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Is a Telematics System Right for Your Utility Fleet?

The benefits of advanced telematics systems are widely known today. They can help fleets deploy resources more efficiently, increase the number of jobs completed each day, reduce costs and more. But even so, having an awareness of these benefits is often not enough to convince fleet managers that an investment in telematics is worthwhile. To discover if a fleet-wide system will truly deliver value, fleet professionals must first take the time to identify their business challenges, set criteria and pilot different systems.

To identify the business problems a telematics system could potentially solve, fleet professionals should study their fleet’s productivity, fuel and labor expenses, safety concerns and quality of customer service. The fact is that a number of utility fleets are unable to answer important questions about these operational areas that make a big impact on a utility’s bottom line. Gaining a better understanding of the primary challenges the fleet faces is the first step toward building a business case for a telematics system implementation.

Gathering Input is Key
After identifying challenges, setting criteria is the next step in the process. To ensure a telematics system meets the requirements for an entire organization, two things need to happen. First, fleet managers must consult with key stakeholders within the fleet department to build a wish list of all the features they want the system to have in a perfect-world scenario. In particular, a utility fleet will want to make sure the telematics system has the appropriate features and functionality to successfully address the organization’s business challenges. Second, fleet managers must also solicit input from stakeholders in other departments who will use or be affected by the use of the telematics software from the time of implementation. This will help to ensure that no functionality required by another department is overlooked when evaluating potential telematics providers.

Once all stakeholder input has been compiled, fleets should share this information with the telematics systems providers they are considering partnering with. And managers shouldn’t be afraid to hold back; sharing even seemingly outlandish ideas gives that provider the opportunity to make suggestions regarding how the system can be used to achieve the fleet’s goals. The provider may even be able to add custom functionality to its platform to meet needs.

Keep in mind that it is ideal for utility fleets to seek out a telematics provider that is available 24/7/365 to answer technical questions, offers educational resources to help customers get the most of their telematics system and provides a dedicated, proactive account management team. These team members can interact with fleet managers in person, over the phone or via video conferencing to discuss how to best use the telematics software, enabling fleets to realize the most significant return on investment (ROI).

It is also important to note that it can be a mistake to set a price point for a telematics system before figuring out what functionality is truly required to solve a fleet’s specific business challenges. All systems are not the same and do not offer the same functionality. Deciding to go with a telematics system just because it is the least expensive may result in a fleet missing out on key features necessary to make the investment in the technology worthwhile.

Test Before You Buy
There is nothing that will build more of a business case for telematics than cold, hard facts about how the technology will improve operations and even help generate revenue. By testing a telematics system before opting to implement it, fleets will have the opportunity to discover whether or not the software and service are the best fit for the company. Questions to ask during the pilot phase include:
• Is the system user-friendly and easy to navigate?
• Is customer service readily available when needed?
• Is the system’s functionality reliable and does it work as promised by the provider?

Without piloting a telematics system, utility fleets will have to rely on the claims of the provider, which may end up falling short of expectations. The only way to know for sure if the system will be an asset to a specific fleet is to test it out firsthand.

Perhaps the most important reason to pilot a telematics system is to gather the data needed to understand the type of savings and ROI to expect. Based on the metrics monitored throughout the pilot phase, fleet professionals will be able to collect useful information about how the software will reduce costs, improve driver behavior, increase efficiency and productivity, and more.

The results of each pilot and the quality of service the telematics companies provide should help narrow down the best provider with whom to partner, if any. This process should also give management the confidence that enough due diligence was done before deciding if a telematics system is right for their business.

About the Author: Jenny Malcolm is the content marketing specialist for GPS Insight (

Green Fleets, Telematics