February 2009, Automotive Fleet - Cover Story
How Can Telematics Help Your Fleet?
Telematics has proven useful to fleets in reducing fuel consumption, idling, and emissions, and keeping track of company vehicles.
The use of telematics — the integration of wireless communications, vehicle monitoring systems, and location devices — is expected to reach 5.8 million units this year, with revenues growing to more than $2 billion, according to a study by C.J. Driscoll and Associates. More than 2.5 million telematic units are currently used to manage fleet vehicles, mobile workers, trailers, heavy equipment, and other assets.
Adopters of fleet telematic systems include Verizon Inc., Wal-Mart, SC Johnson, Honeywell, ValleyCrest Companies, Genuine Parts, Gem Plumbing, EasyTurf, U.S. Postal Service, Viking Termite & Pest Control, IES, and Amtec LLC. These fleets use telematic devices to continuously measure fuel consumption and fleet utilization, and monitor vehicle and performance.
Less Idling Equals Less Fuel Used
A growing number of fleets are turning to vehicle recorders or GPS tracking systems as the most cost-effective tool to curb excessive idling and other fuel-inefficient driver behaviors.
For example, Genuine Parts determined its drivers were idling company trucks 2-3 hours per day — a heavy hit in terms of fuel consumption. Drivers leave a distribution center and make 12-15 stops and deliveries per evening. Why so much time spent idling? Drivers spent 15-20 minute intervals idling to maintain a comfortable cab climate, as well as save battery life, which can run low from frequent liftgate use, although a test by the company’s liftgate installer determined the liftgate battery runs down after 14 cycles.
Verizon Inc. successfully reduced fuel costs by curbing unnecessary engine idling. Verizon estimates unnecessary idling costs the telecommunications company about $20 million annually. For calendar-year 2008, Verizon targeted a 3-percent reduction in the 53 million gallons of fuel used by the company’s vehicles, mostly light- and medium-duty trucks. Verizon uses a combination of GPS tracking and employee education to curb unnecessary engine idling. GPS tracking systems have been installed in about 25 percent of company trucks.
Monitoring Vehicles Cuts Emissions
Wal-Mart and SC Johnson are achieving dramatic energy savings through their green logistics programs, which include the use of telematics. In 2006 alone, Wal-Mart prevented 678,954 tons of carbon dioxide, 38 tons of nitrogen oxide, and 1,539 tons of particulate matter from entering the atmosphere through a combination of efforts, such as the installation of auxiliary power units (APUs) in diesel trucks to warm or cool the cabin on breaks.
Similarly, SC Johnson eliminated 1,882 tons of greenhouse gases, cut fuel usage by 168,000 gallons, and saved approximately $1.6 million in 2007 through its Truckload Utilization Project, which combines multiple customer orders and products in individual trucks for maximum efficiency.