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18 June 2012

Telematics can save – whoever you are

There was a particularly strong turn-out by telematics suppliers at this year's CV Show, where the accent was on driver performance enhancement and entry-level systems

The annual Commercial Vehicle Show at the National Exhibition Centre, Birmingham is always a good place to catch up with news and trends in tracking, telematics and general fleet management. This year’s event yielded a particularly large crop of new or significantly upgraded telematics products.

Among various themes that emerged, one of the most prominent was a focus on using telematics to reduce fuel consumption by managing driver performance. The show also saw the launch of a number of integrated packages calculated to make it easier for small and medium companies to take their first steps into telematics.

Driver monitoring

The huge rise in fuel prices in the past year has given suppliers plenty of ammunition when it comes to convincing vehicle operators of the financial benefits of using telematics to improve driver and vehicle performance analysis.

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You’d expect the truck manufacturers to be expert at driver performance monitoring, and there was plenty of evidence of that. Isuzu Truck chose the CV show to launch its new I-Vision telematics division and its Mimamori product.

Mimamori is already installed in 40,000 vehicles in Japan, but the company has invested in customising it to meet the needs of UK operators. I-Vision is dedicated to providing operators with full support to maximise the benefits of telematics.

Communication, tracking, performance monitoring and diagnostics are integrated in a single telematics black box. Location alerts and two-way messaging provide up-to-date delivery information, and there is also route optimisation.

Isuzu says combining driver and vehicle performance monitoring with route analysis can reduce fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent. The analytics reports are presented in easy-to-read spider-graph format, moving from poor in the centre to excellent on the outside

MAN has launched a real-time driver feedback module for its Ecostyle driver monitoring system (developed in conjunction with Microlise). It incorporates a speaker device that automatically alerts drivers to any instances of over-revving, undue idling time, harsh braking and so on. The driver receives a warning as he starts to infringe; then if he exceeds the threshold, the module will record an alert on the Web-enabled MAN EcoStyle management system.

Operators wanting proof that driver monitoring produces tangible results had to look no further than the Mandata stand. The company reported that one customer, Bury St Edmunds haulier Stennetts, saved 40,000 gallons of fuel and £202,727 in 2011, gaining an average improvement of 0.8 mpg.

Less aggressive driving also reduces maintenance costs, says managing director Malcolm Stennett. "Our drivers have been trained not to miss breaking zones in order to achieve high driver scores. As soon as we addressed harsh acceleration and deceleration, everything else fell into place and our fuel savings are continuing to accumulate month on month."

The multi-window Web-based analytics can include multiple time periods, driver and vehicles. The matrices are configurable, and companies can set their own targets.

TomTom Business Solutions has redeveloped its Link telematics box to incorporate driver monitoring. The Link 510 box reports fuel consumption, over-revving and fuel levels by utilising a truck’s standard fleet management system (FMS) interface. It works alongside TomTom’s Webfleet online fleet management system to provide detailed reports on all aspects of vehicle utilisation and driver behaviour. It’s now also possible to capture events such as digital tachograph data and door openings.

Master Limit started in business as a group of software programmers re-tuning engine ECUs (electronic control units) to produce better fuel economy. Now it has become a distributor for Microlises’s telematics systems, which include driver performance monitoring telematics. This link with Microlise allows it to add driver behaviour monitoring including harsh revving, braking and acceleration and route deviance. There is an optional driver feedback via an in-cab display.

Tracker might be best know for its stolen vehicle recovery systems, but also offers Tracker Fleet telematics. This product has been redeveloped, and now includes a new Driving Style module to enable manages to monitor driver behaviour and map historical trends.

The telematics black box creates a unique driver score per vehicle, based on acceleration, braking, cornering, speeding and idling. Managers can select all five elements or just one of them. The black box takes account of differing road types to ensure fair comparison. All results are input into Tracker Fleet, so companies can benchmark their own results against other users to check against industry averages.

Taking fuel data directly from the CANbus without calibrating it can lead to discrepancies; that warning was express by both Road Tech Computer Systems and Blue Tree Systems, each of which supplies systems that do calibrate CANbus fuel data. Blue Tree’s Fuel Auditor incorporates algorithms that calibrate the engine ECU calculations to ensure accurate comparisons between vehicles. The system accepts data from fuel cards and on-site pumps, and also data input manually. The company says accurate fuel records are key for driver acceptability.

