Construction Equipment has been writing about telematics for years, but we starting taking a stand on the technology in November 2010 with an article titled “Telematics Turns the Corner.” Since then, I’ve avidly promoted the benefits of telematics to fleet managers in my blogs and magazine column, The Sutton Report.
It’s been a slow go. Our research shows that three years later, there has been little progress. OEMs and end-users, both frustrated by the lack of buy-in, have launched a joint effort to enable implementation. Most new machines have the black boxes as standard equipment, and the OEs offer free introductory service. Machine technology is set to grab center stage at Conexpo next year as manufacturers prepare to unveil even better packages to monitor machine health, location and performance.
That’s why anyone in charge of managing equipment will soon run up against some sort of telematics decision.
As fleets start to replace their older machines, they will have to decide what to do with any new machines that come telematics-enabled. Which data will you track? What will you do with that data? Will you even turn it on?
Telematics seems to benefit different fleet types in different ways. Homogeneous fleets, those comprised of a single brand, can directly access a wealth of information through the manufacturer. These fleet's decisions will be focused on what to track or monitor, and how to handle the steady stream of data flowing from the manufacturer. Mixed fleets, with two or more brands, have a problem. If those brands come equipped with telematics, fleet managers have a limited opportunity of aggregating the data; the systems don’t communicate in a common language.
Then there are the fleets with machines that are not telematics enabled. No machine data are available without the black boxes that collect and transmit it, and a monitoring strategy for accessing it. Third-party vendors offer turn-key services, if a fleet has decided that data are important to fleet management.
This, I believe, is where the majority of equipment managers find themselves as we head into 2014. The facts about telematics have been widely disseminated; anyone with a mobile phone and a pickup truck knows how GPS and engine monitors operate. No, the key decision for the majority of equipment managers is whether to use machine data in fleet management. For fleets with just a few machines, there may not be any driving motivation to consider it. As fleet size grows, however, the greater the potential benefit in accessing machine data.
Next year, regardless of fleet size, equipment managers must evaluate their machine-management strategies and determine whether machine data can help. Construction markets continue to strengthen, pre-recession machines are reaching the end of useful life and need to be replaced, competition will put more pressure on accurate machine costs to be built into bids. The 2014 environment will be greatly different for the organizations that utilize construction equipment.
The equipment professional must be ready to address telematics, even if it’s to safely tell their senior managers, “No, not yet.” A decision will be required; make it correct for your organization.