OEM Telematics – The Key Advantages & Disadvantages For Your Fleet

Fleets nowadays are faced with a vast array of challenges, from mounting operational expenses and ever-increasing performance targets to the need to continually improve driver safety whilst also making significant reductions to carbon footprints in line with company ESG objectives.

The answer to many of these problems is telematics software. Having a comprehensive fleet management system in place allows fleets to access multiple touchpoints of data, providing invaluable insights that can make any commercial fleet more productive and profitable.

Ranging from basic GPS vehicle tracking software to fully integrated driver behaviour solutions, fleet telematics systems have come a long way in recent years, and there are now a number of options for fleet managers to choose from. Where the question is a matter of built-in or brought-in, it’s important to understand that there can be significant differences between an embedded OEM telematics platform and an integrated aftermarket solution.

Here, we’ll do a deep dive into the world of OEM telematics and why this may not always be the right fleet management solution to address all the needs of commercial fleets.

What is OEM telematics?

OEM telematics is telematics technology built into vehicles by the original equipment manufacturer, or OEM.

This usually consists of the hardware – the telematics system embedded in the vehicle – and the software – typically a cloud platform that collects and manages the data reported by the hardware.

What is aftermarket telematics?

Aftermarket or third-party telematics is telematics technology that is retrofitted to a vehicle – typically this is manufacturer-agnostic so can be connected to any mix of vehicle types, makes, and models.

This will consist of the hardware, a telematics device that is installed post-purchase by a professional installer, and the software, often a web-based fleet management platform that pulls in data from every vehicle with the hardware installed.

What are the advantages of OEM telematics?

Most new vehicles now come with the option of having telematics hardware already embedded, and for certain fleets, these factory-fitted solutions may be worth consideration, with OEM telematics offering the following advantages:

  • No installation costs or downtime

Where streamlining expenses is a major priority, opting for OEM telematics technology may provide some fleets with the best return on investment, as there are no additional costs in terms of hardware installation or setup. Similarly, if time is of the essence, a solution that is ready to start collecting data the moment the vehicle is driven off the forecourt is likely to be the better option.

  • Access to proprietary data

With OEM telematics, there is the potential for fleets to gain richer data insights as the hardware is fully integrated into the vehicle, providing access to information which may not always be available through third-party solutions, such as true odometer readings and diagnostics data like tyre pressure and fault codes.

  • Easier maintenance scheduling

The incorporation of OEM telematics into a fleet can help to make maintenance planning smarter and more efficient, as managers are able to analyse vehicle data in real-time to assess the servicing requirements, including scheduled reminders and diagnostic alerts. Repairs and maintenance can then often be booked in directly with the OEM through the telematics software platform.

What are the disadvantages of OEM telematics?

There are several key differences between OEM telematics solutions and aftermarket telematics technology, and although the potential savings and lack of downtime may be a bonus for some, there are many reasons why an OEM system is not always up to the job required of it by most commercial fleets. Here’s a look at a few of the most common disadvantages fleets may come across:

  • Not ideal for mixed fleets

The reality for many businesses is that their fleet will consist of a variety of vehicle models and makes, including older vehicles that don’t have integrated capabilities. This puts fleet managers in a difficult position – either they must juggle an endless array of telematics platforms, both OEM and third-party, with limited inter-connectivity as the data is not standardised, or they must begin the time-consuming and expensive process of phasing out older vehicles and different manufacturers to create a homogenous fleet capable of being managed through a single OEM telematics system. Relying on OEM telematics also means fleets are tied to one manufacturer for all future vehicle purchases, which can make procurement difficult. Where aftermarket telematics solutions are concerned, they are totally impartial of OEMs and can provide robust data comparisons and real-life performance insights without any bias.

