How Australian fleet operators can adapt to the end of 3G

From obsolescence to opportunity: Here’s how Australian fleet operators can quickly adapt in the post-3G world.

If you plan on driving a truck along the Eyre Highway in June next year, make sure your telematics solutions are up to date. Because if they rely on 3G technology, they might stop working. 

Unfortunately, this is a hardware issue that providers like Geotab cannot fix with a software update. By next June, Telstra will switch off the 3G signal, with other operators following suit soon after. Any device that isn’t running on 4G LTE or higher will no longer work.

With three million active IoT devices still operating on 3G in Australia as of February, many businesses need to upgrade now. This might seem like a hassle, but it’s also an opportunity. New telematics can boost efficiency, drive down maintenance costs and improve safety outcomes.   

This could be particularly important in Western Australia, where the rail network is limited, and many rural communities are almost entirely dependent on road freight. The Federal Department of Transport expects road freight to grow 77 per cent between 2020 and 2050. That means more trucks, drivers, and distances travelled on roads in Western Australia, all of which could be more safely and efficiently managed with updated telematics solutions.   

Additionally, the state’s mining industry is the world’s most advanced when it comes to operating autonomous vehicles, which depend heavily on connected devices. Telematics will be essential to the safe and efficient operation of these vehicles.    

The case for a software and hardware upgrade

Australia’s first 3G network launched in 2003, and since then it has helped to accelerate mobile technologies. It is being switched off so that more bandwidth can be dedicated to newer networks. Ultimately, the switchover is good news, because newer networks will empower better telematics. A hardware refresh to 4G and 5G technologies would enable a faster connection. Newer devices offer more processing power, new features, lower latency and better reliability.

To upgrade effectively, fleet managers should take an inventory of their 3G devices, carefully consider their business needs, identify opportunities to upgrade, set a timeline and clearly communicate the plan to drivers and fleet coordinators. With a well-planned programme, they will be able to avoid disruption.

A new generation of telematics will enable more powerful solutions for fleet managers, empowering them to better manage drivers, improve visibility over vehicle location and reduce fuel consumption, resulting in cost savings and better sustainability.

Fleets can reduce idling by up to 30 per cent using Geotab’s live-tracking function for route optimisation. Moreover, it provides valuable insights into drivers’ behaviour and performance on the road. Making positive changes based on this data can lead to a fuel cost reduction of up to four per cent.

Telematics can also give a good overview of each vehicle’s health, helping to schedule predictive maintenance.

Effective overall fleet performance and efficient fuel consumption can help companies to reduce their carbon footprints and work towards achieving net-zero emissions by 2040. So too could the adoption of electric vehicles.

And although the adoption of electric heavy vehicles is only in its infancy in Australia, telematics solutions could support the transition by enabling a direct comparison between EV and conventional vehicle performance, while providing fleet managers more transparency on technical issues such as how temperature can impact range.

Passing the baton

Australia’s move away from 3G services is an industry milestone, and an opportunity for fleet managers. Embracing new telematics will put them in a better position to adopt upcoming advancements, while leveraging insights to drive better decisions. This will set the stage for more efficient, connected and sustainable fleet management in Australia.

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