Vehicle tracking and fleet management systems have taken off in trucking companies all around the world, However, while one may think suppliers can now rest on their laurels, not so. In this article, FleetWatch technical correspondent, Dave Scott, gives his view on some of the challenges facing both suppliers and operators. They are based on his interactions with many transport companies as a consultant and trainer and provide much food for thought.
The electronics industry is growing so fast that e-waste has become an overnight world-wide phenomenon. Junked electronic hardware is littering the landscape and it’s no different in vehicle tracking. It doesn’t pay to buy but only to rent and wait for the upgrade , cell-phones are a shining example of this.
- How much downtime will a fleet lose in having to go through a minimum annual upgrade of its tracking systems and what are the quality standards that apply?
- Does obsolescence also remove tracking service providers from the system?
Software not hardware
South African road transport suffers from a ‘˜black-box’ syndrome. Cheap electronics are easy to conjure up but black boxes are only there for data transmission. Reliable software with backup is an essential factor including the interface of this with in-house company systems.
Not data, not information – but knowledge
What is the meaning of all vehicle tracking outputs? How does one monitor by exception and what are the standard parameters? Work to the wrong parameter and it can cause driver hardship, unnecessary costs and even compromise vehicle safety.
For example, so-called green band driving requires an understanding of the torque-curve for a particular engine manufacturer as well as when a truck is in retardation mode using rpm to extract maximum benefit from an engine brake.
Getting knowledge from tracking allows one to interface with people. Throwing data and information at drivers is meaningless. How can they change their behaviour behind the wheel and why is vehicle tracking a safety tool and not an incab policeman? These are just a few of the questions that arise. What are the trends in a fleet that lead to improved planning and not just reaction to disciplinary incidents? Vehicle tracking should be a knowledge and solution-based tool, not a hardware and data-supply system.
Preservation of vehicle electronic integrity
A truck’s wiring harness is its spinal cord and all a truck’s ‘˜black boxes’ are linked into this. ABS, engine ECM, ESP, AMT and all other acronyms are part of vehicle electronics that resist any outside invasion. Post-fitment of any vehicle tracking system has to ensure that it is professionally installed and does not serve to negate a truck warranty. When it comes to quality and workmanship, fitment centres are a huge challenge for the tracking industry.
Truck OEM’s entering the field
Increasingly, truck manufacturers are offering vehicle tracking as part of the package. It just makes sense. Maintenance contracts, vehicle finance underwriting, driver training and residual-value management are all linked together where vehicle tracking plays a vital role. If truck operators want to pass as much of the risk back to truck manufacturers, then it’s only fair that vehicle tracking must be a direct line in the chain of command and vehicle manufacturers will prefer the system belonging to them rather than to a third-party outside supplier.
The criminal element becomes more sophisticated
Crime does not stand still. Criminal minds are hard at work to ‘˜beat-the-system’ as this is written. Staying ahead of the criminal mind has always been a challenge for the systems suppliers and will continue to be so. There’s an electronic war out there on the roads.
And remember: Whatever tracking system is employed, it does not remove the basics of fleet and people management. Tracking is not a wonder-cure for bad fleet management.