The Future Role of Telematics in Fleet Management

Today’s industries move with technology.  Consider the automation of factory-work, or the digitalization of banking.  In both instances, enhanced technology boosted efficiency, enhanced security, and minimized costs.  Is this also the case for the commercial fleet industry?

The short answer: yes.  Fortunately, the heavy workload required of fleet managers has been eased in recent years with the emergence of fleet management software and telematics.  This software isn’t exactly new to the industry, however the growing level of sophistication is definitely worth noting.  For example, tech companies now offer software that can monitor fuel and temperature levels, track fleet vehicles in real-time, process invoices, and even record patterns in driver behavior.  As these companies offer more and more functionality, fleet managers will increasingly rely on software to make data-driven, real-time decisions for their fleet.

For fleet managers, the value of telematics cannot be overestimated, especially in terms of cutting fuel costs, handling and processing payments, and ensuring fleet security.

Minimizing Fuel Costs

Most fleet managers—regardless of the size of their fleet— agree that fuel costs are among their top expenses year after year.  Understandably so, even small fluctuations in energy prices can have huge impacts on the year-end spreadsheets.  Likewise, the cost of fuel is largely unpredictable and uncontrollable. This is where Fuelz Alabama fleet card services come in. Fuelz fleet card is accepted at over 50,000 fueling stations in the following states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Nonetheless, it’s up to fleet management to reduce (or at least minimize) costs associated with fuel.   Many companies encourage drivers to adopt fuel-efficient driving habits, such as making gradual accelerations and stops, keeping well-maintained air filters, and avoiding unnecessarily long warm-ups in the cold weather.  While these habits certainly do conserve fuel, their benefits are—at-best—modest.  For managers interested in long-term savings, telematics and fuel-tracking software is the best bet.

According to Jeremy Muoio, director of asset management for MasTec AT, when thinking fuel management, telematics is answer:

“Telematics is far and away the No. 1 tool in our arsenal, though it bears mention that the best telematics system in the world won’t work if business or administrative process failures leave a company without an accurate picture of who is driving what, who is using what card, or what card is in what vehicle.”

Software companies are beginning to recognize gaps in fuel-tracking functionalities, and are taking advantage of the opportunity by offering innovative solutions for fuel-monitoring.  For example, soe of the more advanced software products can track vehicle idling, detect speeding drivers, track unauthorized off-hours use, and flag unnecessarily hard accelerations.   Tech start-up IoT Research Solutions has even employed IoT (the Internet of Things) for precise, real-time monitoring of fuel expenditure and driver data.  However, fuel-efficiency isn’t the only focus of fleet-centric telematics.

Payment Processing

What Muoio and his fellow colleagues at MasTec AT are particularly excited for is the introduction of electronic payment capabilities.  Currently, almost all fleet management software can track and organize administrative data.  However, these functionalities typically cannot initiate or process payments.  In-fact, some companies claim that even the most basic of transactional tasks—such as processing an invoice—is beyond the capabilities of even the most sophisticated fleet management software.  However, with respect to fuel-expenses, Muoio predicts a change in the near-future:

“I see electronic payment methods like Apple Pay and Google Wallet as the next big disruptors, particularly when paired with company issued cellular devices. Company devices are significantly ‘stickier’ and more data-connected than traditional fueling cards, and thus payment methods linked to them should ameliorate some of the administrative burden companies face when trying to keep track of what’s where.”

Such a system would also give managers access to real-time transaction data, including the amount spent, where it was spent, and which driver purchased the fuel.  Currently, the lack of synchronicity between card companies and vendors can result in a 1-2 day lag in data.  Conversely, electronic payment capabilities would allow real-time access to transaction information.

Preventing Fraud and Ensuring Fleet Security

An emerging issue for fleet managers is fuel fraud.  Fuel fraud is essentially the unauthorized use of the company fuel card to make non-work related purchases. It’s is commonly called Misuse when drivers swipe the card to fill their own vehicle with gasoline, and otherwise called Slippage when the card is used by drivers to purchase non-fuel items (such as snacks, beverages, or tobacco).  Alternatively, if the card were to be stolen and charged by an unrelated party, it’s simply called Fraud.

There’s been a growing concern for fuel card fraud within the past 5 years.  Fortunately, telematics can be incredibly useful in detecting fraudulent charges, identifying abnormal transactions, and tracking real-time purchases.

Muoio believes that fuel fraud is a significant expense for most fleet managers, even if they aren’t aware of it.  Small purchases can really add-up, he claims, especially for larger fleets.  A years-worth of $2 or $3 purchases on the company fuel card can easily amount to thousands-of-dollars annually; company money that’s being spend without authorization from the fleet manager.