In today’s fast-paced world, having the ability to communicate quickly and easily is important. This is especially true in beverage warehouse and distribution operations where time is money and using telematics to track the location, movement, status and behavior of beverage vehicles can help get the most bang for the buck.

To keep drivers safe and prevent them from working long hours, Electronic Logging Devices (ELDs) will have a greater impact on distributors, according to telecommunications’ experts.

Scheduled to go into effect Dec. 18, 2017, the use of ELDs, instead of paper logs, will be mandated by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) as a means of reducing crashes, injuries and fatalities involving large trucks and buses. By using a dedicated ELD in a truck cab, fleet managers will be able to ensure that drivers are adhering to Hours of Service (HOS) rules. Additionally, drivers’ data entry will be fully automated, saving time and eliminating data entry errors while protecting each driver’s privacy, according to distribution experts.

“ELDs will help FMCSA enforce the HOS rules, but they will also generate a whole new source of data that will make managing driving and improving asset utilization easier,” says William Salter, president and chief executive officer of Paragon Software Systems.

The Dallas-based company says that many of its customers already are using data gathered from transportation technology to identify savings or operational improvements.

“The added dimension of utilizing real-time data from vehicle tracking systems enables transportation plans to be adjusted throughout the working day, reallocating resources without affecting service levels,” Salter says. “Truck operators can also use the real-time data to proactively alert customers to any potential delivery delays, and produce more manageable schedules leading to happier drivers.”

Rolling Meadows, Ill.-based Fleetmatics’ Product Marketing Director Todd Ewing expresses similar sentiments: “Distributors can immediately improve real-time dispatching and the quality of ETAs to customers expecting a delivery. They can find out when drivers are behind schedule … and can realize large cost savings around how the fuel is used and opportunities to optimize driver productivity and safety, along with identifying how much time is spent at various customers.”

When it comes to ELDs, Ewing says that distributors crossing state lines and even those who work closely in and beyond the 100-mile radius from the home terminal could be impacted. “If you keep paper logs today, you should strongly review your need for ELD,” he says.

Today, virtually every beverage distributor relies on telematics to remotely send, receive and store information via telecommunication devices, Ewing says.

To aid fleet drivers, Fleetmatics offers its Reveal vehicle tracking product along with its relatively new Work product, which manages the lifecycle of customer and work orders. “We also are growing our presence in the delivery routing space with our Routist offering,” he says.

Yet, the term telematics represents only a small part of what today’s mobile beverage fleets require, according to Raymond Zujus, director of business development for food & beverage at Telogis, Aliso Viejo, Calif.

“The new term is mobile enterprise management (MEM) software that encompasses traditional telematics capabilities (e.g., connect to the truck to pull diagnostics, driver behavior, location, speeding, etc.) plus route visibility, safety, OPEX (operating expense) control, improved customer service, ETAs and much more,” he explains.

Providing significant business benefits, Paragon’s Salter says that its Fleet Controller receives GPS tracking data, ignition status and odometer data from in-vehicle units, and the integration of vehicle tracking and route planning software provides improved customer communication and operational efficiencies. 

“Telematics units record driving-style events, such as harsh braking, over-speeding, excessive idling time … [and] then this data that is interfaced into Fleet Controller can be saved into the Parago SQL reporting database to show trends — and hopefully improvements — week-by-week at the driver level.”

 Experts note that telematics have greatly evolved in recent years. “In the beginning, it was GPS ... dots on a map,” Telogis’ Zujus says. “Then came diagnostics, driving habits, route visibility, but now it’s about connecting and optimizing everything — drivers, trucks, merchandisers, service techs, and even equipment and customers.”

When purchasing telematics solutions, customers should ensure they are working with providers who have quality tracking devices and service programs that offer ongoing support, Fleetmatics’ Ewing notes.

“Real-time order tracking, asset tracking (kegs, pallets), equipment management (vending machines, fountain units) are all things that will impact the future of telematics,” Telogis’ Zujus says.