Telematics: the little Black Box revolutionising fleet tracking

What if there was a way to make fuel savings of up to 15%, reduce vehicle damage and maintenance costs, improve safety, and cut insurance premiums on your fleet cars? Any fleet manager would want to find out more, and an increasing number are discovering and using a new technology, called telematics, that is delivering these extraordinary benefits.


Covase will soon be offering telematics as an option on all of their vehicles. Simon Homer, Covase Director, said, “This is an exciting new development. The potential benefits from telematics are enormous. It’s the way the industry is going. In a few years almost every fleet vehicle, whether it’s a van or a company car will be fitted with telematics as a standard feature.”


The Technology

Telematics is a technology for monitoring the performance of vehicles. The unit is a small black box about the same size and shape as a pack of playing cards; wired into the battery and the engine management system it's then hidden in the chassis. It combines a GPS system with engine diagnostics giving operators access to many kinds of data about a car: where it is, how fast it's travelling, fuel consumption, cornering speeds, acceleration and more. Integrated 3G telecommunications equipment sends data back and forth between the car and a central computer system, which analyses the data and can produce reports on individual driving habits.

Like many automotive technologies, telematics was pioneered in Formula One, where it has been in use since the 1990s, giving engineers in the pits real-time access to data about the car’s performance on the track. More recently it became widespread in commercial vehicles, supplanting the old tachograph system, but it is only in the last two or three years that it has started to be installed in company cars and its adoption is expanding rapidly. Meanwhile the technology continues to evolve.

Why it works

Telematics works because drivers, aware that their driving is being monitored, willtend to drive more carefully and efficiently. You would, wouldn’t you, knowing that your fleet manager receives reports on your car’s performance and how how you’re driving it. IN this way it encourages safer more economical driving. One removals company, which uses telematics, produces a monthly league table of the smoothest driving and gives out bonuses to the best drivers.

Safer driving leads to fewer accidents, lower maintenance costs and more economical fuel use. Data recorded by telematics can also help to counter “cash for crash” insurance scams. Anti-theft tracking is another common feature which is why the telematics unit is hidden in the car’s innards where it cannot easily be found and removed by thieves. All of these benefits are reflected in lower insurance premiums.

The Big Brother Concern

In spite of its extraordinary benefits, telematics is not uncontroversial. It has Big Brother connotations and can encounter resistance from drivers. Simon Homer, of Covase, says “it's an understandable concern. No one wants to think that their private journeys are being spied on. However the system is very flexible and it's important for fleet managers to consult with their drivers and agree on how the system is to be implemented. Monitoring can be turned off at evenings and weekends, for instance.”

However, many fleet managers are reporting that so long as drivers are consulted and their concerns listened to and dealt with they can get used to the idea pretty quickly and often come to appreciate feedback on their driving as well as the savings. When CCTV started to be introduced it was highly controversial but now its almost everywhere and few people even think about it.

Resolving Accident Claims

Covase is partnering with Collision Management Systems (CMS). CMS originally specialised in systems that analysed accident data to support insurance claims. Since then they have developed comprehensive fleet management systems based on telematics. CMS describes their product, Driveguard, as “a turn-key telematics based operational, incident and claims management solution enabling unparalleled pro-active management of your fleet.” and as CMS writes its own software they can produce systems tailored to customers’ requirements. With their expertise in analysing accident claims, CMS’ systems offer more than just reducing operational costs. They have mature technology for analysing collision data which can help to resolve insurance claims from accidents quickly and easily. Any and every insurance claim can be screened for fraud and the data collected by telematics helps to establish the truth about any incident. And their systems can be scaled up to cover a fleet of any size.

Evolving Technology

Telematics continues to develop and new features are on their way. Systems that automatically alert the emergency services in the event of an accident are on their way. Insurance companies are becoming increasingly interested in the technology and may want to encourage standardisation in the technology and car manufacturers are getting interested in offering it as an optional feature on cars straight from the showroom.

However the technology develops, the technology is bound to become more widespread. The trade journal, Fleet News believes that “basic telematics will become a fundamental function of every fleet car within five to ten years”. The benefits are too great to be ignored.


Simon Homer is the Director at Covase, fleet management and vehicle leasing specialists.

Contact Simon for further information at 0345 369 7100 |