ABC Magazine Stories, Bus Industry News, Technology, Telematics

How the Webfleet solution uses telematics to drive operator profit

Bridgestone’s Webfleet provides an advanced solution to track, manage and improve bus fleets, but how can it also increase profits?

In recent years, telematics has proven itself as one of the most important technological requirements for efficient bus and coach operations in Australia. Whether it be measuring coach performance, keeping passengers and fleet operators updated on inner-city buses completing busy routes, or tracking and reporting key performance indicators, telematics has proven itself to be a critical part of running a profitable bus and coach company.

Yet, these traditional benefits of telematics devices are only the tip of the iceberg for systems such as Webfleet.

“Bus and coach is one of the key sectors for Webfleet in Australia,” Webfleet Australia and New Zealand marketing manager Scott Elkington told ABC.

“We provide a full bus fleet management solution, covering bus tracking, performance and operation data capture and AI driver safety and feedback for many of Australia’s largest and smallest bus operators.”

While driver behaviour and safety monitoring have been key pillars of telematics devices installed on Australia’s latest range of buses and coaches, there’s plenty more below the surface that this technology can do.

“Telematics today goes beyond knowing where buses and coaches are,” Elkington says.

“It’s become an integral part of operations, efficiency and profit. It can give you a comprehensive view of more than the status and location of buses.

“Telematics devices give clear insight into usage patterns, bus health, driver behaviour and incidents, maintenance status, logging and much more – you can’t improve what you can’t track.”

Upon spreading this widened scope of telematics capabilities in Australia, Webfleet has one particular benefit in mind for operators. The concept of marginal gains, or the one per cent factor, is all about small improvements that collect and have impactful results.

In Webfleet’s world, it has used the idea of marginal gains to deconstruct every part of bus use and operations, measure how that impacts performance and, by improving it by just one per cent, this process results in a significant performance increase when it’s all put back together.

“This comes to fruition when we start talking about profit margin and operating costs,” Elkington says.

“When you put all of these small improvements together, you can really move the needle on your profit and costs.”

An example of this in real-life is in fuel use for bus and coach operators. Fuel efficiency is influenced by more than just the engine age or type or the bus make – driver behaviours such as excessive revving, engine idling and speeding can all increase fuel consumption and decrease efficiency.

While it might not seem like a lot of fuel lost per each individual journey, correcting these small driver behaviours means these savings quickly stack up day after day and month after month, resulting in an extra few hundred or thousand litres saved.

It may not seem like a huge cost, but if this is then applied to all vehicles in a fleet, it can turn into tens of thousands of dollars saved for companies.

In the telematics and fleet management world, Webfleet is applying this theory to more than just fuel efficiency. Webfleet actively monitors and provides feedback and insight on a whole range of key performance indicators to make marginal gains for operators.

This feedback is all about efficiency, helping bus operators intuitively improve operational performance and reduce their costs.

“Our technology provides AI-driven in-cabin feedback on small behaviours that drivers can make or change to improve bus performance,” Elkington says.

“Webfleet captures this data into the cloud for operators to remotely review, monitor or act on.”

Outside of fleet efficiency, marginal gains can also be applied to bus and coach safety. When it comes to driver safety, it can be a complex situation to manage, as it can be difficult to link a one-off incident reported by passengers to a pattern of dangerous driving.

This is where Webfleet’s tools come to the fore. As an always-connected cloud solution, Webfleet can keep and produce a detailed log of a driver’s behaviour, operation and habits, with scores and metrics able to be devised on how they drive to determine if an incident is really a one-off or part of a wider pattern of behaviour.

On top of that, it can also indicate if corrective action needs to happen to keep both drivers and passengers safe.

Webfleet’s primary data-link device, the LINK 740, features an in-built accelerometer, giving insight into negative driver events like speeding, hard braking and harsh turning. When coupled with any Webfleet driver terminal, it can alert drivers that they are operating recklessly and need to refocus on safety.

“Similarly, our CAM50 AI dashcam can scan and record in-cabin for distractions, such as mobile phone use, helping to immediately stamp out dangerous behaviours and prevent fines,” Elkington says.

A new world of telematics capabilities is being opened in the form of obtaining and reporting on zero-emissions and electric vehicle data. The shift to electric and other zero-emissions models has made KPI data more complex, as EV charging presents new cost variables compared to existing fuel logging measures like depot litres and cost.

Now, it’s all about charge times and on-peak costs, as well as range anxiety, overcharging, excessive downtime due to unoptimised charging behaviour and the dynamic operating range of these new-age vehicles.

“It’s a really interesting space, as electric vehicle are new and we’re already talking about how to optimise their use to further the return on investment,” Elkington says.

“Webfleet did a large study of nearly 100,000 Webfleet-connected commercial EVs across Europe to see how commercial fleets charge. What we saw was that the vast majority of EV charging events occurred during peak-power-price windows, with most vehicles plugging in above 80 per cent remaining charge.

“It’s extremely inefficient and has huge implications on cost, both in money and uptime.”

Through Webfleet, operators can see charging events, energy consumption rates, hot zones for excessive consumption and remaining charge or distance. This information means operators can connect the vehicle cockpit and dashboard to an office screen on a range of vehicles, giving operators complete visibility over its fleet.

Elkington says this opens many doors for operators, but it importantly allows them to see how much energy a bus is forecast to use in a given period, making scheduling charging an easier exercise.

“Webfleet can facilitate optimal charger rotations and scheduling, making it seamless for EV depot management,” Elkington says.

“Webfleet also interfaces with chargers to let operators choose what time to charge a connected bus and for how long to get the perfect energy price. This is but a taste of Webfleet’s telematics capabilities for electric fleets.”

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