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Curbing underutilisation of telematics in SA

Grant Fraser, Commercial Director at MiX Telematics (Africa).

The South African telematics market is rapidly growing in terms of its telematics fleet market. In fact, research* suggests the use of telematics systems in SA is forecast to grow from 0.9 million units in 2015 to 1.5 million by 2020 - that is a 10.8% increase.

But, one aspect of telematics that few are addressing is how underutilised most existing systems are currently. In my estimate, only three in 10 fleets are utilising their telematics system to their maximum potential.

More often than not, telematics sales staff discuss telematics requirements and considerations with fleet executives and, surprisingly, from these discussions, many cite having had bad experiences with telematics. However, when questioned as to why this is the case, there are two factors that come into play: 1) Buyers are choosing telematics systems for safety - which is fine; however, essentially they are missing out on other functionalities that such devices have to offer the business, and as such, aren't deriving all the value available; and 2) their vendor is not helping them realise the potential that lies within these devices.

In essence, this means it is not the telematics device that is the problem, it is the lack of awareness around the opportunities that lie within a fleet's telematics solution and, very importantly, lack of education around what such devices can, and should, be doing for one's fleet. The key here is that telematics devices should not be used in a silo; rather, they should be integrated into the full fleet journey for a business, from safety to efficiency and even compliance.

Let's take a look at the benefits of such integration and how each area can improve not only the fleet company's experience with their telematics technology, but also, how it will help them realise true savings and the value derived from fleet data.

1. Safety: Telematics solutions include various peripherals, for example: an in-cab display through which drivers are able to obtain their route information, as well as driving-related events such as over-speeding, over-revving, harsh braking, harsh acceleration and excessive idling. An advanced fleet management solution has numerous benefits: reducing fuel costs; better managing routes and delivery schedules; improving vehicle utilisation; tracking vehicles and drivers in real-time, and assigning jobs accordingly; identifying, monitoring and managing poor driver behaviour; managing servicing and licensing, resulting in reduced wear and tear and increased vehicle uptime; and lessening carbon emissions, helping to create a healthier, more sustainable environment.

2. Efficiency: The telematics data being derived from the on-board computer includes operating hours, location, fuel consumed, and odometer reading. Fleet management software includes functionality for monitoring and managing driver and asset performance, controlling communication costs, reporting on fleet operating costs, active (real-time) and passive (after-the-fact) tracking of assets and drivers, location management, communication and messaging, route planning and variance reporting, trailer management, asset maintenance reporting, service reminders and much more. Through this, fleet companies are much more equipped to make informed real-time decisions to change the way their fleets operate and ensure maximum efficiency.

3. Compliance: While hours of service and legislation around this is not yet gazetted locally, it is certainly not a long way off, and as businesses realise the need to comply, telematics will play an ever-growing role in managing this effectively. In fact, telematics can ensure ELD/HOS compliance through insightful data logs and driver management. Furthermore, it can also automate fuel and tax reporting, as well as enable compliance with other South African regulations.

With the above in mind, there is no doubt that even if fleet managers use a combination of two of these three service offerings, this leaves a lot on the table in terms of ROI. Once you have a telematics system in place, there's no reason why one shouldn't take advantage of all they have to offer.

So, why are so many fleets not doing this? It's simple, fleet managers are operations experts, not IT experts, yet certain vendors sell them costly IT systems and then leave them out to dry with no training, no support and no daily contact. It is for this reason that fleet managers must choose a supplier that is not just a sales agent but rather, that they become a business partner with - to not only introduce and guide you through the process but serve as a constant support for the business.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of your telematics system.

* Make sure your telematics vendor understands your business and your business objectives - make sure they take the time to really understand what your needs and budgets are. Such vendors can be more proactive in ensuring you are achieving maximum benefit because they know what's worked for other fleets in your space. If they aren't educated about your industry and it's too late to bring in another vendor, then you'll need to educate them. The better the vendor understands your business challenges, the better equipped they will be to help you overcome them.* Make sure your telematics project has the support of senior management because change management is hard. Implementing a new telematics solution is a big deal. This isn't a low-level tech tool that you roll out in a day - it's a complex technology that drivers, managers and company executives will use daily to manage fleet operations. Implementation requires a detailed plan for who's doing what and when. It also brings cultural change that can create anxiety for drivers, so their buy-in is crucial. Your vendor should help you with all of this: It has been through this many times and should know the ins and outs.* Lean on your vendor if it isn't supporting you - not just during implementation but continually afterward. It is inexcusable that certain suppliers take your money and then head for the hills. Ongoing support is essential for telematics success. If your vendors aren't providing resources that align with your business objectives and demonstrating a strong commitment to helping you drive results, call them on it.

A fleet that leverages telematics in safety, efficiency and compliance should see a net cost savings, even after taking into account the cost of the telematics. Your goal should be a net savings of $50-100 per month, per vehicle, across the fleet. In a tough economic environment, there will hardly ever be a case of "spare no expense" for fleet telematics - yet on the contrary, almost all of these companies are looking to reduce costs and get the most out of investments they already have made.

As such, with data being the new currency for businesses, telematics and the real-time usage of data is quickly moving from being optional to a requirement and will soon become an invaluable part of a business' operations in order to do just this - reduce costs, optimise investments and gain a competitive edge, in tougher economic times. While telematics was originally exclusively used by large enterprises, today nearly any type of business can utilise telematics and use the opportunities to elevate their business, reduce costs and simplify operations. So, it's safe to say that telematics is the investment a fleet company can make today, for the benefit of tomorrow!

MiX Telematics

MiX Telematics

Founded in 1995, MiX Telematics is a global provider of driver safety, vehicle tracking and fleet management products and services to consumers and companies of all sizes in 111 countries across six continents. The company's commercial product range helps fleet owners ensure driver and passenger safety, reduce fleet running and fuel costs, comply with industry regulations, and track and protect vehicles and drivers. Commercial customers include Parmalat, Schlumberger, Chevron, Greyhound, Spar, De Lijn, Vectalia-Subus and Scania. MiX Telematics has offices in South Africa, Uganda, the United Kingdom, North America, Australia and the United Arab Emirates, and works via an extensive global distribution network.

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