  • One-size-fits-all approach

Most OEM solutions provide a basic telematics offering, with little flexibility in what data is reported. This can mean fleets are quite restricted in what insights they’re able to glean from their fleet management platform, with limited information available to them and no adjustments for individual business requirements as instead the system only reports on the most typical use case scenarios. The way that these embedded systems capture data can also prove a challenge, as the time-based data reporting can either result in too little relevant information or too much redundant data, leaving fleets with gaps in their records or unnecessary admin. By contrast, aftermarket telematics providers are a lot more flexible when it comes to the data available and also offer seamless integrations with all manner of third-party APIs. This can help to facilitate a cohesive fleet eco-system, with inter-connectivity between fleet management software, accident management providers, leasing companies, and even expense reimbursement specialists, amongst others.

  • Data privacy issues

There are concerns surrounding the protection and ownership of the data collected by OEM telematics, with uncertainty on how this information is collected, stored, and used. This creates the potential for conflicts of interest if OEMs are tapping into fleet data to inform their own services – for example, refusing to repair a vehicle under warranty by citing the driving data as proof that driver behaviour has caused the fault.

  • Not a specialist service

Another point to consider is that OEMs are not telemetry specialists. Whilst they excel at vehicle innovation, telematics software development is not a core competency of the business and as such, fleets may find the service wanting. Regular updates, enhancements, and customisations are less likely to be a part of the package and operational reliability of the telematics system may also not be as closely monitored. As well as this, dedicated customer support may be hard to come by, leaving fleets without the help they need to get the most out of their chosen platform.

In conclusion, it’s clear that whilst OEM telematics might be an easy option for fleets looking for an instant solution with basic data capabilities – such as GPS vehicle tracking – for many commercial fleets an embedded system is simply not going to be able to provide the comprehensive reporting required to succeed in today’s data-driven fleet management landscape.

For those in need of a solution that will save money, minimise risk, curb harmful emissions, and increase productivity whilst cutting out unnecessary admin time, a more advanced aftermarket fleet telematics solution is the answer. This will help fleets avoid the pitfalls of limited data availability and reporting functionality coupled with the difficulty of integrating and maintaining multiple OEM platforms across different vehicle types, due to the lack of effective data aggregation and standardisation.

At Lightfoot, we take fleet telematics to innovative new heights, combining advanced telematics software with driver behaviour in the form of an in-cab driver coaching device and unique rewards app, solutions which are just not available through OEM systems. Our pioneering approach has allowed us to transform fleet performance for our customers, resulting in average savings of 15% in fuel consumption, a 45% reduction in vehicle wear and tear, 15% fewer carbon emissions, a 40% decrease in at-fault accidents, and 15% improvements in EV range.

We’re able to achieve this through gamification and driver engagement, offering drivers a positive working experience compared to the disciplinary approach utilised by traditional telematics providers. The Lightfoot telematics device delivers real-time coaching through nudge psychology, encouraging drivers to travel more efficiently whilst out on the road. Better driving performance is then rewarded with cash prizes, giveaways, and a top spot on the leader board, helping to deliver sustained results in productivity, road safety, and sustainability. That’s why our fleet technology goes beyond standard telematics solutions and comes recommended by all major insurers, and why over 80% of fleets go on to use our tech after completing our free trial.

As well as this, we ensure that every customer has a dedicated account manager who will work with them on an ongoing basis to ensure they get the most out of our telematics platform at every turn. Our hardware connects directly with the vehicle’s engine, meaning that we’re able to provide a wealth of rich, accurate information via our management portal, ensuring that fleets have access to all the data they require day in, day out. Our technology can also be installed alongside and integrate with existing systems, allowing our customers to manage their fleet in one convenient platform. What’s more, we work with a network of professional installation partners who will fit our technology to your vehicles at a time to suit, helping to avoid unnecessary downtime and ensure a smooth rollout with minimal disruption.

So, if you’re ready to move away from factory-fitted telematics offerings and start seeing real results in your fleet, get in contact with the Lightfoot team today to find out more about how we can help.