Photo: Vince Taroc

Photo: Vince Taroc

For commercial fleets, telematics is becoming a well-accepted, go-to solution to improve efficiency and safety. For many public fleets, however, adding telematics may be an uphill climb — seen as an unnecessary budgetary expense with little payoff.

In fact, telematics is worth the expense with benefits for public fleets that include:

  • Lower fuel costs
  • Improved driver and public safety
  • Reduced emissions and carbon footprint
  • Increased efficiency by proving job completion
  • Exoneration of false claims against drivers

While most providers can supply hard data about how well their solution has worked for their clients, it may take more than a report about another city or county’s fleet to convince a wary board of supervisors and taxpayers on the lookout for government waste that the expense is worth it.

Fortunately there is a way to show that a telematics solution is not only worth the expense, but is budget positive — a plus for stakeholders and taxpayers alike.

Piloting: Proving Telematics’ Worth

Most public fleet managers are likely familiar with pilot programs. For example, they may have conducted them when evaluating vehicles, which involved getting a handful of the models and integrating them into day-to-day operations. A telematics pilot follows a similar script.

For a telematics pilot, the solution should be placed on a small, but statistically significant number of vehicles. In most cases, five to 10 vehicles will provide the kind of data necessary to make a suitable evaluation about the solution’s effectiveness. If there are too few vehicles in the pilot, then it will be difficult to know if the data accurately reflects the reality of the fleet’s operations and how it could benefit it.

Typically a pilot lasts three to six months — depending on the fleet’s profile. Longer pilots are typically run in areas where there are significant changes in the seasons to test the solution in a variety of weather conditions. Having a larger pilot (5-10 vehicles) will also allow you to place the solution on vehicles across the fleet. You should avoid just placing the solution on your most utilized vehicles or on vehicles driven by your consistently best-performing drivers — it may be useful to include these vehicles and drivers, but spreading the solution across the entire gamut of vehicles and drivers will give you a better picture about the solution’s effectiveness. Setting specific, measurable goals, e.g., monitoring idling or labor costs, during the pre-defined pilot duration is crucial for a meaningful, successful pilot. Without set goals, it will be impossible to determine if a particular solution or even telematics as a concept is right for your fleet.

The pilot will likely identify areas that have potential for ROI and areas of improvement — which will always result in budget positive savings. That being said, when these areas of improvement are identified, your organization needs to be willing to act to take advantage of these potential savings — if it isn’t, this could be a stumbling block in successfully adopting a telematics solution.

Making a Decision

Ultimately, the goal of any pilot — including one evaluating a telematics solution — is to determine if the solution is the right fit for the fleet.

Among the most important ways to measure this is consistency — whether it’s fuel or mileage — the parameters should be kept consistent throughout the pilot.

But picking the right solution isn’t just about measuring variables that can be monetized, but also that the provider can support the fleet throughout the pilot and beyond.

For example, GPS Insight offers tailored telematics solutions for public fleets. In addition to a user-friendly interface, we also offer government customers a dedicated account manager, who supports the fleet and serves as a resource for consultation and goal tracking.

The most powerful outcome of a pilot for a fleet manager who needs to convince stakeholders that a fleet-wide telematics solution is a win-win proposition is data specific to the fleet, including areas where money can be saved and how — during the pilot period — real budget-positive changes were made to improve efficiency and the ability to serve the public.

No matter the particular situation — and even if you’ve had experience with telematics — a pilot is the most cost-effective way to make the right, long-term decision for your fleet.