Integrated packages

Many smaller companies have yet to embrace the benefits that telematics can bring. In order to encourage more take-up in this sector, tracking companies are trying attract users with simple-to-use, off-the-shelf products.

TomTom Business Solutions has had great success with its Webfleet tracking and job management software. Now satnav rival Garmin is teaming up with several partners to exploit the capabilities of its latest generation dēzl 560 truck-specific 5in screen satnav devices.

The satnav unit is linked via Garmin’s fleet management interface cable to a telematics black box which transforms it into a messaging and fleet management tool using the "My Fleet" option on the display.

This allows drivers to read messages, respond to instructions from head office, and re-route with a "new destination" prompt. The LT model comes with free lifetime map updates.

One of the first partners is vehicle tracking specialist Kinishi, which is using Garmin in-cab devices as part of its FleetSure routing and scheduling system. It is subscription-based, so companies pay only for the number of users – a tactic which has been proven by other companies with SME customers, including Road Tech.

Kinishi says FleetSure’s Despatcher module works for scheduled workflows, dynamic workflows or a mix of the two, and will generate a schedule that minimises total working time, balances the workload across all available drivers and highlights where there is spare capacity. The jobs can then be sent to the Garmin devices.

Adding fuel stations as "points of interest" in satnavs is a well-established idea, but at least one supplier is now taking this a stage further. Truck drivers can now locate and navigate their way to the nearest AdBlue filling station, site thanks to an agreement between AdBlue manufacturer Air1 and Performance Products, the UK distributor of Snooper truck satnav devices.

"We understand the important of being able to locate a reliable high-quality source of AdBlue for drivers," says managing director Jason Ballard. AdBlue is critical for emissions control in Euro 5 trucks; if you run out of it, the vehicle defaults into limp-home mode.

Phone-tracking – back in vogue

In an era when budgets are tight, the GPS capability of the latest smartphones is stimulating new interest among some businesses in using phones to track vehicles, rather than specialist equipment, and working on the pay-per-user price model.

Trackaphone has developed a product that offers not just tracking but also work scheduling and lone worker monitoring applications on Windows-based smartphones, including the Nokia S60 series. The reporting algorithm is designed to maximise battery life. The People and Asset Locator interface can include status updates including "start work" and "stop work".

Box Telematics has developed the iSpot application for Android, BlackBerry and the iPhone. It includes street-level mapping and geofencing. Mobile phones are also in vogue for helping fleet managers keep track of operations. Now that more fleet managers are themselves mobile, the market has seen the launch of a plethora of applications for smartphones that allow managers to keep track of their vehicles and receive progress reports on their mobile phones, rather than via a desktop application.

Isotrak launched its mobile dashboard at the show. This allows managers to run their operations through a browser-accessible hosted managed service. The company’s ATMSi telematics software is available as a browser-based hosted managed service, and it has teamed up with Kratzer to offer electronic proof-of-delivery solution.

Insurance telematics

m.logistics looked at the burgeoning insurance telematics sector in our last issue, and there was plenty of insurance-related news at the show. TomTom Business Solutions and MiX Telematics are both partnering truck insurance specialist Towergate, and Box Telematics unveiled BoxSured, its telematics black box for the insurance sector.

MiX Telematics also announced its involvement in a related trend – live incident data recording. Industry experts say commercial fleet operators are increasingly plagued by false claims by members of the public about alleged damage done by their vehicles, and several companies now offer in-cab data recording events. MiX has teamed up with RoadScan, whose Pro video-based system continuously monitors the view of the road ahead, and has the capability to record the scene 15 seconds prior to, and 15 seconds after, any events which may occur.

Events may be triggered by a variety of factors ranging from accidents and collisions to pre-programmed levels of harsh braking or harsh acceleration. When the on-board accelerometer detects excessive motion in either the horizontal or vertical planes or in terms of back-to-front movement, it activates the recording.

Integration with MiX’s Fleet Manager allows an instant alert to be sent to the transport operator. In the words of Steve Coffin, marketing and operations director: "Timely reporting back to base following an accident can be of the essence – if a perishable load is being carried, for instance, or if there has been a spillage.

 

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