Service Manager's Perspective - A Deeper Dive into the Value of Telematics


For some time now, the conversation of electronic logs and telematics devices has been taking place. Since December 2019 carriers that have commercial vehicles operating in the United States of America have been operating on electronic logbooks, which in some cases, operate on a telematics device installed into the power unit. The FMCSA has provided a list of registered ELD’s that meet the requirements within the United States of America.


From June 2021, Federal Carriers operating in Canada will also be required to ensure their power units operate with an electronic logbook (when certain conditions are met).


The last couple of years has been rich with conversations in our Industry around ELD's; from self-certification vs third party certified and timelines, to implementation and training. There is one conversation though that is sometimes missed, but is something I encourage all Carriers to consider: the power of Telematics.


The use of telematics is not new - commonly utilized in the personal auto insurance industry to monitor driver behaviour - the technology behind it brings together telecommunications, vehicular technology, electrical engineering and computer science to provide something; that when utilized by a Commercial Carrier provides powerful data that can positively impact all areas of their business.


With ELD systems operating on a telematics device; usage goes beyond only monitoring your driver's hours of service; it also provides opportunities to tap into and learn how the MPG of a power unit differs by the driver, how often each power unit is left idling, GPS tracking, maintenance interval tracking, as well as opportunities to coach drivers with real-time information and not the safety personnel’s opinion, just to name a couple.


As telematics become more and more popular, I believe the opportunities for our industry to improve are endless. As telematic providers work closely with the industry, the data gathered becomes even more readily available and easier to interpret. When this data can be interpreted easier, change management and procedure implementation become smoother, culture improvements occur quicker, and overall safety and operation buy-in improves.


From a National Safety Code Compliance standpoint, one of the main components of a Carrier’s safety management system is vehicle maintenance. There are specific requirements that must be met, to meet compliance with the regulation. A carrier’s maintenance program would communicate inspection intervals, preventative maintenance schedules, and more. For some, these schedules are followed by handwritten ink on a calendar, and the service manager refers to it daily to ensure their mechanics complete the required work. For others, the requirement is for the driver to communicate when the commercial vehicle is approaching a specific KM, to notify the service manager maintenance is required.


But what if the service manager is on vacation, and the shop lead who was put in charge had to attend to a service call 400 KM away from the shop The driver that was driving unit 007 for the last 6 months went on vacation, and a brand-new driver was assigned to that specific truck to cover the gap? Who is now monitoring the schedules to ensure the mandatory maintenance is completed? Who is communicating when the truck needs to be serviced? I believe it is safe to say, these might be missed, if this is something being managed in-house.


Some carriers have their own service mechanics on staff, while others heavily rely on a third-party mechanic repair facility. When a power unit has a telematics device installed, a carrier can arrange for diagnostic reports to be sent to the allocated party. The information in this report comes directly from the telematics device. In addition, reports can be sent as reminders for preventative maintenance, tire rotation purposes, or whatever is determined necessary. The reports can also be sent ahead of time. Instead of waiting for a driver to communicate the commercial vehicle exceeded 300,000 KM, the necessary personnel will be notified when the vehicle is approaching 275,000 KM and can plan parts accordingly.


Something we are all aware of is, if a commercial vehicle is parked for repairs, it is not bringing in revenue. For example, a commercial vehicle is estimated to create $1,000.00 a day in revenue. On a Friday, a driver parks the commercial vehicle in the yard and leaves for the weekend – no big deal. On Monday, a different driver, while performing their pre-trip inspection, identifies the radiator is leaking, and a check engine light on.


The driver communicates the defects found during their pre-trip inspection to the carrier. The carrier then advises the in-house mechanic or calls the third-party mechanic to let them know about the repairs. The mechanic communicates that it sounds like a blown radiator, and they will order one right away, but the fastest arrival time is two days from now.


By the time the repairs were completed, this would have cost the carrier an excess of $3,000.00 just in downtime alone. Downtime is costly, but with the use of credible telematic devices, downtime can be decreased. With the telematics device running diagnostics on the commercial vehicle, it could have identified the check engine light and automatically reported this to the mechanic. The mechanic would have ordered the parts on Friday, arrived by Monday, which would have decreased the amount of downtime.


As you continue your research into which trusted telematics provider you will utilize, I encourage you to think proactively from a mechanical repairs’ standpoint. What tasks are you doing now, pen to paper, that could be completed with the power of telematics and automation?


If you and your team would like to brainstorm further on how you can harness the power of telematics, I encourage you to contact us without delay!

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