GPS / Telematics

Best Practices: Using Telematics to Manage Off-Road Equipment

Telematics use can increase efficiency of all fleet units and prevent accidents. Industry experts share best practices in purchasing and using telematics with off-road equipment.

May 2010, Government Fleet - Feature

by Shelley Mika - Also by this author

Telematics, and in particular, GPS units, are growing in popularity among on-road fleet vehicles. With the ability to increase productivity, reduce fuel costs, and prevent theft, more and more fleet managers are making the investment. The notion that these devices can have an equally powerful impact with off-road equipment, however, is less popular. Nevertheless, using telematics with off-road vehicles can yield dramatic results for fleets.

Robert Donat, GPS Insight president, shared the story of one client's success.

"Rio Tinto's Kennecott Copper Mine in Salt Lake City achieved 1,500-percent ROI by using GPS Insight to radically reduce idling, remotely shut off vehicles, automate alerts when off-road vehicles were nearby in order to increase efficiency, as well as improve safety with panic alerts and latitude/longitude sent to emergency crews," he said. "They won an environmental award from the State of Utah for their extreme reduction of greenhouse gases in 2009," said Donat.

Telematics have the potential to increase the efficiency of all fleet units and prevent accidents or even disasters. As such, industry experts shared best practices when it comes to purchasing and using telematics with off-road equipment.

Prioritize Needs

When purchasing telematics devices for off-road equipment   or even when evaluating an existing program and developing best practices the first question fleet managers need to ask is, "What results do I want to achieve?" No single solution fits every need, so fleet managers must weigh price against a number of available options, then prioritize what they want to ­accomplish with a telematics program.

"First, they need to determine what they want to accomplish," said John Moscatelli, director of AT&T's Transportation/AVL Industry Solutions Practice. "Is it simple theft and unauthorized use protection or do they want full engine diagnostics and ­detailed custom reports?"

Some fleets may be concerned with using GPS units only to locate high-priced equipment. Others may want to install more complicated sensors that help determine hours of use for specialized parts such as buckets, plows, and spreaders. Still others may want to control equipment ­remotely through remote shut-off.

GPS Insight's Donat said major trade-offs include:

  • Price versus network coverage, e.g., cellular versus satellite.
  • Price versus ruggedness, e.g., commodity tracking devices versus ruggedized/weatherproof devices.
  • Price versus functionality, e.g., simple vehicle/asset locations versus diagnostics data and remote control capabilities.

Determining a fleet's exact requirements to managing off-road equipment and avoiding unnecessary purchases will not only save money spent on unused equipment, but also will ensure the fleet uses the equipment it has.

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