Build Your Business: Telematics empowers fleet management

By Dave Adams

Successful fleet management requires a near-clairvoyant ability to predict machine problems. Rental fleet managers, in particular, face challenges because they can’t monitor the daily use of each machine, and operators often don’t take care of a rental as well as they would a machine owned by their boss. However, a telematics system can create complete visibility.

Dave Adams, Volvo
Telematics can keep an eye on machine functions remotely and the data it collects can identify trends that could affect equipment  uptime and ROI, says Dave Adams, product sales manager of Connected Services at Volvo Construction Equipment.

Telematics is much more than it used to be. Telematics can now monitor machine usage, oversee operator behavior, provide remote diagnostics and predict problems before they happen. It offers a significant opportunity for rental centers to improve the way they manage their fleet and bottom line.

Preempt problems
Most recent telematics technologies now offer real-time service alerts that can be dispatched via text message or email to inform the fleet manager of issues at hand, such as out-of-whack coolant levels, oil levels or error codes that need attention. With OEM-level telematics, service alerts are more fine-tuned and will only send a notification when an action is necessary. This eliminates the fleet manager spending time deciding what action to take, if any, when an alert comes in.

If a fleet manager wants to dive deeper, machine-specific use data can help predict the life of wear parts, so planned maintenance can be more accurately scheduled. For instance, excavator-specific data can show a record of which attachments are being used and for how long.

Identify machine misuse
Fleet utilization data can provide monthly reports that give a broad picture of how the fleet is working and can help identify areas of improvement. The reports can identify machine misuse and if operators need training to reduce unnecessary wear.

OEM-managed telematics can identify a history of high speed shifts on wheel loaders, excessive service brake use on articulated haulers, work mode misuse on excavators or overuse of differential lock engagement. By looking at this data, fleet managers can avoid costly repairs from machine misuse.

Skip trips 
Without telematics, a rental fleet manager might get an unexpected call from the renter when a machine is down. The rental fleet manager must make a site visit to diagnose the issue. Not knowing what to expect, he might not know who to bring, what tools or parts will be required, and whether or not a loaner machine will be necessary. After making the trip and diagnosing the issue, a second or even third site visit may be necessary to carry out the service and/or machine swap(s). This equates to increased labor and fuel costs and lost revenue because of customer downtime.

With telematics, the fleet manager can run remote diagnostics to determine the problem and ensure the proper resources are brought to the site in one trip — or perhaps determine a site trip isn’t necessary at all.

Better yet, the fleet manager can use telematics to catch the problem before it arises because of text or email machine alerts, or through case alerts provided through OEM-managed telematics programs that detail the problem, how to fix it and what may happen if it is not corrected.

Sync service schedules
In an ideal world, service intervals would align with periods when the machine is between renters. However, that’s not always feasible. Renters often extend contracts beyond the original length of the agreement, or can put more hours on a machine over a shorter period of time than originally expected. Both scenarios can lead to missed or late service intervals and, ultimately, more wear on the machine.

With telematics, the rental fleet manager has real-time access to machine hours and usage. On a long-term rental, this makes service intervals much more predictable. This predictability is key to ensuring a comparable machine is available for the renter if service is required in the midst of a renter’s contract.

Reform reimbursement
All work is not created equal. A renter using an excavator for two hours of light dirt  trenching per day puts much less stress on the machine than a renter who is
stripping rock at a quarry 12 hours per day. A rental business needs a good sense of the intended use of the machine when developing a rental contract and the associated pricing. Without telematics, however, once the machine leaves the lot, the business doesn’t necessarily have visibility to how the machine is used.

With telematics, the rental fleet manager can use location tracking to determine if the machine is working in an area that would indicate a different use than expected — such as an area known for surface mining or aggregates. Additionally, machine hours and utilization reporting can show exactly how the machine is being used, which hydraulic functions are being engaged and for how long. If the data suggests use outside the agreed-upon terms, there is justification to revise use to those terms.

Cut through the noise
While telematics is a very valuable tool, not all rental business owners or fleet managers have the time to take full advantage of the data gathered from the systems. That’s why some manufacturers offer OEM-managed telematics programs that help cut through the additional work that telematics can create.

Manufacturer programs such as Volvo ActiveCare Direct help filter machine alerts to only what’s important, pairing them with specific action recommendations for the fleet manager. Additionally, monthly fleet reports provide a much more in-depth analysis of the entire fleet, helping to spot machine misuse issues and better plan for service schedules.

Dave Adams is product sales manager of Connected Services at Volvo Construction Equipment.

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