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Fleet Management and Your Business

What are the implications of telematics? How are they being used today?

Caterpillar commissioned third-party research that discovered 30 percent of equipment owners who have machines with telematics systems don't actually use them. Only 44 percent of those who have telematics rely on the systems to track fuel consumption, and a mere 25 percent use the data to track machine utilization.

Maybe there are a lot of cracker-jack vendors out there supplying infallible fuel-fill data, but it seems unlikely that the time cards submitted by project managers—whose primary responsibility is to build variable projects on fixed budgets—are reporting more accurate daily machine-usage data than an electronic system that records key-on/key-off and engine-speed data directly from the machine's on-board controllers.

A contractor told me recently that when he checked the key-on/key-off records created by the telematics systems on a new, $350,000 excavator on a single day, he found that the machine had run for 20 minutes. When he pulled the project accounting for that day, the field supervisor had marked the machine down as having run eight hours that same day.

It was a single example on a single day, but the company owns two of those $350,000 excavators and is renting two more based on the idea that they're busy making money. They got the idea from the same kind of project records that reported eight hours of work on that one unit on a day when it did no work at all. The company is just beginning to use telematics data to improve equipment operations, so the manager had only a vague idea how often that kind of thing happens. But his instinct tells him that, in a fleet of 130 pieces of off-road equipment, correcting that kind of misinformation could be worth a million dollars.

answer provided by Larry Stewart