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What is Telematics and How Can it Help Municipalities with Risk Management? Brian Dziuk | Sep 13, 2017 2:28:57 PM

Risk managers within a municipality are there to assess and identify any potential risks that may hinder the reputation, safety, security, and financial prosperity for the community. A risk manager’s job is inspired by the mantra, “prevention is better than cure.” It’s all about evading threats and mitigating the effects of those which are fundamentally inevitable.

This is something that telematics for municipalities can easily help solve. In fact, risk managers in numerous cities have already implemented GPS tracking technology for many municipal services and seen abundant benefits.

So, what even is telematics and why should you care? What did municipalities that have already implemented this technology discover, and how can you apply those insights into your own municipal fleet? Get ready to find out.

What is Telematics?

For those who are not familiar with the term telematics, it’s basically a combination of telecommunication and informatics into a single word. Telematics is a method of monitoring an asset by using GPS tracking and onboard diagnostics to record its movements on a computerized map.

Telematics can be used to track the location of nearly any kind of asset, whether it is a fleet vehicle, mobile asset, or piece of heavy equipment from any remote location. 

Telematics Role in Vehicle Tracking

Telematics can be used to track your municipal fleet vehicles in real-time from any remote location. This way, you will always be able to pinpoint the exact current location of any vehicle in the field, plus see any stops it has made along the way during a trip.

How Telematics Work

Telematics work by connecting a device such as a GPS tracker to a vehicle or asset. Then, the data collected by the device will be sent to a data center to be decoded.

Once the data is decoded, it can be stored in the cloud and connected to your fleet management software system. This makes the data accessible from a desktop computer or mobile device, such as a smartphone or tablet. Then, fleet managers can log in to their software platform, view and export comprehensive data reports, and use the insights gained to improve daily fleet operations.

The Benefits of Telematics

Telematics can collect a vast amount of data, including but not limited to:

  • Real-time location of a vehicle or asset
  • Vehicle speed
  • Total trip distance, time, and stops taken along the way
  • Engine idling
  • Instances of harsh braking, turning, or other unsafe driving habits
  • Fuel consumption
  • Vehicle condition and engine data

With this data, fleet managers will be able to make more strategic decisions rather than relying on guesswork on generic trends. For example, data reports that reveal when drivers are harshly braking or accelerating too quickly through intersections can help fleet managers quickly develop if a particular driver is frequently practicing unsafe driving habits. This way, they can course-correct by having a conversation with that driver, giving additional safety trainings, and closely monitoring their future habits in order to make sure they are making improvements. 

Another example of using telematics to your advantage is utilizing data on vehicle and engine conditions to optimize maintenance scheduling. This enables you to identify when a vehicle needs a minor repair or routine maintenance before a small issue results in total vehicle failure. In the long run, you'll save on repair costs and minimize vehicle downtime.

Who Can Benefit From Using Telematic Technology?

Fleet managers aren't the only ones in a municipal fleet who can benefit from using telematic technology. Your drivers and the entire community will be able to experience the advantages as well! 

Let's go back to our two previous examples. In the first example, a fleet manager uses telematics to identify a particular driver that is practicing unsafe driving habits. This lowers the risk that they'll get into an accident, which prevents the entire fleet from having to take on the costs of additional insurance expenses, worker's compensation if an injury occurred, and vehicle repairs or replacement. The employee is also benefiting from improving their driving habits, as they'll be able to feel safer on the road and minimize the risk of an accident that could put their life and ability to work at risk.

In the second example, a fleet manager uses telematics to monitor vehicle conditions and optimize maintenance scheduling. This minimizes the risk of total vehicle failure, which means your drivers won't be left stranded on the side of the road when a minor repair was ignored and their vehicle broke down while they were driving it. 

Finally, telematics can help you provide more efficient services that benefit your community. For example, sanitation fleets can use telematics to quickly identify when and where garbage loads have been picked up. This way, if an area was missed or has not been serviced in too long, fleet managers can immediately dispatch a vehicle to that site. This prevents residents from complaining that their trash has not been picked up, and keeps streets cleaner so they can be enjoyed by everyone in the community.

The Future of Telematics for Fleet Managers

As modern technology evolves, all kinds of organizations across various industries are turning to data to make more strategic decisions. The fleet management industry is no different.

Over previous years, the technology behind telematics and how it is used by vehicle fleets has changed greatly. Today, telematics is an incredibly valuable tool, but as as technology continues to improve, it will only become more beneficial. As fleet managers are faced with new needs and different challenges, telematics will continue to evolve to meet them in better ways.

How Telematics Can Improve Risk Management for Municipalities 

The benefits of telematics can be experienced by fleets operating in nearly any industry. For municipalities specifically, implementing telematics can transform efficiency and make it possible to experience more effective and simplified risk management. This is incredibly important, seeing as municipalities take on a lot of risks that many other kinds of fleets do not.

