A look into why OEs are partnering with telematics service providers, plus what to expect with the next generation of telematics functionality.

 “A telematics system is the backbone of a connected vehicle,” said Chintan Sopariwala, vice president of aftersales operations and connected vehicle for Navistar. “It will also help you lower total cost of ownership, improve your uptime to  keep your vehicles on the road, and most importantly, improve overall safety.”

Sopariwala discussed current trends with telematics integration for commercial vehicles during the American Trucking Associations (ATA) virtual Management Conference & Exhibition (MCE) on Oct. 22.

The traditional telematics model for commercial vehicles over the last several years has been two separate pieces of telematics hardware installed on the truck: a truck manufacturer’s OE device installed at factory, and a telematics service provider (TSP) device, which can also be installed at factory or retrofit, Sopariwala explained.

These two hardware devices send data to separate cloud-based systems to collect data.

“As a fleet owner today, you have to manage and maintain both pieces of hardware. You have to pay for two devices, and you have to make sure that both the devices are sending information at the same frequency to different databases,” said Sopariwala.

A gateway integrated solution, as Sopariwala called it, allows for consolidation of the telematics hardware so the OE telematics device communicates with the TSP device. This requires strategic partnerships with TSPs. A gateway integrated solution allows the fleet to save money with the upfront cost of telematics device installation, as well as consolidated subscription fees.

Navistar dealers and fleet customers can utilize the OE’s OnCommand Connection remote diagnostics program, which is an all-makes, all-models program also integrated with 28 TSPs, and International 360 service event management program to monitor fleet assets.

“You do not have to pay International a separate fee to keep the device plan. As long as you are subscribed to one of the partner TSPs, the International device and your access to OnCommand Connection will stay active,” said Sopariwala.

Examples of advanced telematics functions

When it comes to telematics, many are familiar with the basic functionality of these products including asset position tracking as well as remote diagnostics and fault code action planning. Sopariwala advised truck manufacturers and TSPs are continuously working to create advanced functionality through more comprehensive telematics offerings.

“The advanced set of solutions comes with an advanced device. It is capable of collecting information about thousands of parameters every second,” said Sopariwala.

He advised the next generation of telematics features many additional functions including, but not limited to:

Bluetooth and Wifi connectivity: This functionality can allow the vehicle to connect with other devices such as the vehicle operator’s phone or other Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

Over-the-air programming: Fleets can initiate remote calibration and parameter updates without visiting the dealership. For instance, fleets crossing the border from the U.S. to Canada would be able to initiate a parameter update remotely to change the maximum vehicle speed.

Advanced preventive maintenance (PM) scheduling: This functionality allows for vehicle system monitoring in real time, with proactive notifications alerting fleets about upcoming service.

Tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) integration: TPMS integration would provide fleets the ability to monitor tire pressure for all assets on a single database.

Fleet health monitoring: “With fleet health monitoring, what you get is a dashboard view. You should not have to put a VIN of every vehicle to see what’s wrong with each and every one of them,” advised Sopariwala.

Remote vehicle lock and unlock capability: Fleets would have the ability to initiate the locking or unlocking of vehicle doors for drivers, in the event they are locked out. This can save on roadside repair costs, suggested Sopariwala.

“This is only a very small subset of features that I call advanced features. OEMs are continuously introducing new and more advanced applications,” said Sopariwala. “The goal of these advanced features is to make life easier for you to reduce your total cost of ownership and not inundate you with meaningless data.”

Discerning usable data

When it comes to utilizing data for specific vehicles, advanced telematics devices will allow for more customized service of assets. Two examples include optimized VIN-based PM schedules and predictive repairs.

“We all know that not all vehicles operate in the same environment,” said Sopariwala. “They have different applications, different drivers, different levels of vehicle performance, so a single PM schedule across an entire fleet, or even one class of vehicle, really doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.” A recent survey conducted by International customers found 36% of fleets utilized the same PM schedule for every vehicle in the fleet, regardless of application. This approach does not allow the fleet to optimize the service of individual vehicles, suggested Sopariwala.

“We did a pilot of this program across nine fleets.We had about 5,000 vehicles enrolled, and 65% of vehicles we found out could drive an incremental 20,000 miles before an oil change,” said Sopariwala.

The data collected from telematics devices, analyzed through machine learning applications, can also assist with predicting a system or component failure before it happens. This is still an emerging technology and varies in complexity and accuracy depending on the vehicle system and fleet applications.

For instance, predicting a battery failure can be as simple as monitoring a combination of battery voltage and temperature, while predicting the failure of a turbocharger, starter or alternator would require the monitoring and analysis of thousands of parameters to determine a potential failure.

When it comes to future vehicle technologies, such as battery-electric vehicles and autonomous vehicles, telematics will play a key role. The difference will be in the type of information provided to the fleet, such as battery life and vehicle range.

When it comes to reviewing the data from the telematics dashboard, a fleet will often work with a local dealer for support.

Reynolds Boyd, director of customer uptime for the Birmingham, Ala.-based Southland Transportation Group, suggested different fleet customers require different amounts and types of data points to make decisions, depending on customer needs.

A small fleet may be more reactive and only review the telematics data dashboard when alerted to an issue. Larger fleets, typically, have a dedicated person or team to continuously monitor data. Boyd referred to this dedicated person as a “champion” for the fleet.

When it comes to implementing a data strategy to use telematics, Boyd suggested fleets must have a champion that works with the dealer on behalf of the fleet.

“The goal of that champion is to coordinate with the side of the team of the customer and coordinate getting that truck out of service before it actually breaks down in the road,” Boyd said.

Scott Sutarik, vice president of Commercial Vehicle Solutions for Geotab, suggested it’s important for fleets to change their mindset when it comes to vehicles to acknowledge that a vehicle failure is not just possible but will eventually happen. Implementing and utilizing the information provided by telematics programs can assist with mitigating the downtime caused by these failures.

Once fleets acknowledge a failure can and will happen, it is important to establish a process to mitigate failures as much as possible.

“Most important is the process and getting that figured out internally,” suggested Sutarik. “Then as you improve the process, you can then get more complicated.”

As the industry looks to the future, particularly with further advancements of autonomous vehicle technology, Sutarik advised it is critical that fleets stay up to date with data security.

“I look at security as one of the most important things that most individuals never think about until it happens,” said Sutarik. He suggested fleets confirm all the standards telematics vendors adhere to for data security. “If you don’t ask, in many cases they’re not going to tell you,” he said.