Data driven: Telematics and Australia’s growing freight task
Australian industry rides on the back of a truck. From the light duty workhorses crisscrossing our cities, to dual-trailer road-trains chewing across the Nullarbor, trucks are still the go-to transportation method for Aussie businesses.
Reports from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reflect this, finding that rigid and articulated trucks moved over two billion tonnes of freight around Australia in 2014, travelling a mind-boggling 17 billion road kilometres.
The load is only going to get bigger and more complex to handle, with Australia’s freight task expected to triple by 2050.
It’s important for business owners and fleet managers to utilise technologies, like telematics, to gather the strands of their freight operations together, before it all ends up in a tangle.
What is Telematics?
Telematics is installed behind a truck’s dash panel and works similarly to the black box in an aircraft, communicating with a server and various wireless devices to supply a range of information.
This information can vary from GPS tools like live positioning and journey playback, to engine data and geo-fencing (the creation of “virtual” barriers to alert managers when a vehicle moves in or out of a specific area).
It’s an invaluable resource for fleet managers, providing 24/7, real-time data to any internet-enabled device in the world.
The manager can then collate the information to get a clearer picture of both a driver’s performance and that of the fleet in general, identifying issues like fuel consumption and harsh acceleration or braking.
Improving these seemingly minor inefficiencies can boost a fleet’s all-round operations and translate to big dollar savings.
The Big Picture
No matter the size of your business, it’s helpful to know where your drivers are and be able to assess their driving habits.
But telematics becomes even more valuable when applied on a large scale.
Imagine you’re running a 100-strong fleet: simply trying to stay on top of maintenance and service scheduling is going to be difficult, let alone analysing driver behaviour and promoting improvements.
With telematics, that little black box does all the number-crunching for you, moulding the data into an easily-digestible form.
You can then use it to streamline routes, improve fuel consumption, reduce engine wear and even advise lead-footed drivers when they’ve pushed the speed limit (no more excuses for costly fines).
Better trained drivers mean greater safety on the roads, while in-depth engine performance monitoring and vehicle diagnostics help you catch potential mechanical issues well before they pose any risk to driver or vehicle safety.
Some telematics offerings also provide additional safety features such as a panic button, collision alert and door-open monitor.
The benefits of using telematics are more than pie-in-the-sky musings, as many businesses are already seeing clear operational improvements.
Despite these positive steps, research shows this technology is being under-utilised, employed as little more than a vehicle-tracking tool.
Using telematics for tracking alone is like restricting your four-wheel-drive to the city limits – sure you’re sitting above everyone else but give the thing a chance to show off!
Even a short trial using telematics to its full potential will allow you to identify specific driver’s habits and patterns within the fleet, as well as demonstrating the often tricky difference between what we think is efficient, and actual efficiency.
An example of this is the driver who drives fast in order to get to a destination earlier – not considering that their harsh acceleration and braking will result in greater fuel consumption and engine wear, and will lead to extra maintenance costs in the future.
At the same time, telematics helps assess vehicle efficiency. Through it, you can identify if a particular truck in your fleet is under-performing – showing wear or consuming fuel beyond what its driving history says should occur.
The future is calling
The introduction of telematics heralds an exciting era for the transport industry, as the stereotype of the lone wolf truckie gives way to modern interconnectivity between service and fleet managers, dispatchers and drivers.
And as the technology develops, we’ll no doubt find even greater ways to transform this information into direct efficiency benefits.
Whatever the outcome, these intelligent trucks are hauling us towards a bold new frontier.
Find out how Isuzu Telematics is helping PFD Food Services bring down fuel costs and improve driver safety in this short case study.