The Internet of Things (IoT) is rightly causing a stir amongst businesses as a transformative way of building new business models and driving efficiencies. For fleet managers however the technology is in some ways nothing new: They have been using telematics for vehicle tracking and diagnostics for some time now. What is new is that as IoT has matured and the potential benefits of telematics have multiplied, however, these opportunities will only be realised if businesses win the buy-in of employees and clients to overcome concerns about potential infringement of their privacy.
Telematics and the transformation of fleet management
Let’s start with the opportunities. Telematics has the potential to transform fleet management. With IoT-enabled telematics fleet operators get a better insight into how their assets are being used. This enables them to improve operational efficiencies and reduce costs.
For example, driver behaviour can be monitored to promote safer and more fuel efficient driving styles; an innovation that can help bring down the cost of insurance. Or the data can be used to reduce wear and tear on tyres, engine and transmission to reduce maintenance costs.
The use of big data analytics combined with an ever-growing array of in-vehicle sensors could allow fleet managers to predict issues before they arise and take preventative action. For example, fault codes and diagnostics can be monitored remotely, allowing fleet operators to prevent breakdowns by applying diagnostics based maintenance to maximise the time that the vehicle is available for work.
Meanwhile, understanding exactly where a vehicle is at any given time means routing information can be used to avoid congestion and optimise delivery routes. This in turn reduces operator costs, reduces driver fatigue, and increases customer satisfaction.
Driver privacy must be protected
So there can be no doubt about it: Vehicle telematics offer a clear path for fleet managers to optimise their fleets, enhance efficiencies and deliver new levels of customer services. However, many of the applications involved in IoT-enabled telematics call for the use of employee related data, and this might throw up a barrier to its deployment. If employees feel they’re being spied on, or that their employer doesn’t trust them, telematics may begin to feel to many like an invasion of privacy.
There’s a clear balance that must be struck between the interests of the employee and those of the business. Employees will understand that their managers want to collect data on them to improve performance and operate more safely. However, what if that data also signals behaviours that the employer later uses to reprimand the driver; such as speeding, illegal parking and excessive lunch breaks? Clearly, fleet managers own their fleets, but they don’t necessarily own their drivers’ data.
The privacy challenge can only be addressed if employers carefully consider what information they need to collect and how it will be used. Drivers need to be given a clear data contract showing them what information they are consenting to have gathered on their vehicle and themselves, and signing off on how that information will be used.
The use of telematics should be included as part of driver training, so drivers can clearly see the benefits to them; for example, automated time and distance recording, less stressful routes and better vehicle performance. If drivers can see the upside of telematics, they’re much more likely to consent to their data being used.
As a side note, fleet operators should bear in mind that with the implementation of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation in 2018 any personal data companies process on Europeans will be protected by law. GDPR stipulates that a business must receive unambiguous consent before collecting personal information, and data that identifies drivers directly is considered personal information. Clearly, telematics will in the future be driven by the consent of the employee.
The future of telematics
Vehicle Telematics and other IoT applications have an important role to play in the future of fleet management. As a result of the technology we’ll see more efficient, smoother and cost effective supply chains emerge that improve working conditions for drivers and boost profitability for employers. For telematics to really reach its potential however, it needs to be approached from both a technical and a human perspective. On one hand, fleet managers need to build their IoT ecosystem, connect all areas and leverage analytics effectively. On the other they need to get their employees engaged and on-board with telematics so they can see the benefits of the technology for themselves. The result will be a happier workforce and a more profitable business.
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