5 Minute Telematics Guide For Businesses

What does Telematics mean?

Telematics means remotely tracking the location and activities of vehicles and moving assets. As with vehicle tracking, telematics consists of devices in the vehicle transmitting data, plus software that shows you information on the vehicle. Telematics, however, provides much more detailed information and with greater precision. 

This page is for people who already understand vehicle tracking systems, and want to know how telematics is different. 

If you are not familiar with vehicle tracking, you may want to read our 5 Minute Guide to Vehicle Tracking before returning to this page.

What are the differences between telematics and vehicle tracking?

Vehicle tracking Telematics
Primary source of data Collects data from its own measuring devices, 

e.g. GPS locator and accelerometer

Obtains information direct from the vehicle and its own sources

e.g. Engine Control Unit (ECU)/CAN bus and GPS locator and accelerometer

Information gathered Key information only, headline figures in user-friendly format

e.g. 

  • Vehicle location & location history
  • Driver timesheet 
  • Speed and speeding events
  • Harsh acceleration, braking and cornering
Much richer information, with customisable reports and very detailed analysis

e.g. 

  • Vehicle location & location history
  • Driver timesheet
  • Tacho data and remote download
  • Speed and speeding events
  • Driving style including over-revving, sudden braking and cornering & precise miles per gallon (mpg) breakdown in relation to each of these habits
  • Fuel level
  • Power take-off (activation of vehicle parts)
  • And much more
Accuracy Provides usually accurate information, estimated and calculated by software algorithms Provides 100% accurate and reliable information, taken from the vehicle’s ECU system
Additional devices supported Dash cams, Driver ID fob keys Dash cams, dual cameras, multi-channel cameras, driver ID fob keys, tachograph with remote download, temperature sensors, PTO relay switch
Cost Lower cost Higher cost
Type of user Suitable for commercial vans and cars Suitable for commercial vans and HGVs, other large vehicles and special purpose assets including construction vehicles, ambulances, bin wagons, animal transporters etc

What types of data can telematics capture?

Telematics systems can read and analyse information from many types of device. For example: 

  1. Power take-off sensors detect if parts of an asset are activated, such as doors opening and closing, sirens and blue lights, moving parts of construction vehicles and so on. 
  2. Vehicle cameras can transmit footage via the cloud that is visible in telematics software. 
  3. Data direct from the vehicle’s fuel gauge can calculate exactly how much fuel is used and a precise mpg performance. 
  4. Telematics can report how the driver handles the vehicle. 
  5. Tachograph information to check compliance with the working time directive and highlight any infringements. 

We discuss some of this functionality below. 

If you think a more economical and easy-to-use vehicle tracking system sounds more suitable for you, please see our 5 Minute Guide to Vehicle Tracking.

Who are the primary users of telematics and why?

Telematics is used primarily in HGVs and other large or complex working vehicles that need to be monitored in various says. Special purpose assets including construction vehicles, ambulances, bin wagons, animal transporters. Telematics systems can also be fitted to boats, trailers, cranes and many other assets. 

Simple vehicle tracking systems are not suitable for these vehicles for a multitude of reasons. 

  1. Fleet managers use telematics to help their debriefing protocol when looking at driver performance. 
  2. Workshop managers use telematics to identify when vehicles need to be brought in for servicing and maintenance.  
  3. For some types of vehicle telematics is an important safety feature. Telematics systems can read from many information sources, including remote download of dashcam footage and live transmission of video from all around the vehicle and even of the driver. 
  4. Telematics also helps companies comply with safety requirements. They can incorporate tachographs and remote tacho readings, which are the legal requirement for vehicles of 7.5 tonnes and over. Tachographs count the hours a driver has spent behind the wheel and when and how long their breaks are.
  5. Working haulage or transportation vehicles over 7.5 tonnes use integrated telematics and multi camera systems to be FORS compliant. 
  6. Construction vehicles must have telematics systems compliant with CLOCs standards to make sure the vehicle is safe and the driver has adequate visibility all around his vehicle.

How does telematics work?

