23. Mar 2021 | By Tim Ruhoff

The word telematics is the fusion of telecommunications and information technology. In the automotive sector, it is used to collect and evaluate data about the vehicle. This data is used to optimize processes. The use of vehicle telematics is possible in both trucks and cars.

Fleet management - managing your fleet can be this easy

Managing a fleet of vehicles that are constantly on the road is a major challenge for anyone in charge. Added to this are the administrative requirements such as keeping a logbook or managing car sharing bookings. In order to keep track of all these issues, vehicle telematics can be a great support. The variety of its application possibilities is constantly growing. In the following, the topic of telematics and its numerous possible applications are presented.

How does telematics work?

Telematics works by means of technical devices that can send, receive and store data. Furthermore, it can be used to control remote objects. This principle is used, for example, in navigation systems. Global Positioning System (GPS) technology makes it possible to determine the current location and communicate with vehicles. From the media, the black box is known, which is evaluated after airplane accidents. These flight data recorders record important parameters such as flight altitude or flight speed, which can provide information on the cause of the accident.

Possible applications in the automotive sector

Telematics is not only used in air traffic, but is also of interest for vehicle traffic on the road. Similar to airplanes, data about driving style, speed or driving time can be collected and later evaluated. A telematics system consists of an on-board transmitter, the so-called "telematics box", which is usually a GPS module. Furthermore, a data interface is needed to connect the box to the vehicle. This can be done via the cigarette lighter or an OBD plug. The OBD interface is an integrated vehicle diagnostic system with which electronic systems are monitored and emission-relevant systems are controlled. Furthermore, a local system is required as a third component, to which the data is transmitted.

Use of fleet telematics in commercial vehicle operation

In commercial vehicle operations, fleet telematics is used in the area of fleet management. Fleet telematics systems can be used to collect information about the vehicle, such as its location. Using GPS tracking and other wireless communication means, information can be transmitted from the computerized systems. This information can be used for fleet management, GPS navigation, remote diagnostics or roadside assistance, among other things.

The fleet management software gets its data from the telematics box, which is connected to the car via an OBD connector. If the car does not have an OBD interface, there are also boxes that are installed via the battery. The way it works is the same in both cases. The vehicle data, such as mileage or route history, is transmitted to the fleet software and can be further processed with it. Depending on the type of fleet software used, vehicles can be located, route documentation can be created or cost analyses can be carried out. Fleet operators can also use fleet software to manage master data or vehicle bookings. With the help of telematics, the collected data can also be used to avoid empty runs and idle times or to avoid violating driving and rest times. Since contact can be made with the drivers at any time, current changes to plans and routes can be made directly to ensure efficient use of the vehicles.

Furthermore, the current location of the vehicles can be determined by GPS. In this way, it is possible to meet delivery deadlines for customers or to inform them in good time about delivery delays. This increases customer satisfaction.

Vehicle tracking is not only interesting for deployment planning, but also as theft protection. In case of deviations from the planned route, the company is informed accordingly and can react.

Use of vehicle telematics for company cars

Data from vehicle telematics is not only of interest for fleet management. Especially for the area of company car use and the associated taxation of the company car, it can be a good support. Employees who use their company car for both business and private purposes can choose the tax option of paying tax only on private journeys. This requires keeping a logbook in order to claim the tax reduction from the tax office. A manually kept logbook is insecure, as the company car owner can also unintentionally forget to note down journeys. The electronic variant therefore offers enormous relief. Its use is a good option for both private users and fleets.

Use of a driver's logbook software

If a logbook is to be kept electronically, it is also necessary to install a telematics box in the vehicle. The necessary data can be collected via GPS technology in combination with a chip card. When the ignition is switched on, the time, date, mileage and geographical data are stored on the chip card via GPS from the start of the journey. In the case of a private journey, only the kilometres driven and the date are recorded. When the vehicle is parked, the recording ends automatically. The chip card can be read out at a card reader and the data can be transferred to a driver's logbook software. In order to classify which journeys are business-related and which journeys are private, a categorisation is made. Before the trip, the driver must activate the setting in the box that this trip with the company car is a private trip. If the driver does not make this setting, the trip is automatically saved as a company trip. Despite all the advantages of the automatic driver's logbook, it is difficult to make subsequent changes. Changes also entail the risk that, in the worst case, the driver's logbook will not be recognised by the tax office. Therefore, great care is required when using a driver's logbook software. This care must also be taken when storing the data. If the vehicle data is not read out regularly or the chip card is lost, the tax office can also cause problems and not recognise the driver's logbook. According to the principles for the proper keeping and storage of records in electronic form, the data must be stored for up to ten years and must be retrievable by the tax office.

For all those who do not want to install a box in their vehicle, there is also an alternative. Using an OBD plug and an app on the smartphone or a web version, data for the logbook can also be collected and transferred to the software. The advantage is that there are no installation costs when using an OBD plug, but the box itself can be installed in the car.

Corporate CarSharing Software

The opposite of a company car is Corporate CarSharing. Corporate CarSharing provides company vehicles that are not permanently assigned to an employee. The administrative effort for such pool vehicles should not be underestimated. From reservations to driver's license checks to vehicle issuance, the process can quickly become complex. Corporate CarSharing software can save the company time and money here. Through corporate CarSharing software, it is not only possible to reserve vehicles. They also include other useful functions such as key locker systems or the creation of reports. In this way, the number of pool vehicles can be adjusted to ensure optimal utilisation. At the same time, reporting allows costs to be controlled and allocated to cost centres. Since a system is always active, Corporate CarSharing software offers the possibility to make short-term bookings or rebookings if the borrowed vehicle is not returned on time.

The future of telematics

So far, telematics is used for GPS, mobile data networks or Wi-Fi. In the future, other technologies will be developed to improve communication between the vehicle and the user. The range of onboard services in the vehicle is constantly growing. Through fast wireless networks, it is now also possible for the user to perform firmware updates for the vehicles themselves instead of having to visit the workshop.

Especially for companies, the use of vehicle telematics can become a real competitive advantage. By means of telematics systems, company processes can be examined and optimized. For example, a freight forwarder can analyse how much time the trucks spend idling. As a measure, routes can then be optimized to save time and fuel.

The topic will become more important in the future, as the benefits of digitization and monitoring of data outweigh the disadvantages.