The availability of different types of vehicle tracking or telematics devices has grown tremendously over the last five years. Prior to 2000, there were only a small number of products and service providers available. Purchasing the units and associated service contracts were cost prohibitive to all but the largest and most sophisticated trucking companies. Today, there are more than 100 different telematics providers offering a multitude of services at various price points.

Telematics devices are now available to all types and sizes of vehicle fleets. This technology can be critical in improving operational and safety performance. Service providers transmit different types of information via a number of methods. It is critical that any organization looking to utilize these devices perform a critical assessment about what they want the system to provide and the operational challenges associated with their business.

Operational considerations

Location of operations

Where the fleet operates is a key determinant when considering what type of medium data should be sent across. A fleet that operates in a desolate area with little cell phone coverage should not purchase a cellular based system while a fleet that rarely returns to terminal locations should not utilize a WIFI download system.

Communication needs

Fleet operators who need to communicate with drivers should select a system that allows for either one-way or two-way communication. The communication is usually in written format and will be either satellite or cellular-based.

Features desired

Fleets that have many low speed collisions may desire video footage to analyze crashes while a refrigerated motor carrier would likely want a system that provides information on the performance of the refrigeration unit. Other fleets may want to create geo-fencing that will provide the dispatch center with automatic notifications when one of their vehicles enters or exits specific addresses.

Operational compatibility

Many dispatch systems that are available today have been designed to work with some of the more widely utilized telematics systems.

Financial and safety considerations

System costs

Various systems and providers are available at a multitude of price points. Usually the more robust the information, the higher the cost. It is not prudent to spend less for a system that will not provide the level of information desired.

Driver safety performance

A key component of any telematics program is being able to identify at-risk drivers. Compare the information that will be provided to what you want to know about safety performance. Examples include hard-braking incidents, speed limit violations, overspeeding, and vehicle upset.

Features desired

Some systems provide video footage, which is extremely valuable when working in urban areas or if drivers often have rear-end collisions. A number of systems allow dispatch to communicate safety bulletins to drivers or directions to future stops. Another key feature offered is electronic pre- and post-trip inspections.