Telematics devices takes and transmits a direct data feed from the following devices:

  1. The Engine Control Unit (ECU) / the Controller Area network (CAN) bus of the vehicle or asset being tracked
  2. The vehicle tracking unit for GPS location and relevant road speed etc.
  3. Information from the Tacho head to collaborate exact working hours and Driver ID
  4. Independent temperature probes and or fridges installed on the vehicles if they carry temperature-controlled goods
  5. Vehicle cameras with G-Force sensors to trigger events with video footage attached sent to the tracking platform

In other words, telematics gets relevant information from the tracking device and uses direct information from the vehicle, rather than a device that measures movements and then depends on an algorithm to interpret it. This is why telematics data is far more reliable and precise than data from a more basic vehicle tracking system.

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HGV trucks parked

What types of device can work with a telematics system?

The following devices are some of the options supported by telematics systems:

  1. Tachographs
  2. Connected Dashcams and multi cameras with live and upload capabilities 
  3. Multi-channel cameras
  4. Power take-off to sense when moving parts of the vehicle are activated
  5. Temperature probes or data loggers for temperature-controlled transport
  6. Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) which monitor the driver’s alertness and distraction or concentration levels
  7. Axle weighing systems to ensure loads are within the maximum load capacity of the vehicle
  8. Static and dynamic routing and scheduling systems to give a planned route and schedule that can be compared against the actual route and schedule, meaning customers can be warned in advance if a driver or delivery is behind schedule and at risk of being late
  9. Electronic Proof of Delivery (POD) devices and systems to display the complete delivery cycle in the telematics system
  10. Back-end job booking systems to schedule and track drivers’ journey times and time on site

How can telematics improve efficiency and productivity?

This is the ultimate benefit for most businesses. Telematics provides a clear insight into your operational performance and measures the exact impact of improvements. 

One example could be a particular driver with fuel-wasting habits. Telematics can measure how much fuel each habit wastes. You can compare the driver to the average driver in the company, or against specific goals you set him. The telematics software quantifies exactly how much fuel you will save each month then he reaches his targets and how much he saves week by week, habit by habit. With a full telematics system, the actual impact on fuel consumption is measured precisely in real time, whereas a more economical vehicle tracking system really only hints at what you are doing so the exact impact becomes apparent over the course of time. 

With this added visibility, you can properly access your operational costs and make measurable improvements to routes, schedules, resource allocation and many other operational variables.

How do telematics systems analyse miles per gallon performance?

Telematics systems calculate miles per gallon differently from the way cheaper vehicle tracking systems can operate. 

With a vehicle tracking system, you get purchasing data from a fuel card provider which gives information on how much fuel has been used. The software compares fuel purchased against miles driven, and calculates the miles per gallon from that. This relies on using the same fuel card every time the vehicle is topped up with fuel.

A telematics system tracks the fuel burnt through the flow meter, which is captured by the vehicle’s ECU. This shows the actual mpg in a way that you can measure over time and see the genuine saving you can make with better driving. A telematics system will map the fuel used against the activity of the vehicle, second by second. This means it can generate a report that shows how much fuel was used by idling, how much by over-revving and so on. It gives clear measurements of wasteful activities and clear pointers on what habits the driver needs to change to avoid fuel wastage. 

Fuel consumption will vary depending on the weight of the load, the type of road being driven up and other factors beyond the driver’s control. On the other hand, some factors can be controlled by the driver. A telematics system can distinguish between these, in order to give much more useful data. 

When you consider that HGVs do about 8 or 9 miles per gallon whereas a van can do about 30, it is clear that this mpg data has the potential for very significant savings for HGV fleets, even those without a particularly high mileage.

How does telematics measure sudden braking and over-revving?

Telematics will detect deceleration or “harsh braking” from the ECU. Unlike vehicle tracking, telematics does not obtain this data from the accelerometer. This means there is no risk of getting false readings from going over a pothole. If you go over a bump in the road or drive over a pothole, the accelerometer in a vehicle tracker may give a false reading. The software may interpret this as sudden braking. 

In an HGV or other heavy and slow asset, sudden acceleration is not really an issue, but over-revving is. This harmful habit wastes fuel and can inflict costly damage on an HGV. A telematics system will report and record exact revs taken from the vehicle’s rev counter. 

