Despite a spike in the adoption rate of vehicle monitoring technology, U.S. truck fleets are still not using telematics to its full potential, according to a survey released today by fleet management technology provider Teletrac Navman.
Industry investment has soared in recent months, since a 2017 federal mandate required the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs) for many trucks, but in order to gain a full competitive advantage from the data produced by ELDs and the telematics devices that track engine performance, fleets must focus on more sophisticated use of their features, according to Glenview, Ill.-based Teletrac Navman, which provides software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology that supports global positioning system (GPS) tracking solutions.
The company's "Telematics Benchmark Report: U.S. Edition" includes responses from more than 2,400 fleet professionals worldwide, including 1,293 based in the U.S. Respondents span operations in for-hire and private fleets, government agencies, and other fleet operations.
The survey found that 77 percent of fleet professionals are using telematics for vehicle tracking—an all-time high for the technology—but that many users are not applying the full range of benefits.
For example, while 64 percent of fleets are using ELDs to track drivers' hours of service (HOS), 31 percent are still using paper logs, even after the ELD mandate went into effect, the survey shows. The top two benefits that fleets perceive in their use of ELDs are "less risk of compliance violations" (28 percent) and "eliminating manual processes" (20 percent).
In comparison, fleet managers said the top benefit of using telematics was "peace of mind/knowing where vehicles are" (46 percent), followed by "more efficient routing and dispatching" (32 percent), according to survey results.
Despite those benefits, many fleets are declining to use the data for other metrics, such as monitoring speeding (down 18 percent since 2017), harsh braking (down 12 percent), or tracking maintenance needs (down 10 percent). And although 36 percent of respondents said fuel costs are their second largest expense, only 29 percent reported using their telematics solution to monitor fuel usage.
"We're seeing more companies invest in telematics, but unfortunately many are only doing so to check the compliance box, not making the most of the technology to better their businesses," Sid Nair, senior director of transport and compliance at Teletrac Navman, said in a statement. "That's likely due to tech fatigue, especially in the wake of regulations that demanded new technology, like ELDs, but in the long-term it will be a crippling hindrance, as we're already seeing a widening gap between companies leveraging technology to drive fleet profitability and those who are merely reaping the benefits of the current high demand."
Despite the challenges of adopting technologies and meeting regulations, organizations still have the economic optimism to make plans to expand their fleets, the survey showed. Forty-one percent say they plan to upgrade fleet equipment this year, and 37 percent say they're expanding their fleets (up 13 percent from last year).
A shortage of drivers makes that expansion difficult, with more than half of respondents experiencing a talent shortage. But 58 percent say they are coping with the challenge by increasing driver pay, and 36 percent say they are improving benefits to recruit and retain new drivers.