18th November 2020

The complete guide to trailer telematics

Telematics are a growing trend helping a range of industries to improve their operations. From more efficient journeys to reduced fuel consumption, cargo tracking to more productive fleet managers, find below everything you need to know about trailer and commercial vehicle telematics.

What is telematics?

Combining tele from ‘telecommunication’ and matics from ‘informatics’, telematics refers to the technology used to transmit, store and monitor information over long distances.

While telematics is relevant to a range of industries, it is commonly integrated into vehicles – whether that’s a single vehicle or an entire fleet. The same technology is used in telematics insurance: the telematics box – a.k.a. the ‘black box’ – monitors driving habits and allows insurance providers to adjust your premium based on how well you drive.

The information derived from vehicles can include location, vehicle activity, engine diagnostics and driver behaviour. This can then be used to help fleet operators manage their vehicle better to improve efficiency within their operations. 

What technology do vehicle telematics use?

Whether it’s car, trailer or truck telematics, the technology used in fleet telematics involves Global Positioning System (GPS), sensors and vehicle engine data.

  • Using GPS, fleet managers are able to have live visibility on vehicle location, movement and speed using geofencing.
  • With car, trailer or truck sensors, managers can track driver behaviours – such as dangerous driving (fast turns, harsh acceleration, frequent sharp stops) and seemingly more trivial actions (doors opening, vehicle temperature).
  • Vehicle engine data can be used for fuel efficiency and vehicle odometer readings, and if useful for maintenance solutions.
The data is stored in telematics devices, which are installed in the vehicles, and then transmitted via private cellular networks to host servers. This data can then be transferred to vehicle management software to simplify data visualisations and help optimise operations.


What is trailer telematics?

Trailer telematics specifically refers to the tracking of heavy good vehicles (HGVs) and trailers – included articulated trailers attached to lorries. Although the technology is the same, the information collected from trailer telematics can vary to the data derived from cars.

Trailer telematics is often used to reducing cargo theft, track shipments in real-time, and avoid shipments from getting lost, as well as improve the efficiency of operations. They can also be used alongside or integrated with tachographs, which are mandatory in the EU for monitoring driving hours.

Vehicle tracking

Using a vehicle tracking system with GPS, fleet managers can have eyes on their vehicles at all times. This helps to improve the efficiency of operations – managers no longer have to spend time ringing people to find the location of their trailer once it has left the depot.

This information can also be used to ensure the vehicles are being used only for their intended tasks and travelling the intended routes.

Container tracking

With trailers being regularly used to transport cargo, it’s crucial to have a good understanding of the location of the goods. Container tracking allows fleet managers to know the whereabouts of the cargo at all times, ensuring nothing is lost or stolen.

This can also improve user experience for those at the receiving end – they can be updated with the location of their goods and receive accurate delivery times.

Fleet management

With information on the location of the vehicle and the speed they’re travelling at, fleet managers can better organise their vehicles. Scheduling becomes easier, and vehicles can be cycled back into operations faster – creating more efficient and productive performance.

Fleet managers can plan routes for their drivers, helping them make their journeys in good time and reduce fuel consumption – which is better for the environment and is cost-effective. They can also better organise times and locations for vehicle maintenance, once again ensuring operations are as efficient as possible.

Pros

  • Improved efficiency
  • Greater productivity
  • Cost-effective
  • Better for the environment
  • Higher security
  • Effective communication.
Intelligent telematics can improve efficiency, productivity, security and communication. A telematics fleet will likely run faster and cheaper, with telematics known to reduce fuel consumption and costs, and help drivers make their journeys in the most efficient ways. Efficiency is also improved in the management end of operations, with fleet managers able to best make use of their own time.

Cons

  • Different requirements for different vehicles
  • Interchanging trailers
  • Potential network issues
  • Exposed to the elements
  • Concerns from truck drivers.
Trailer telematics faces its own unique challenges. For example, different types of trailer will require different types of technology – from the sensors to the engine diagnostics. Also, the trailer aspect of the vehicle is interchangeable, and may often not be used in operations for long periods – leaving the technology sitting dormant.

The nature of the trailer industry means that vehicles are often crossing international borders, which can add a complication to fleet management if there are issues with network connections. Plus, with the additional aspect of changing weather in different countries to consider, the technology used to collect the data must be powerful enough to transmit data from further away and be able to stand against harsh conditions.

Lastly, if overused, telematics can cause friction between managers and truck drivers if they feel they are being watched. There should be clear policies in place around how the data will be used 

Ultimately, despite the slightly more difficult conditions that are associated with managing trailers, vehicle telematics can provide great improvement to your operations. 

Learn more about optimising fleet management in our guide to HGV dash cams.

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