Vehicle telematics has assumed an important role in the global automotive value chain. Connected car technology is currently the area where most development is taking place globally. However, in India the progress has been rather slow in terms of actual technology implementation. There has been some activity in the supply chain and logistics space in terms of telematics. Auto Tech Review met Vikram Puri, CEO, Transworld Technology to discuss the role of telematics in fleet management and the challenges which need to be addressed.
In the Indian context, the highways are full of surprises due to issues with road engineering, untrained drivers, and lack of roadside facilities. This is a recipe for accidents waiting to happen and therefore understanding the risks in a journey through hazard perception is essential. It is important to maintain vehicle upkeep, implement proper driver training and conduct behavioural studies through vehicle tracking systems or driver data recorders.
Timely monitoring is expected to enhance the effectiveness of transportation – this would have a direct impact on improving operational cost effectiveness for companies. The real use of telematics is when vehicle diagnostics can be taken back to the OEMs and information regarding common concerns can be deciphered for further action. India is at the experimentation stage with this, with costs being a major concern.
FLEET MANAGEMENT TELEMATICS
The usage of telematics in fleet management systems has been a boon to fleet owners in managing and keeping track of their entire fleet of vehicles. Managing fleet drivers effectively can help companies save large amounts of money. Through driver training, telematics systems and effective fuel management systems, fleet costs can be reduced, without compromising on service levels.
Fleet tracking systems are becoming increasing popular since these can help reduce costs when it comes to driver management, and simultaneously help in running things more efficiently. Furthermore, with the help of data feedback to the fleet management system, companies can create driver profiles, which help in keeping track of drivers who display poor time management, thereby becoming an expensive resource for the company.
Telematics usage in fleet management systems can not only track overspeeding drivers but also help drivers with better route planning to ensure timely delivery of consignments, which saves time and money for the company. It connects, monitors and manages vehicle operations from a centralised web-based IoT portal that seamlessly integrates with enterprise applications. It has modules for cellular connectivity and for location tracking, which are used for managing drivers and fleets. Transportation and logistics is an industry where Telematics/ IoT are widely deployed in order to remotely monitor fleets and assets in transit. Underutilisation, pilferage and timely maintenance are the major problems in this industry and GPS tracking devices are designed to address this issue.
Fleet management telematics is transforming business operations and engagement levels with customers. The companies that manage fleets can use fleet telematics to collect real-time information like vehicle location, fuel usage, vehicle speed and mileage, and insights into driver behaviour to optimise routes, productivity, fuel expenditure, operational expenses, driver safety, fleet security and remote diagnostics.
With the exception of some organised 3PL providers, who incidentally prefer not to own and operate any vehicles themselves, most fleet owners in India are small, private operators who own small fleets and who are cynical of technology solutions and solution providers. The reason for this is that with very few exceptions, no telematics or fleet management solution provider has been able to offer a reliable, enterprise-class fleet management-cum-track and trace system that the fleet owner or manager can monetise.
Instead, the market is flooded with fly-by-night GPS providers who offer track and trace with that most sought after feature for the Indian transport industry – that of low prices. These small traders put their best sourcing and convincing ability together, importing and reselling commodity GPS trackers to transporters through innovation born of necessity without bothering about the consequences. Unfortunately, low prices have translated to very heavy costs for transporters on account of poor software, failed projects, complete absence of measurable returns on investment and most importantly, total lack of aftersales service. Almost all early adopters and risk takers who invested in plain commodity GPS devices have been smacked in the face by providers who simply sold them cheap hardware and walked away.
There must be clear guidelines for technology adoption for fleet management operations. The technology must be in-house, not randomly outsourced hardware and software. In fact, the provider should have an actual investment in the development and ownership of the hardware, software and technology, and not be a simple trader or system integrator. In-house R&D makes for flexible future development.
It is important that the service provider should have a pan-India presence for aftersales service and must offer a contracted commitment and turn-around time for field service. This could and should include spare hardware devices at strategic locations and a ‘hot swap’ field replacement capability. The provider must be willing to up-front offer an all-inclusive, transparent extended warranty or AMC, with no fine print to obfuscate things.
Done well, technology implementations definitely translate to big savings and greater fleet efficiency, but there is no substitute for good management. There is the dire need to have efficient, skilled and adequately trained workforce that can handle and operate all the hardware and software requirements, in order to create a sustainable ecosystem for telematics to find wider acceptance.
TEXT: Anwesh Koley