Truck telematics set for 2016 take-off

Adoption of truck telematics seems set to take off faster than ever before in 2016, with the UK at the forefront of latest developments. Truck manufacturers and independent telematics system suppliers report unprecedented interest from operators seeking to squeeze as much operational efficiency as possible from their vehicles.

The total annual value of the global commercial vehicle telematics market will grow by no less than 22% year-on-year to US$40 billion this year, according to Statista, a multinational research and statistical analysis firm based in Hamburg, Germany.

British operators are demanding more detailed and sophisticated reporting from telematics systems to maximise fleet efficiencies. Steve Coffin, UK Marketing and Operations Director for South Africa-based MiX Telematics, said: “There’s no doubt that fuel efficiency gains provided by telematics solutions is a given. Progressive operators are now looking beyond fuel savings alone to derive additional value from their telematics systems. Bespoke solutions need to be developed for specific operational issues.”

Truck manufacturers report rapidly accelerating uptake by UK fleets of various in-house telematics systems. Scania trucks have been fitted as standard with telematics hardware since 2011. Now the number of “connected” Scania trucks in service in the UK is put at more than 21,000. MAN Truck & Bus UK has been offering a fleet management system based on Microlise telematics since 2006. The number of MAN trucks in service with active connections to this system is now reckoned to have passed the 10,000 mark. DAF Trucks began offering its own tailor-made versions of Microlise telematics systems when the Euro-VI DAF range was introduced in 2014. Already the number of DAF trucks in the UK with this system activated is put at more than 3,500 and growing fast.

Keen not to miss out on the efficiency gains being delivered by the latest telematics on new trucks, some operators have begun to retrofit refinements such as automated gearchanging software based on satellite and mapping data stored in the vehicle’s on-board computers and/or transmitted to it. Scania, Volvo and Mercedes-Benz were among the first with such systems.

Early last year a similar system was introduced by DAF Trucks for its ZF AS Tronic automated manual gearboxes. A growing number of operators are convinced that systems such as the Mercedes-Benz PPC (Predictive Powertrain Control) really can deliver measurably better fuel economy than even some of their most skilled drivers.

Potter Logistics of Ripon, North Yorkshire, has updated a two-year-old Mercedes Actros three-axle tractor unit by fitting the latest PPC (Predictive Powertrain Control) addition to its Mercedes-Benz Fleetboard telematics system. On the basis of the fuel economy gains measured in the following month, the company expects to recoup the £1,200 cost (including a day’s driver training) in less than four months. Annual fuel and AdBlue savings are expected to exceed £4,300 per truck.
Closer integration of vehicle and driver performance data gathered by telematics systems with other business management computer systems, including routing and scheduling, is expected to gather pace this year.

Hoyer Petrolog runs one of the UK’s biggest fleets of petroleum, bitumen and fuel-oil tankers. It has been using a telematics system from Rainkine Thompson in Cheshire for about eight years, and is now preparing to integrate this more closely with the company’s planning systems. Hoyer is aiming to reach the point where the planning system is updated automatically when a tanker is loaded at a terminal. Then when the load is delivered, the system is again updated automatically and Hoyer’s customer, or perhaps even the customer’s customer, is immediately invoiced, automatically and efficiently.

Hoyer already has such telematics systems in operation in continental Europe. Development of the UK version is said to be at “an advanced stage.”

Truck manufacturers are finding other ways of making effective use of the data gathered by telematics systems. DAF Trucks is now able to analyse vehicle performance trends over a range of operators and tasks.

Phil Moon, DAF Trucks Marketing Manager, said, “Euro-VI DAF vehicles are consistently outperforming similar Euro-V vehicles on fuel economy by between 2% and 7%. Although there are obvious variables between one operation and another, our ability to consolidate the data for so many vehicles and compare those of similar configurations means we can get a good view on how well the latest vehicles are performing.”