By contrast, a simpler vehicle tracking system will use its accelerometer to measure the axis and movement and deduce harsh acceleration from these measurements. This works in a van or car but not an HGV, where harsh acceleration cannot really happen.

What benefits does live tracking offer?

Being able to see the location of every vehicle in real time, anytime and anywhere provides immediate operational and service customers benefits. The fleet manager can see where vehicles are and whether they are on schedule and on route. Most systems can automatically generate notifications, by email or in the user app to alert fleet managers or customers of expected arrival times. 

Unlike simple vehicle tracking software, telematics platforms can take a feed direct from the tachograph and display the data and current driver’s status. A tachograph is a device installed in HGVs to record working and driving time, periods of availability and rest time. This is to ensure that employers and their employees abide by the laws relating to drivers’ hours, specifically those regarding minimum rest periods and maximum driving hours per day, per week and in a continuous stretch. The telematics software can extract the data and guarantee it as evidence that the driver and company has complied with the law.

Can telematics reduce my carbon footprint?

Yes. 

Fuel consumption can be reduced considerably through improved driving. Telematics can identify drivers who waste fuel through their driving style and break down the exact factors causing this waste. This makes it easy to set them targets for improvement and see their progress in each category. 

You should be able to reduce CO2 and other harmful emissions by optimising routes to reduce unnecessary mileage. Telematics data will provide real data on journeys allowing you to re-access planned routes, schedules and territories.

How can telematics prevent fuel misuse and fraud?

Telematics systems can track purchases from multiple fuel cards and correlate them to the location of the relevant vehicle when the purchase was made, highlighting discrepancies. 

The telematics box can also detect if there has been a sudden drop in the fuel level, indicating that fuel has been siphoned out of the vehicle’s tank. 

Telematics software can integrate with a device that sends a signal to a diesel pump, activating it to fill a vehicle that it therefore “recognises”. This means the driver does not need any form of payment, as this is transmitted automatically to the provider of the fuel for later invoicing. This system can be used with a depot’s own diesel tank to help it track fuel usage by vehicle.

A line of HGV trucks that use telematics

How secure is my telematics data?

As far as cloud usage and data transmission is concerned, your telematics data is as secure as the data on your mobile phone. Telematics data is stored on secure servers with high data protection standards and UK data protection legislation.

You will normally be able to set up login access levels. Users are permitted to view their data, and their precise level of access, with the appropriate login. It is important to establish a clear password policy to make sure telematics data is kept secure within the company. 

Telematics hardware includes tamper-proof connections and automated power-loss alerts. This type of notification will send a message as soon as a device is disconnected from a batter or other electric power supply. 

Cameras connected to telematics offer remote download of film footage. This means that if, for example, a driver has caused an accident and wants to destroy the film evidence by taking the SD card out of the camera, he will be too late because the film is already backed up in the cloud and accessible from the telematics provider’s servers.

How do I choose the right telematics system?

It is very important to choose a telematics supplier that is and will remain financially secure; ideally part of a large and long-established company, with the resources and financial back-up you need. You normally get into long-term relationships with a telematics provider. Typical contracts last five years, partly to avoid the inconvenience and cost of switching providers, so it makes sense to choose carefully. 

Ask potential providers about professional accreditations they hold or awards they have won. This will reassure you they have the expertise you need. For example, a FORS accredited supplier or a CLOCs recognised system will be able to equip your vehicle in the right way to obtain certification. 

Find out about the range of devices that the system can support and what the provider stocks. You will design a system that works for you today, but in a few years your needs may have evolved. You need a provider who can future-proof your telematics by offering to upgrade or modify your installed devices. 

Consider other complementary products that your provider may offer. These could include fuel management systems, fleet insurance and other products that can interact with telematics.

Find the best telematics solution for your business

iCompario is the free online marketplace for business products and services, where managers and owners can research and rapidly compare fuel cards, vehicle tracking systems, insurance, telecoms and other essentials. The team follows up online queries by telephone so every site visitor finds their ideal, future-proof product at the best price possible.

GET QUOTES