintenance costs, consuming a staggering 60% of the total maintenance budget in Q2 2023. Powerplant, exhaust, cooling, and fuel systems all contributed to this hefty expense.

Telematics data and sensors can help detect maintenance issues and encourage preventative (cheaper as well as safer) care. Such symptoms may include excessive vibration, potentially caused by tire or suspension issues, or problems with the clutch. In the latter example, a sudden spike in engine revolutions per minute (RPM) followed by a rapid drop could indicate a hard shift, which might be a sign of clutch or transmission problems. During a normal gear change, RPMs would rise smoothly and then plateau at the appropriate level for the new gear.

While other factors like road conditions or emergency maneuvers could also cause similar data patterns, telematics data serves as a valuable tool for identifying potential issues and prompting further investigation.

In summary, with access to telematics data analytics, fleet managers can identify drivers who need coaching or additional training. They can also implement incentive programs that reward fuel-efficient and safe driving practices. This can lead to significant improvements in fleet safety, fuel efficiency, and vehicle maintenance costs.

Asparuh Koev has worked in the transport and logistics sector for more than two decades. Koev co-founded Transmetrics in 2013 and, as CEO, he combines IT and domain expertise to grow a company that brings cutting-edge technologies to the sector.

About the Author

Asparuh Koev | Founder and CEO

Asparuh Koev has worked in the transport and logistics sector for more than two decades. Over the years, he has established several companies including Sciant, an engineering services company later acquired by VMWare, and IntelliCo Solutions, which delivers IT digitization for the transport industry. Koev co-founded Transmetrics in 2013 and, as CEO, he combines IT and domain expertise to grow a company that is bringing truly cutting-edge technologies to the sector.

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