Fleet management software vs telematics: what’s the difference?

fleet management software
(Image credit: Photo by Ivan Bandura on Unsplash)
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The fleet management industry is worth billions and continues to grow as fleet managers' responsibilities increase and the challenge to control their fleets becomes more complex. Many businesses are looking for fleet management software, GPS fleet tracking, and telematics to help their fleet managers to manage this additional workload, and provide them with more of a strategic input into the organisation.

In this article we look at two of the main parts of fleet management: the specialist software and telematics. As both have many benefits, it can be confusing for fleet managers which technology is most appropriate for their needs. We try to provide the answer, but also acknowledge that for the best results, organisations should aim to use a combination of fleet management software, GPS tracking and telematics.

What is fleet management? 

Fleet management is the organisation and administration involved in coordinating business vehicles. Businesses decide to use fleet management to effectively control the entire lifecycle of the fleet, and this would subsequently allow them to improve efficiency, reduce costs, increase productivity, reduce risks, and ensure compliance with government regulations.

Fleet management can include vehicle tracking, mechanical diagnostics monitoring and driver behaviour analytics. By having a grasp of these three different areas, businesses can control their costs, oversee performance and maintenance, remain competitive in their sector and manage customer demand and expectations.

Fleet management is the overall term which incorporates fleet management software and telematics. Fleet management software is essentially a sophisticated database of information, with data on vehicles purchased, specifications, schedules for maintenance and service history. Other information such as those related to the driver – such as insurance, licences and tax could also be stored within this database.

The database is more sophisticated than a storage vault because organisations can utilise reporting tools, enabling them to set alerts and send emails, if for example the car was in need of a service, or a driver needs to renew their compliance documents. In addition, the software can integrate with third-party systems so that companies can make use of the data at their disposal; they can get a better understanding of their fleet and make decisions based on this.

What is telematics? 

Telematics usually comprises black boxes installed inside a vehicle which track its location, performance and also give the fleet manager an idea of how the driver is driving. For instance, it can tell them if a driver is accelerating too much or braking hard, resulting in addition fuel costs. 

Operational data collected by telematics systems include: vehicle speed, miles per gallon, fuel consumption, weight of load, gear, braking intensity and driving style. In addition, some telematics systems can inform the fleet manager if the ignition is on, if a vehicle’s doors are open and if the panic alarm has been activated.  The data is sent to the company’s servers directly, or to a vendor’s server, which an organisation has access to.

A fleet manager’s responsibilities and goals 

Fleet managers may have different tasks depending on the size of their business, but their responsibilities can include keeping track of fuel consumption and associated costs, managing drivers, health, safety and compliance, route planning, and vehicle acquisition and maintenance.

The main responsibility is to monitor and improve the way the fleet operates.

Managers have had to deal with huge changes within the industry including driver shortages, the emergence of connected, electric and autonomous cars, new legislation and standards constantly being updated, data tools becoming more advanced, and the impact of COVID-19 meaning they need to monitor vehicles remotely.  

The role of a fleet manager is changing in line with advancements in technology. With that, there will be more that they have to manage as time goes on including asset management, environmental and sustainable initiatives, mobility management and keeping track of all of this new data coming at them.

A lot of the fleet manager’s tasks are time consuming, and it is for this reason they may require additional support through software, telematics and other resources.

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Fleet management and Telematics: Features comparison
Fleet management softwareTelematics and GPS Tracking
Service schedulingRecord and deliver vehicle location data to help with billing and timestamps
Maintenance historyCall centre dispatching
Vehicle specifications and parts historyDriver behaviour data – average speeds, braking, cornering – to ensure vehicles are not mishandled
Expenses reporting (fuel receipts, invoices for repairs)Route planning
Document storageTrack and report on engine hours and miles to help with maintenance schedules
Vehicle acquisition and orderingFuel consumption in real-time
Fleet policy documentsOdometer readings
Compliance data on insurance, tax and licencesVehicle faults in real-time
Operating costsGeofence alerts enable notifications within predetermined areas – this can help to monitor when a driver has arrived at and departed from a location
Driver data including contact medical and licence informationRow 9 - Cell 1

How can fleet management software and telematics work together?

While some organisations may decide to use either fleet management software or telematics, there are a number of benefits of using the two technologies together.

Integrating the two systems allows for organisations to benefit in a number of ways:

  1. Improve the way routes are planned and tracked, and then adjusted for future
  2. Ability to log faults with the car to ensure repairs are made more swiftly and ultimately helping to improve maintenance
  3. Real-time alerts and notifications to drivers if they are misusing a vehicle, thereby preventing future additional costs for repairs and damage
  4. Ability to understand driver behaviour in relation to previous history, their licence, their working shifts and other data
  5. Level of safety is improved as drivers are aware that their conduct is being monitored and that this behaviour is stored
  6. Better understanding and ability to change fuel consumption and associated costs – telematics monitoring of acceleration and braking can be used to tell a driver to slow down and stop idling. In addition, fleet managers can ask drivers to adjust their routes to avoid routes where fuel consumption is high, and also ensure they’re directed to favoured (and cheaper) fuel merchants.
  7. Improved accuracy of data – telematics data would help to cut out redundant entries in fleet management databases
  8. Using telematics and fleet management software in unison can help organisations to reduce investment and operating costs in areas such as leasing, accounting and IT.
  9. Simplification of the way drivers are managed in the field with an application to communicate with them through messages and orders. In addition, vehicles can feed back updates in regards to the order and the estimated time of arrival.

So what should my business invest in?

There are advantages to both fleet management software and telematics, but for comprehensive fleet management, the integration of both can give fleet managers a real edge. 

The use of both technologies can help in a number of industries, including local government, oil and gas, service and repairs, emergency services, construction and distribution. By ensuring that two solutions work together, fleet managers can achieve their goals and fulfil their responsibilities.

Further reading