Originally published in Deals on Wheels Issue 491
The idea of telematics – where systems gather heavy vehicle data like location, driver behaviour, engine diagnostics and vehicle activity to help fleet operators manage their resources – has been around since the late 1970s.
In practical terms, it took off with the rapid expansion of the internet from the mid-‘90s and has been widely adopted over the last decade.
NatRoad has partnered with Teletrac Navman to promote the adoption of telematics by members across Australia.
You have heard of the “Internet of Things”? It’s a term for any technology that turns an everyday object into something that measures and transmits data.
Welcome to the “Internet of Things that Move”.
Now, geeks will put a label on anything these days. They’re really talking about location tracking and driver and equipment operator monitoring, including engine and driver hours, all working together.
There is no doubt that telematics data can improve safety, efficiency and productivity.
It can reduce fuel costs (through things like route planning), warn managers about mechanical faults and make preventative maintenance simpler.
Its where its potential use of telematics by regulators and enforcement authorities is discussed that we get into vigorous debate.
In a recent submission to the regulator, NatRoad said the recent growth of the national land freight task, labour shortages and significant weather events all present significant challenges to the industry.
The widespread adoption of telematics will make it easier to deal with them.
But any adoption of technology needs to be done transparently, with the consent of all involved and with ongoing acceptance.
Contrary to what some may think, our industry is not resistant to change.
It’s regulations that are poorly considered, cost a lot to comply with or have unintended consequences that raise the hackles.
Plenty of operators have embraced telematics and are using the technology to improve their business operations.
Once you bring government agencies into the mix, however, fundamental trust issues arise.
Our industry generally accepts the need for standards and for poor operators to be dealt with, but the punishment must always fit the crime.
Too many drivers have fallen foul of a cop or technical inspector who’s having a bad day, or who has an axe to grind.
Let’s be realistic. We live in a society where things that we took for granted a few years ago are now powered by digital technology.
Data is King.
There’s a clear push towards a national system of access approvals where operators will be cleared to operate over specific freight routes, as is already the case in Tasmania.
Data will inevitably be a huge part of that system.
Some will view that with suspicion and question its potential use. Those concerns are understandable.
So let’s get the rules right from the outset and be up-front about them.
There’s a lot at stake and some hefty upsides if we get the system right.