The Use of Telematics in the Preventative Maintenance Aspects of Fleets

When it comes to telematics in fleets, a lot of focus has been trained on location data and its many uses. However, telematics has also been tremendously useful in maintaining vehicles to avoid problems, such as having the truck, car or bus break down, and other issues before they become a major headache.

Preventive maintenance, with the help of telematics, is a godsend for busy fleet managers who are having problems keeping track which vehicles were brought in for preventive maintenance inspections and when. Telematics keeps track of the same parameters that fleet managers use to create preventive maintenance schedules, such as mileage, fuel consumption and engine hours. You could easily use it to provide you with automatic notifications when it is time for a preventive maintenance.

David Bradley, who works as an automotive engineer at Geotab, says that telematics allows you to forget about guesswork when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Bradley says, “Prior to telematics, vehicle maintenance happened in a preventive and reactive mode. Time and money were spent maintaining vehicles (changing fluids, replacing parts) early in their life cycle to prevent failures while in use. We knew nothing about a component prior to their failure.”

Most fleet managers would follow their old maintenance schedules. That means blindly changing the fluids, oil and breaks at regular intervals, whether they need to or not. Not only are you spending more for preventive maintenance that your vehicles do not need, but you are also spending for these consumables. Imagine how much savings you could get when you only change oil, and everything else when it’s really needed.

Take for instance the experience of UPS. The company owns most of their fleet, which numbers to at least 100,000 vehicles. With the help of telematics, they were able to cut the number of preventive maintenance by half: from 240,000 inspections a year down to around 120,000.

Telematics, therefore, gives you the opportunity to do more condition-based maintenance because you know the condition of the components of the vehicle. You also get more use out of the different components before you change or replace it. You also have access to diagnostic trouble codes. Knowing DTC, or fault codes, can help you:

  • Schedule technicians well ahead of time, depending on the condition of the vehicle and its parts.
  • Identify failure trends in vehicles of the same model.
  • Gauge whether the technician was really able to repair the vehicle.
  • Support for warranty claims. When you see a certain part wearing out too quickly for your vehicles, you can argue for a warranty claim because you can easily see the pattern and document it.
  • Get alerts to faults that can affect other elements.
  • Address any fault codes that your drivers do not report.

With the right platform, you can set alerts based on the number of hours driven or based on mileage. You can also set up alerts that would be triggered in the event that an engine code comes up.

Ideal for small fleets

Bradley also says having fleet telematics used for preventive maintenance is a good idea for those with small fleets of 20 or less vehicles. Because you have a clear idea of the condition of your vehicles, you can anticipate breakdowns before they happen. This gives you the ability to proactively address fault codes, which in turn helps you to ensure that downtime is kept to a minimum. You can also schedule your maintenance at time when there is less work.

More advantages

One of the biggest advantages of fleet telematics is that it allows you to save fuel. You might think that because oil prices are very low right now and may stay that way for the rest of the year, that it may diminish the attractiveness of using telematics for your fleet. But its use in preventive maintenance adds another undeniable benefit.

Besides, Bradley opines, using less fuel, gas and oil is not only just a way of saving on costs, but it also helps lessen the impact on the environment and lowering our carbon footprint.

The future

The ability to be able to know what could possibly go wrong with your vehicles in the short term, as well as being able to do something about it before it becomes an even bigger problem at a time when it is most convenient for you, is a great draw for telematics today. But in the future, fleet telematics could give you even more conveniences and features.

For one, Bradley says that telematics could make Driver Vehicle Inspection Report (DVR) easier to do. The United States Department of Transportation requires drivers of motor carriers and other fleet vehicles to give a written documentation stating the condition of various parts of the vehicle, including the service and parking brakes, lighting devices, horn, windshield wipers, mirrors, tires, among others. The details of the DVR can then be integrated into the data you get from your fleet telematics to create a better view of your vehicle’s conditions as it includes components of your vehicles that may not be tracked by the sensors.

You can also use all that data you get from your telematics to provide some proactive maintenance even before your telematics tell you that something is wrong. You can check out historical trends in your data to see which components are more likely to be needing care. That means you do not have to wait until that fault code goes on, you can have it replaced, repaired or changed just by looking at what happened before. Or you can use all the data you get to do some data analytics for other vehicles of the same model.

Another possible feature in the future is real-time parts ordering based on the failure data. This means, as soon as a fault code comes on, your system will know what parts to order and ensure that it is ready when the vehicle comes in for maintenance.

Lastly, you can use your telematics data to do asset management system work scheduling.

If you are not already using fleet telematics for your preventive maintenance, then start today. Not only will you save money, but you will also be sure that your fleet is more reliable and that your operations are not disrupted as much.

    Frank Pellitta

    Frank has been an expert in the telematics industry for over 15 years. While employed by telematics industry giants – QNX, Cross Country, and Airbiquity, he helped automakers build systems using all aspects of the technology.

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