How telematics is protecting the transport business from its biggest fear

There is one simple principle in the transport business – a car is only worth something if it drives. Even when it comes to maintenance, no one wants even one extra minute to be spent on it, because – while the vehicle is idle, the company not only does not make money, but even suffers losses. Unnecessary interruptions can be avoided by regularly monitoring the condition of the car, and telematics services, which are increasingly available, help to implement this.

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Commercial vehicles are used in a wide variety of conditions, so even though a huge amount of money is invested in improving them, it is simply not possible to provide 100% continuous service. Serious damage can be avoided by spotting relevant messengers in time, but it is not practical to carefully check the car yourself every sweet day. Skilled, experienced drivers recognize suspicious noises and unusual vibrations, but this is not the most reliable diagnostic method.

The situation began to change in the 70s of the last century, when the first telematics systems appeared. Although initially the devices were quite primitive, they allowed fleet managers to track car movements with GPS and plan work accordingly. A significant breakthrough in telematics took place in this century, when mobile communication technologies improved significantly, computer power increased and cloud services began to spread.

Various factors are taken into account

Viktors Šinkarjovs, head of the Baltic Logistic Solutions transport department in the Baltic States and jury member of the “Lithuanian Commercial Vehicle of the Year 2022” competition, says that the first systems were used in heavy trucks and have been installed for many years. According to him, remote car monitoring is not just a marketing gimmick – it really helps ensure proper maintenance, which tends to be quite different depending on the industry.

“Remote monitoring is now offered by all manufacturers and allows technicians in workshops to see all vehicle parameters. Not only mileage and service life are taken into account, but also the way of use. For example, which trips are more frequent – short or long, what is the condition of the engine and other components load, etc.,” explains Viktors Shinkariov.

The ability to monitor parameters that cannot be read in the tachograph and odometer opens up new opportunities for companies. For machines that travel only 5,000 kilometers per month, but often transport very heavy loads on short routes, maintenance is planned differently than for regional transport, which carries relatively light loads. Manufacturers’ representatives monitor and analyze the data. They can contact the company at any time and let them know it’s time for maintenance.

Usually, these services are included in various maintenance packages, for example, Mercedes-Benz has as many as eight of them. In the case of the highest level package, priority is given to vehicles, ie cars arrive at the service and are accepted outside the queue. Thus, it is possible to plan very precisely how much time will be spent on maintenance or repair,” says the expert.

The final decision on exactly which services to subscribe to is made by weighing the risk of downtime against the benefits of preventive actions. After all, most remote services are for a fee, and their prices vary significantly. “The fee also varies depending on the type of operation, but the biggest impact is what special equipment is installed on the chassis,” explains Victor Shinkariov.

Even drivers can be rated

As the cars themselves are being improved, the range of remote monitoring services is also expanding. Older vehicles did not have such a function, but now the software allows monitoring not only the equipment, but also the drivers. “The productivity of drivers is an integral element of the company’s efficiency, so the manufacturers even offer to create individual ratings based on the drivers’ driving habits and style. The program records how often they brake, how often, so to speak, they press the pedal to the floor, and other parameters,” Viktor says. .

Various information can be sent to the fleet manager. For example, Ford’s telematics system warns if the driver is not wearing a seatbelt, Volkswagen’s reports include not only fuel consumption, but also CO2 emissions data, while Iveco has already developed algorithms that allow assessing whether the driver is paying enough attention on the road.

The choice is quite large

As already mentioned, remote monitoring in light commercial vehicles came later, and this is mainly due to a relatively simpler vehicle design. “Step by step, remote monitoring is also entering light trucks. They are not very popular among logistics companies yet, but the main thing is that relevant solutions are available on the market,” says Viktor Shinkariov.

For example, Iveco Daily vans can now be diagnosed remotely. Also, the system wirelessly updates the vehicle’s software remotely, saving a trip to the service, as well as monitors the driver’s driving habits. “Volkswagen”, based on the collected data, offers commercial transport operators to optimize regular routes. In addition, telematics in light commercial vehicles as well as in heavy transport can be organized not only by car manufacturers, but also by manufacturers of additional equipment (for example, refrigeration equipment).

The commercial transport expert adds that the telematics equipment of different manufacturers is generally very similar, however, some companies develop certain functions in depth, for example, “Iveco” focuses more on work flow management, simplification of fleet management and cost optimization.

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