27 sep 21

Ford's free telematics product is boosting LCV uptime by 60%

Ford Telematics Essential is eliminating avoidable breakdowns, minimising workshop visits and reducing repair times.

A free-of-charge telematics solution for fleets is already delivering a 60% increase in vehicle uptime, just five months after the service launched.

Ford calculates that one aspect of the service alone, FORDLiive, has saved its commercial vehicle customers over 15,000 potentially lost days of vehicle availability between April and August, thanks to pro-active management based on live vehicle data.

The manufacturer has been factory-fitting its FordPass Connect modems as standard in almost all its vehicles since mid-2019, giving drivers, fleet managers and Ford dealers access to the data and tools required to maximise uptime.

600,000 connected vehicles

“We have now got about 600,000 connected commercial vehicles across Europe with a modem in them, and that really provides an opportunity for fleet customers to harness the benefits that this can bring,” said Dave Phatak, Director, Ford Commercial Solutions Europe (pictured above).

By providing the data and its analysis free of charge, Ford is: “democratising connectivity data, allowing everybody to engage with it and see how data can help them to drive their businesses to thrive,” he added.

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Ford has devised two free versions of its connected solution. The first, FordPass Pro, is aimed at owner-operators and very small fleets, delivering business-focused data, such as location, fuel usage and vehicle health, as well as security features and online service booking.

The second, Ford Telematics Essentials, targets medium and larger fleets giving fleet managers visibility of what their drivers see on the dashboard, such as odometer readings and fuel levels, as well as any warning lights that signal an impending breakdown, such as low levells of AdBlue or oil. These avoidable breakdowns are “intensely irritating” for fleet managers, said Phatak. Ford engineers have estimated that up to 30 per cent of breakdown incidents could be avoided if customers respond to smart maintenance notifications.

“Ford Telematics Essentials launched in June and is very deliberately focused on vehicle health, because that is the biggest area that impacts uptime and productivity,” said Phatak.

The system is live in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK, and gives fleet managers at-a-glance access (via a desktop app) to information such as a vehicle’s mileage, oil life and engine hours, helping fleet managers to schedule preventative maintenance and eliminate unplanned downtime.

Ford has intentionally excluded reports such as vehicle location, mapping and tracking from Essentials because these features involve privacy issues with drivers, which can be a challenge for some fleets.

“We want the widest possible introduction of this product into our customers,” said Phatak. “We have fleets today that are running many thousands of vehicles in this way.”

Importantly, any vehicle health alert signalled by either FordPass Pro or Telematics Essentials passes through Ford’s data ecosystem, to which its dealers (pictured above) have access. This means that if an engine warning light comes on, a dealer can investigate the diagnostic code, identify the solution and pre-order any replacement parts before the vehicle reaches the workshop. The software can recognise more than 4,000 vehicle health alerts.

The process is further enhanced by FORDLiive, a centralised control centre where the manufacturer’s own specialist technicians can access the same vehicle data to assist dealers with more complex repair procedures and accelerate the repair process, minimising downtime.

“We think all of these elements result in fewer avoidable breakdowns, fewer workshop visits because dealers can organise around what they see is coming, and faster repairs when a vehicle does need to go into a workshop. We think it can potentially reduce downtime by up to 60%,” said Phatak.

The first FORDLiive centre opened in March in the UK (pictured above), and further operations are due to open in Valencia to serve customers in Spain, before expanding to cover France, Italy and Portugal; and in Cologne to serve fleets in Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

Vehicle downtime and TCO

The impact of vehicle downtime differs from business to business, ranging from a loss of productivity to fees for replacement vehicles. As a result, downtime rarely figures in established total cost of ownership calculations. Ford’s view, however, has always been that downtime is an essential contributor to the cost of operating a vehicle and “an area where our support for our customers and our interventions can make an enormous difference,” said Phatak.

To maximise all the cost saving benefits of connectivity, Ford also offers Ford Telematics; a paid for, fully-featured product with vehicle uptime at the forefront of its development. Vehicle health checks and recall information are built into the system, which also includes the full suite of options for monitoring driver behaviour (capable of recording incidents of harsh acceleration and braking and excessive speed, and with the potential to deliver instant in-vehicle reminders to drivers to modify higher risk driving styles), while a companion app called Ford Telematics Drive opens an easy communication channel between driver and fleet manager, with drivers able to report any vehicle issues alongside supporting photos.

Multi-brand solution

Aware that many of its fleet customers will operate older Ford models as well as vehicles made by other manufacturers, Ford has also developed a plug-in device that connects these vehicles into the Ford Telematics ecosystem via their OBD ports.

Other customers, however, might simply want comprehensive data from their Ford vehicles to integrate into their own management and telematics systems. To satisfy this demand, Ford Data Services operates as a commercial API business, transforming and normalising data from Ford vehicles and sending it as a clean API to clients such as rental and leasing companies as well as other telematics service providers.

EVs and connectivity

Connectivity is going to become even more important to fleets as they adopt electric vehicles (EVs), with Ford’s new E-Transit showcasing telematics technology that will make the transition as easy as possible. Fleet managers will be able to monitor the performance of individual vans, have a real-time view into the range and state-of-charge of vehicles, and monitor charging. The system is even capable of sending alerts if a vehicle is not plugged in correctly, or is using a faulty charger. And via Ford Telematics, fleets will be able to manage payments for using public charge points within the Ford charging network, as well as the reimbursement of employees who charge their EVs at home.

Ford’s ambition is to deliver 100% operating uptime for its commercial vehicle customers, and there’s little doubt that giving fleet managers instant visibility of the health of each of their connected vehicles has the potential to be a game-changer in the way businesses run and maintain their fleets. 


Images: Ford

Authored by: Jonathan Manning