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Telematics Tracking: A Buyer's Guide

For many types of company owning one or more vehicles is absolutely necessary for the proper functioning of the business. But as well as solving fundamental transportation problems, company cars, vans and trucks can also be a liability, a source of inefficiency and open to misuse. With liquid fuel costs set to continue rising as we advance further into the 21st century, such inefficiencies must be tackled before they damage profitability and cripple your business.

Luckily telematics tracking systems are on hand in a variety of options for not only keeping tabs on how your employees use company vehicles but also improving the efficiency of your fleet and reducing fuel consumption.

This Buyers’ Guide was written in partnership with our Vehicle Tracking Business Experts Asset Monitoring Solutions.

About AMS: "AMS offers a truly live and future proof Telematics solution harnessing the power of GPS, GPRS and the Internet. Backed by BT we are their preferred supplier for corporate tenders. All product development and trials are conducted in co-operation ensuring total quality management from concept to product delivery."

Telematics Tracking Basics

A telematics tracking system utilises GPS and mobile technology to relay information about a vehicles’ location and other operational data to a live website. This other information might include:

  • Vehicle speed
  • MPG
  • Fuel used
  • Driving style
  • Whether the ignition is on
  • Whether doors are open
  • Weight of load
  • Gear
  • Braking intensity
  • Activation of a panic alarm
  • etc

A fleet manager will typically access this information via a secure website provided by the tracking company – allowing access from any location via a mobile phone. Alerts can also be set up so that the fleet manager is called, messaged or emailed under certain circumstances e.g. when a vehicle leaves a predetermined geographical area.

As well as feeding information to the fleet manager a telematics system can also be used to send job and navigational data to the driver. This not only avoids the use of a mobile phone but also ensures the best routes are taken and the quickest response times achieved.

Benefits of a Telematics Tracking System

There are numerous benefits to using a telematics tracking system which go far beyond keeping tabs on your vehicles:

  • Boost productivity: Get information to and from your drivers quicker, allowing you to react to changes in schedules, routes or customer behaviour and minimise downtime.
  • Increase fuel efficiency: A tracking system can alert both you and your drivers when they operate their vehicle inefficiently through low-gear driving, excessive braking etc. You can also plan the best, most direct and least fuel intensive routes and make sure they’re followed.
  • Eradicate vehicle misuse: With telematics tracking you’ll know when vehicles are used out of hours or veer off agreed routes and schedules without authorisation.
  • Keep your drivers and property safer: Better driving practices make for enhanced road safety. Telematics systems can also incorporate alarms and aid in the recovery of stolen vehicles and goods.
  • Better for the environment: Greater fuel efficiency means less waste and less pollution.

Choosing a Telematics Tracking Solution

There are a number of factors to take into consideration when choosing a telematics tracking system. Which are most important to you will largely depend on how many vehicles you have and how you’re using them so think carefully about what’s of prime significance for your business:

  • Tracking devices
    Each vehicle to be tracked will need to have a GPS receiver installed. If the system is to send/receive operational, navigational and messaging data too then installation might take longer – and take your vehicles out of service for longer. Check how long installation of devices will take and whether the process can be staggered to avoid delays.
  • Software
    Some telematics tracking solutions require installation of desktop software but by far the most flexible systems are those which allow tracking, reporting and messaging via a secure online portal. Being able to access such sites via an internet mobile phone might also be important to you.
  • Real-time or passive
    A real-time or live tracking system will provide constant updates to vehicle data, letting you react to situations as they unfold. A passive tracking system only updates periodically, letting you see what’s happened recently but not what’s happening.
  • Reports and alerts
    Telematics tracking systems are available with all manner of reporting tools and features. Reports on individual driver performance, fuel efficiency of individual vehicles, time spent idling etc can all help you adjust driver behaviour or eradicate inefficiencies. Alerts can be set up for letting you know when vehicles leave defined areas or to keep you aware of scheduled maintenance. Decide which features are essential and which you can live without in order to compare different products.

Choosing a Telematics Supplier

Of course, when you’re obtaining a telematics tracking system you’re not just purchasing hardware – you’re also reliant on the company for provision of the tracking service, software and a range of ancillary services.

The vehicle tracking provider should provide:

  • Warranties for hardware and a promise to replace faulty or worn-out equipment when necessary.
  • Guaranteed access to the tracking software and data for 99% of the time. System failure at the wrong time could lead to big problems once you’ve become reliant on telematics tracking.
  • Training for you and your staff on how to use and get the most out of the system.
  • Updates to software and, especially, maps are critical to the proper functioning of your system. Be sure that updates are provided promptly and regularly.
  • Customer support of a high standard. When you have a problem you want to know that you can talk to someone about it and that it’ll be dealt with quickly.

Finally, as with any supplier of a critical piece of business technology, make sure that the company has a good pedigree in telematics tracking, testimonials from satisfied customers and financial stability.

We recommend comparing as many suppliers as possible in order to find the right product for your business at the right price. Making even a 1% saving on fuel costs can translate into considerable sums over the long term so take the time to find a system that will provide maximum efficiency gains with the best reliability for the budget available.

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