There is no better resource than telematics data to help streamline and optimize the transportation industry’s next stage in modernization.
By Charlotte Argue

The evolution of transportation has always focused on achieving greater efficiency. The early turnpikes, stagecoaches and wagon roads gave way to canals, which were outdone by site-wheeler riverboats that were then superseded by railway locomotives to be finally outpaced by the automobile and highway systems. In the same stride, today’s advancements in transportation are focused on improving efficiency to help the sector achieve one of its most imperative goals to date—sustainability. Transportation is one of the most significant contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and, in turn, climate change. While sustainability has not always been associated with efficiency or profitability, the current evolution in technology has made sustainability both environmentally and economically beneficial.

There are numerous actions a fleet manager can take to improve their fuel use and efficiency, from modifying fleet operations, such as routing, to introducing lower carbon fuel and switching to zero emission vehicles. Leveraging telematics can help improve fleet efficiencies on all fronts. For example, Waste Management, Inc., a leading provider of comprehensive waste management environmental services in North America, is working to reduce fleet emissions by 45 percent by 2038, against a 2010 baseline. Through logistical efficiencies, natural gas vehicles and an increased  reliance on renewable fuel, Waste Management has avoided using millions of gallons of diesel fuel per year and incentivized the improved management of existing waste streams. One of the key contributing factors to reducing fuel use was its implementation of logistics solutions and route optimization technology, allowing the company to reach its customers using the shortest route possible. Traveling the shortest route reduced its fuel consumption and associated emissions while also enhancing the quality of its service by limiting delays. With unnecessary mileage eliminated, switching to renewable natural gas, and going electric, where possible, will help Waste Management tackle the remaining emissions. As more businesses address sustainability in their fleets, telematics technology can be leveraged to improve their fuel economy, transition to low-carbon fuels and meet other fleet management goals.

Modifying fleet operations, such as routing, is one of the many ways organizations can improve their fuel usage.

Cutting Fuel Costs with Telematics Solutions
Cutting fuel costs, improving productivity and striving for sustainability requires a multi-faceted approach driven by telematics. Even the most minor of changes by fleet managers can have a cumulative impact on their overall fuel expenditure. Tire maintenance, for instance, is a common culprit of fuel waste and unnecessary carbon emissions; every 1 PSI below a tire’s recommended pressure drops fuel efficiency by 0.2 percent. Completing vehicle upkeep regularly and checking for properly inflated tires will promote greater fuel efficiency. Telematic sensors, in the form of a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), can alert businesses if a vehicle’s tires are not at optimal pressures. Likewise, introducing tire pressure inspection as part of the pre-start checklist will ensure that tires remain at an appropriate pressure.

Another factor, which can lead to better fuel efficiency, is speed monitoring. When a vehicle is driven at a higher speed, it consumes more fuel. By installing telematics devices into fleets, managers can restrict the top speeds to reduce fuel loss. Similarly, telematic sensors, in-cab notifications and regular reporting can prevent aggressive driving, fuel waste, and endangerment of the driver and equipment. Monitoring technology can also inform managers and support necessary corrections if drivers are cutting corners, braking suddenly and driving over the speed limit. Furthermore, telematics devices give businesses a bird’s-eye-view of the typical routes their fleets take, including mileage and miles driven. By observing these factors, managers can determine the most efficient paths and the best drivers per situation, saving fuel and improving timeliness.

More Fleet Management Tools
There is a comprehensive suite of data-capturing telematic tools to help businesses better manage their fleets for fuel efficiency, cost-savings and sustainability. While telematics devices can monitor a driver’s unsafe driving habits and chart routes, some tools can track fuel and EV energy usage. These generated reports summarize fuel consumed, distance traveled and monthly fuel usage, including fuel economy across a chosen period, enabling fleet managers to identify the precise fuel efficiency and performance across the entire fleet or specific vehicles.

Additionally, fleet management software can provide fill-up reports. Devices monitor imported fuel transactions and allow for an investigation into anomalies. Because every fill-up event gets detected and tracked, businesses can identify fuel-related fraud and record fuel usage and transaction data, creating further opportunities to save money, reduce fuel and contribute to sustainability.

An electric vehicle suitability assessment enables companies to determine which vehicles can be replaced with an electric vehicle while still maintaining operations and cutting costs.
Photos courtesy of Geotab.


Electrifying Fleets
Perhaps the most fuel-efficient undertaking is electrifying one’s fleet. Electric vehicles are three to four times more efficient than gasoline vehicles and can also offer a significant reduction in emissions. While some vehicles might be harder to switch today, starting with transitioning the “easy-wins” can help build confidence and experience in fleets and avoid being overwhelmed by thinking the transformation must happen all at once. Companies can complete an electric vehicle suitability assessment (EVSA), which enables them to figure out which vehicles can be replaced with an electric vehicle while still maintaining operations and cutting costs. The fleet-specific data that telematics solutions collect can help businesses run routine assessments to re-evaluate the electrification potential after duty cycle changes, the release of new vehicle models or the announcement of new government incentives. This allows businesses the chance to test the waters, where they are likely to see the biggest success and develop a more comprehensive strategy before any large-scale adoption.

A recent and impressive example of an EVSA included a leading fleet management provider with more than 649,000 vehicles across North America. This fleet management provider leverages an EVSA tool to analyze more than 91,000 of its vehicles, discovering that 13 percent were suitable candidates to be switched with range-capable electric vehicles. Taking action on those vehicles would result in savings of $33 million and the elimination of 194,000 tons of tailpipe CO2 emissions over four years. Yet, the most notable discovery of the assessment was that over the next few years with electric pickups coming to market, nearly half of the fleet could be electrified, with the potential savings equaling $167 million.

To have the most efficient and suitable vehicle for the job, other strategies businesses can leverage include vehicle-task matching and right-sizing. For example, pairing a particular vehicle with the most optimal task can help reduce fuel consumption considerably. For last-mile deliveries, where a vehicle completes a short distance, or does start-stop delivery, using alternative fuel sources like battery-electric or plug-in hybrids will impact fuel consumption extensively.

On the Way to a Greener Future
The pressure to go green will come from governmental entities and increasing expectations from the general public. Moreover, in light of the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland and growing commitments to climate action by nations, sub nations and companies alike, eyes are turning to fleets to contribute to the global sustainability efforts. With mounting pressures and approaching deadlines, there is no better time for businesses to optimize their fleets and move toward zero-emission operations. While internal combustion engine vehicles have served the industry for a century, the history of transportation in America reveals that companies will follow whatever path is most efficient and economical, which happens to mean going green. And there is no better resource than telematics data to help streamline and optimize the transportation industry’s next stage in modernization. | WA

Charlotte Argue is Senior Manager, Fleet Electrification for Geotab and has been a thought leader about accelerating electric vehicles (EVs) adoption since 2009. She helped establish the EV outreach program Emotive and is the BC Chapter Chair for Women of EVs. For more information, e-mail [email protected].