4 Ways Telematics Helps Utility Fleets Solve Problems

Sept. 27, 2022
Utility fleet telematics are not widely used yet, but they’re becoming more popular. Here’s how they help fleets operate more profitably and effectively.

Utility company decision-makers are under ongoing pressure to manage costs, reduce risks and keep operations running smoothly. Utility fleet telematics can help them work toward those otherwise-daunting goals. Telematics helps utility fleets avoid waste, boost security, enhance safety and enjoy other benefits.

Here are some specific ways a telematics platform could be a practical problem-solving tool for a utility provider.

Vehicle Data Can Lead to Fuel Savings

A typical day’s work for a utility provider could range from dealing with a gas emergency to fixing a downed power line, depending on the company’s duties in a community. Such responsibilities can quickly rack up the miles on a vehicle, necessitating more frequent visits to the gas pump.

Motive, a company specializing in telematics and GPS tracking, collected two years of data from more than 800 commercial fleets. All vehicles in the study used Motive’s technology during the investigation. However, researchers wanted to dig deeper to determine what the top-performing fleets did to minimize fuel usage. The outcomes indicated they saw a 13% reduction in fuel consumption by acting on insights provided by the technology platform.

On average, there was also a 79% drop in hard acceleration, a 40% reduction in hard braking and a 20% decrease in idling. That’s because the fleet managers utilizing this technology took advantage of the available driver coaching suggestions.

The study data also confirmed participants paid an average of $3.29 per gallon during the investigation. Thus, they saved an average of $2,530 per vehicle during 2021.

Telematics helps utility fleets curb unnecessary fuel usage and expenditures. Such solutions establish baselines to show whether progress is necessary. Decision-makers can watch how things change over time, seeing whether they’re on the right track or need to make further adjustments to optimize outcomes.

Utility Fleet Telematics Boost Competitiveness and Compliance

Succeeding as a utility company in today’s marketplace means pursuing continual improvement. Compiling data about fleet operations enables decision-makers to move away from gut instinct and guesswork and toward more confident choices that promote resilience.

In one recent example, South African company MiX Telematics signed a five-year contract with Australian utility provider Horizon Power. The utility company’s 130 vehicles will reportedly receive technology that promotes better driver behavior, improved efficiency and enhanced safety.

Such solutions can also help companies avoid fines. Industries like logistics must comply with environmental regulations to reduce emissions. Power companies also typically have a duty to report pollution or face negative consequences. In the United Kingdom, the Environment Agency fined 33 power and energy companies more than £27 million. Those penalties occurred because the companies to blame either underreported their emissions or failed to provide the necessary documentation for a particular year.

In Ontario, Canada, decision-makers associated with the city of Timmins installed telematics equipment on a fleet of 10 diesel-powered vehicles. Telematics helps utility fleets operate more sustainably, and this example shows what’s possible. The chosen solution will reportedly gather data about carbon and nitrogen oxide emissions, plus fuel consumption.

Utilities Can Use Telematics Before Switching to Electric Vehicles

One issue increasingly dealt with by utility company leaders is whether now is the right time to switch to electric vehicles. Many executives recognize EV fleets as more eco-friendly than gas-powered vehicles. However, they know that making the transition requires time and money. Thus, many would appreciate assistance that would help them justify making the change.

Fleet managers typically already know that telematics can improve vehicle tracking and routing. However, they may not realize that the technology can also determine the best time to switch to electric vehicles.

Oxford, England, has the first zero-emissions zone. One of the steps to maintain that status involved using telematics to learn which diesel-powered vehicles were best suited to switch to electric models. Oxford Direct Services operates the city council’s fleet of more than 300 work vans. Together, these vehicles transport crews around the area to perform critical infrastructure maintenance on highways and streets. They also assist with waste management.

Owain Pearce, transport manager at Oxford Direct Services, said his company applies telematics solutions to information in a fleet database. That makes it easier to compare real-world mileage statistics associated with electric and gas-powered vehicles. People can also look at granular details, such as what types of roads the cars traveled on and the percentages of times they were stopped versus moving.

People must use utility fleet telematics data strategically. They’re well-positioned to do that by pinpointing what problems they want to solve. What the Oxford Direct Services team did can inspire other representatives from the sector on how to proceed.

There’s no better time to at least consider switching to electric vehicles. British Gas plans to wholly electrify its fleet by 2025. Purchasing 2,000 electric vans from Vauxhall in 2021 was a significant step toward that aim.

Utility Companies Create Better Maintenance Strategies With Telematics Data

Many residents view utility companies as working in the background, ensuring the infrastructure is in an acceptable condition to keep everything running smoothly. However, utility providers are often the first on the scene after inclement weather or natural disasters, working hard to restore service and maintain safety.

However, these professionals cannot act promptly when required unless their vehicles stay road-worthy. Utility fleet telematics solutions can help that happen.

One water company began using such products as part of an overarching goal to keep employees safe. One of the deployed solutions reduced instances where drivers go over the speed limit. It also lowered fuel usage. However, the water company has also connected its vehicle data to a maintenance program.

Decision-makers worked with a software company to develop a defect-reporting solution that fed the information directly to a company that books vehicles for maintenance. Its deployment sped up the process of getting vehicles serviced. It also helped the company maintain compliance and save money.

Another perk of this solution is that drivers can see when their vehicles are booked for service. When they know fleet managers have taken that all-important action, they’ll feel confident that company executives genuinely care about ensuring the fleet’s functionality and keeping people safe.

It’s Time to Consider Telematics for Utility Fleets

These examples highlight how telematics helps utility fleets improve operations in various compelling ways. There’s no universally best method for using them. However, being open to how utility fleet telematics could get companies closer to goals is an excellent starting point.

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About the Author

Emily Newton

Emily Newton has eight years of creating logistics and supply chain articles under her belt. She loves helping people stay informed about industry trends. Her work in Supply Chain Connect, Global Trade Magazine and Parcel, showcases her ability to identify newsworthy stories. When Emily isn't writing, she enjoys building lego sets with her husband.