By Ed Pierce, Contributing Editor
The recent announcement of a newly-formed partnership between Wheels and GM’s OnStar Business Solutions promises to deliver a wide array of vehicle information with significant safety and operational benefits to the partners’ fleet customers. OnStar-embedded hardware is available across most of the automaker’s vehicle lineup.
Wheels senior product manager Sara Sweeney provided Fleet Management Weekly with an in-depth look at the benefits of the partnership for fleets: “Access to the OnStar data can help our customers tackle today’s important business concerns. First, they can improve driver behavior and safety. Next, they can enhance fleet operational efficiency and customer service. Finally, they can gain insight into fleet electrification strategies,” says Sweeney.
OnStar-connected data coming directly from the vehicle includes vehicle location, trip information, maintenance status, risk, or driver behavior indicators. Driving events, seatbelt usage, and speed are examples of the safety behavioral data points. There is also data collected on vehicle idling and hours driven. This data provides greater insight into how the vehicle is being used and how well it meets the driver and the company’s needs.
Increased Safety Data
While Wheels’ already offers a robust driver safety program comprising MVR monitoring and points program, safety training, and driver performance assessment, this new data stream gives the FMC and its customers an enhanced ability to track driver behavior, address bad behavior, and remediate high-risk drivers. Its customers now have even more assurance of being able to lessen risk exposure while increasing driver safety.
Notes Sweeney, “We already pull driver performance data into an overall driver scorecard that we blend in with some of the lagging indicators that we know to provide ongoing reporting. The OnStar data will add more data points, permit deeper analyses, and provide each driver’s best possible picture.
“From a driver perspective, we want to put everything into our driver app so that there is one central place to go for reporting mileage, finding the nearest repair facility, showing their insurance card, or monitoring risk. Including OnStar data, it’s all available on our driver mobile app.
OnStar Operational Opportunities
From an operational standpoint, Wheels can help its customers determine vehicle usage patterns with the additional data that can lead to informed decisions about route optimization and re-distributing vehicles that add to operational efficiency and customer service levels. Likewise, the same data helps in right-sizing the fleet, a timely issue as companies adapt to today’s economic realities.
“Access to vehicle diagnostic data around engine oil life, tire pressure, battery voltage, and so on is especially useful in determining the health of fleet pool vehicles, says Sweeney. “Pool vehicles must be well-maintained despite not having a full-time, assigned driver. Access to OnStar data can help reduce unplanned downtime by getting the vehicle in for repair when it’s needed.”
Sweeney sees a key differentiator for fleets using OnStar: “Being able to collect data directly from the vehicle helps reduce the administration that many fleet managers face keeping third-party devices connected and communicating. The integrated OnStar program improves efficiencies in managing a connected vehicle program. There are many wonderful plug-in options today that offer great information and reporting tools. Yet, they can only work with the full acceptance and cooperation of the driver.
“OnStar has been around since 1996 and is familiar to drivers. We have been asked many times by fleet customers through the years, ‘Why can’t you just get the data from the vehicle?’ Now we can! Even better for our GM customers, the OnStar solution is retroactive to the 2015 model year. Because there is no installation cost or process, just activation, the benefits of access to OnStar data can be realized right away.”
Fleet Electrification Planning
“For clients who are moving towards electrifying their fleet, the OnStar information is critical in making sure that you can correlate the vehicle application with the right range and the right charging options for an electrified replacement, explains Sweeney. “Because if you just use averages, which is what most fleets have to do without telematics, you don’t know if a vehicle is driving a single 200-mile trip a day, or 200 one-mile trips!”
The Wheels-OnStar partnership for connected vehicles is just one of the new programs and opportunities that the FMC is working on for its customers.
“We know at the end of the day, we must keep our valued customers happy and successful in their positions,” says Sweeney. “Technology, mobility, and sustainability are areas of focus that will move the fleet industry forward.
“I think Wheels has taken a unique approach into how we work on creating and developing new products and services for fleet managers and drivers. Our main source of feedback is from our end users. We are listening to each of our constituencies between our client steering council, client and prospect meetings, web analytics, and driver surveys. As a result, fleets can expect Wheels to deliver new and innovative fleet services continuously.”