COMMENT: Fleets need telematics to keep on trucking

BY MARTIN KAHL. The vast potential for fleet telematics includes an industry nod towards autonomous trucks

Fuel represents the highest single cost of any commercial vehicle fleet operation, followed closely by driver pay. Naturally, controlling these two costs forms the backbone of any fleet management strategy, and truck fleet telematics enables fleet managers to do so accurately, producing data that can be analysed to identify areas of improvement.

As regulatory pressures increase, and as the commercial operating environment becomes more challenging, strict management of fuel costs and drivers becomes top priority.

Fuel represents the highest single cost of any commercial vehicle fleet operation, followed closely by driver pay

A report published by Automotive World, entitled Truck fleet telematics – a world of opportunity underlines the increasing importance and sophistication of truck fleet telematics. But for all its potential – forecasters variously expect the market to grow by the end of the decade to values in the high double-digit billion dollars – truck fleet telematics is still in its infancy, both in terms of market penetration (4% in Brazil, 12.5% in the US and Canada) and in the analysis and application of the data.

Drivers may not like it, but their actions have a direct impact on fuel consumption. Monitor what they do and teach them to do it differently, so goes the mantra, and you can significantly reduce your fuel costs.

But what if drivers’ actions could be prevented from impacting fuel costs in the first place, not only through careful management and training, but by taking them out of the equation, if only partially?

A recent study by Peloton Technology showed that a truck platoon – an electronically-controlled convoy of vehicles driving a specific, close distance from each other – can deliver a cumulative reduction in fuel consumption of 7%. That’s a significant saving for a fleet, considering it essentially uses existing technology. Several people interviewed for Truck fleet telematics – a world of opportunity discussed the benefits of using telematics to deliver a fuel saving of 10%. A theme also mentioned during the research was the likelihood that telematics will increasingly be tied in to advanced driver assistance and later semi-autonomous and even fully autonomous drive technology.

Truck fleet telematics is still in its infancy, both in terms of market penetration (4% in Brazil, 12.5% in the US and Canada) and in the analysis and application of the data

Combine advanced telematics with autonomous drive technology, and a fleet operator could benefit from some very attractive savings. OEMs are already fitting embedded telematics devices in their trucks; they are also developing the technology for platooning, and for various levels of automated driving.

We’ve heard from numerous light vehicle OEMs and suppliers about their plans for self-driving cars – and the concept has sparked a wide-ranging debate about public acceptance and regulatory compliance. We also know that self-driving trucks are already being deployed for certain specific applications, ranging from military functions to heavy haulage in mines in Australia. Could we be on the verge of introducing another topic into that debate, as we prepare for the concept of semi or fully-autonomous trucks making their way on our roads?


Martin Kahl is Editor, Automotive World.

The AutomotiveWorld.com Comment column is open to automotive industry decision makers and influencers. If you would like to contribute a Comment article, please contact editorial@automotiveworld.com.

Close
Close