So, here are some major ways that telematics can improve your risk management initiatives:

Reduce Occurrences of Speeding, Hard Breaking, and Rapid Acceleration

Driving speeds are another way to check driver safety and compliance. A GPS tracking device with a 3-axis accelerometer will alert when an employee is driving over the posted speed limit. This accelerometer will also monitor and alert when instances of hard breaking and rapid acceleration occur. This capability helps to determine whether a driver is careless and dangerous. Hard breaking and acceleration also contribute to an increase in wear and tear on the vehicle. With this information at a risk management team’s disposal, the drivers can quickly be corrected.

Improve Response Times in an Emergency

With GPS fleet tracking, emergency services can vastly increase their response speed. Law enforcement is a life and death job. The faster you know, the better chance you have at conserving life. Bad response times cost people’s lives.

For example, a police dispatcher can use GPS tracking to quickly identify which patrol car is the closest to a given crime scene. Rather than having to call many different patrol cars to ask for each officer’s location, dispatch can find the closest car with the click of a button and send them to the scene right away. This will undoubtedly make the community much safer.

Verification of Claims

If a citizen ever makes a claim about an incident that occurred on the roads, it is imperative that you have the best and most accurate data to properly assess the situation. A GPS fleet management system will provide the risk management team with just such information, including the location, time, and speed of the vehicle. The team will also be able to verify if the vehicle and driver in question were even at the location of said incident. This can drastically reduce the number of fraudulent claims which will only cause more money to be wasted.

Adhere to Maintenance Schedules

Preventive maintenance is considered by many to be the single most import aspect of running efficient fleets. This vital practice keeps vehicles in service longer, increases driver safety, and lowers total repair costs. GPS tracking systems can be used to automate maintenance reminders like upcoming oil changes and tune-ups, as well as integrate all the vehicle’s service records. With GPS tracking, preventive maintenance is streamlined and simplified. The benefits include:

  • Elimination of paperwork
  • Service record management for an unlimited number of vehicles, including reminders for vehicle inspections
  • Easy tracking of the entire fleet maintenance histories and schedules
  • Service records with the maintenance performed, the date, and who provided the service

Quick Recovery of Stolen Assets

If a vehicle or asset ever becomes lost or stolen, the replacement costs can drastically cut into the city’s budget. Without any type of GPS tracking device, the recovery of the stolen asset is simply up to fate.

With GPS, the police department can read the last known coordinates or the stolen property and greatly increase the chances of finding and recovering that property. Once the property is retrieved and no replacement is needed to be purchased, the GPS tracking software may have already paid for itself several times over.

Monitor Driver’s Shifts

With GPS tracking technology, the amount of time a vehicle is turned on can be monitored to ensure that drivers are not spending too much time on the road in between breaks. GPS fleet management software can record driver statistics on a turn-by-turn basis, monitoring:

  • Start times
  • Acceleration, deceleration, and idle time
  • Adherence to routes
  • Turning habits
  • Arrival time for each destination

Logging all this information tells you a lot about a driver’s skill set and adherence to safety guidelines. It can also show you where a driver could be doing better, giving you an opportunity to improve that driver’s efficiency behind the wheel through ongoing training and reinforcement.

Keep an Eye on Employee Performance

It's an unfortunate truth that you cannot rely on all employees to always have the strongest work ethic. If an employee is wasting time while on the clock, that is money just being burned. How do you keep your employees accountable?

The use of a GPS tracking program is not exactly "spying" on the employees. And the use of one is not telling the employees that you do not trust them. What it is doing, however, is saying that you value the community and want it to thrive. If the community is safe and profitable, it can only benefit everyone, right?

If employees know that there is a system in place that will keep them accountable, they are more likely to keep their focus on the task at hand: their job.

The telematics system can provide a comprehensive report which gives a snapshot description on the performance of every driver. The report will analyze the data on speeding, harsh breaking, rapid acceleration, idle time, and more to give a grade for each driver. With this, the risk management team can analyze which drivers need further training.  

Reduce Fuel Consumption

The municipal fleet fuel budget isn’t something to sneeze at. Even a small city fleet can guzzle gas at an alarming rate.

One of the biggest problems with managing fuel efficiency for any municipal fleet is the issue of tracking vehicle use. Things such as illicit or unauthorized vehicle use and excessive idling burn gas (and add extra wear and tear to engines) without helping you reach basic operational goals for your municipality.

Without an accurate way to track where drivers have been and how much time they’ve spent in idle, it’s incredibly difficult to enforce an efficient use policy.

Municipal fleet tracking with GPS gives city fleet managers the ability to track where each of their vehicles assets have been and how long a vehicle was left in idle. This makes it easy to spot if a vehicle is being used improperly so the issue can be corrected—reducing fuel consumption.

In the long run, GPS tracking can save your municipality thousands of dollars in fuel expenses.

Reduce Liability

The job of a risk manager is to reduce liability. This includes the liability of the driver if there is an accident, a vehicle that is out of service, stolen vehicles (even though they are covered by insurance), and an exhausted driver who is out on the road.

The truth of the matter is that the risk manager is liable for these. With a GPS fleet and asset tracking system, you not only reduce these liabilities—you are also saving the community money.

These are just a few of the potential benefits of using telematics and GPS fleet management to a risk manager.

Learn more about how you could improve municipal operations in your own fleet today by contacting a Ratrac expert!

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