What is telematics?

Smartrak explainer: Telematics 101

If you’ve had anything to do with fleet management in the last 10-15 years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard the term telematics thrown around. But unless you live and breathe technology, there’s a chance you might not realise exactly what telematics is and how it might benefit you and your fleet.

Perhaps you’ve been in fleet management for a while, and you’re looking to discover how your fleet is really performing. You know that telematics can provide you data and insights. You’ve got a hunch that some of your vehicles aren’t being fully utilised, but you lack the data or don’t know how to collect it efficiently.

Or maybe you’ve got a new hire who won’t stop talking about telematics. They’ve told you countless times how it can revolutionise the way you manage your fleet. No amount of deflection or distraction will make them stop, so you’ve jumped online to do some research of your own.

At Smartrak, we live and breathe telematics and GPS solutions. Our vision is to empower people with the insights these technologies provide. We understand that data is an integral part of managing a successful fleet. In fact, our data regularly enables our clients to reduce their fleet size by 10% while improving asset utilisation. These are the insights that telematics and the data it reveals can provide.

So, what exactly is telematics? We’re excited you asked.

Read on to learn:

  • What telematics is
  • How telematics works
  • Why you should be using telematics
  • How telematics and fleet management combine
  • About fleet telematics solutions

What is telematics?

Telematics is actually a multi-disciplinary field. It combines telecommunications, transport, road safety, engineering, and computer science. This means that it has the potential to solve many different problems in the arenas of fleet management and transportation.

Put simply, telematics is the utilisation of various technologies that collect data on the operation of your fleet and assets.

This data gives you the ability to analyse the performance of your fleet:

  • Are certain drivers causing unnecessary wear and tear on vehicles?
  • Which of the vehicles in your fleet are being underutilised?
  • Which vehicles are being overutilised? Can that information guide your next vehicle acquisition?
  • Are you using the right vehicles for the right tasks

You can answer all these questions (and more) through a telematics solution.

Perhaps you’re already tracking some of this information in a spreadsheet. However, as your fleet grows, manually tracking fleet data becomes more and more of a time sink. Plus, there’s always the risk of errors when manually entering data.

A telematics solution takes the hassle of manual fleet management and opens the door to many more insights that you probably haven’t yet considered.

How telematics works

So now you understand what is, you’re probably wondering how it actually works.

Telematics solutions work through a combination of GPS technology and specialist software. However, implementing telematics isn’t as simple as installing Google Maps on your employee’s smartphones.

Instead, a you install a dedicated GPS device into each vehicle in your fleet. These devices offer more accurate tracking capabilities than mobile phones. Some, such as an OBD-II plug into a vehicle’s diagnostic port, and provide a vehicle’s location via a cellular connection. Others, such as an AVL are more comprehensive. On top of tracking location, they report on acceleration, breaking, and odometer readings. AVLs can work on cellular and satellite networks, or a combination of the two. This means that staff can monitor vehicles even in remote locations.

The GPS hardware that’s installed in your fleet is then connected to a fleet management software solution. Ideally this will monitor vehicle location and keep track of important information relevant to fleet managers. This combination of GPS hardware and dedicated fleet software will generate the data and insights that enable fleet managers to make informed decisions about the usage of their fleet.

Why use telematics?

There are many reasons why an organisation might decide to implement a telematics solution. Surprisingly, knowing the exact location of staff isn’t high on that list. Here are the top three drivers behind telematics adoption:

1. Fleet utilisation

A telematics solution can give fleet managers the opportunity to understand how their fleet is actually being utilised. Rather than relying on assumptions, the data can provide fleet managers with the information needed to make changes to their fleet. This improves fleet efficiency, as it is tailored to the unique needs of the organisation.

Meridian Energy had a long-held assumption that their passenger fleet was being used for long-distance trips. However, after analysing trip data, they were surprised to discover that the majority of trips were short distance. Trip data gave them the confidence to introduce electric vehicles into their fleet, which would not have been possible without Smartrak’s telematics solution.

2. Fleet maintenance

If you’ve been involved in fleet management for any period of time, you’ll know how difficult it is to get staff to maintain paper logbooks; in some instances, it’s almost an impossibility!

Telematics can act as a comprehensive tool to track all aspects of fleet maintenance. GPS technology allows fleet managers to track the odometer of individual vehicles. As a result, vehicle maintenance and servicing can be scheduled automatically, whether it is based on the actual distance the vehicle has traveled, or a set period of time.

This is also true for other vehicle milestones, such as registration. This removes the burden on fleet administration staff to remember when to renew each vehicle’s registration. In large fleets, that can be a massive time saver.

3. Tax benefits

Some organisations can apply for tax breaks if the vehicles spend time driving or operating on private roads. Australia taxes fuel automatically at the petrol pump. This tax is based on the assumption that you’re going to be using infrastructure such as roads and highways.

Telematics provides an accurate way to track when your vehicles have travelled off-road. This was the case with Wannon Water. Their fleet spends a large portion of their time travelling off-road. However, they previously had no way to accurately track what percentage of trips were eligible to claim Fuel Tax Credits. As a result, they were constantly under reporting because it wasn’t worth the time and effort to prepare accurate claims. Smartrak was able to use tracking information to provide them with the evidence they needed to make accurate claims.

Wannon Water was able to increase their claims from $500 to $4,000 per month, and as a bonus, were able to use the data to back-date claims for the previous two years.

Telematics and fleet management

Telematics enables easier and more comprehensive fleet management. Whether that’s tracking vehicle locations, gaining a better understanding of fleet utilisation, or using the data to enhance aspects of your organisation. Some Smartrak customers have used the insights generated from our telematics solutions to reduce the size of their fleet by roughly 10%. In Australia, that’s an average of four vehicles in every corporate fleet.

Fleet telematics solutions

Smartrak offers a comprehensive suite of fleet telematics solutions. We have a range of GPS devices, ranging from the plug-and-play OBD-II through to Automatic Vehicle Locators (AVLs). Both of these offers different yet complementary set of features, so a combination of devices might be suitable based upon your organisation’s needs.

All our telematics solutions also integrate into the Smartrak Visual Intelligence Suite, which enables users to easily locate vehicles and access informative GIS layers for additional planning information.


Hopefully, by now the pieces of the telematics puzzle have fallen into place. So, if you’re excited by the possibilities that telematics could offer your organisation get in touch with us below.

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