Why Telematics is Taking off in the Public Sector: Takeaways from the Government Fleet Expo

August 14, 2019

A growing number of cities and counties across the country are adopting telematics into their operations to improve efficiency while advancing safety and innovation, too. At the Government Fleet Expo (GFX)—the largest annual community gathering of public fleets in the United States, now in its 12th year—Samsara spoke with hundreds of fleet professionals about how they’re implementing telematics into their operations.

In one trade show breakout session focused on vehicle tracking, over half of attendees mentioned they had adopted some form of telematics into their operations. Of this half, 38% identified how telematics has improved their routing and dispatch, 44% said it has helped with fleet maintenance, and 22% of users have seen a reduction in accidents.

These rising adoption rates come as no surprise when considering the unique daily challenges the public sector fleet community faces. Not only is the public sector required to provide a number of different services to its community, but it is responsible for doing so efficiently and transparently. Put simply, the public sector is responsible for utilizing taxpayer money as effectively as possible while also overseeing multiple costly operations. Luckily, telematics can provide a framework for the public sector to meet these challenges while staying accountable to their community.

Though attendees at GFX had a number of different reasons for using telematics, three commonalities emerged: fleet visibility, data management, and talent acquisition. By adopting telematics technology, the public sector can address these top priorities so they can better serve their communities.

Advanced visibility into operations

The City of Fort Lauderdale, the largest city in Broward County, Florida, manages a fleet of over 1,700 vehicles that work across multiple city departments. The fleet department is responsible for all vehicle-related needs and works closely with 11 departments to support city services for residents and visitors, including public works, parks and recreation, police, and fire rescue.

It wasn’t until the City of Fort Lauderdale started using telematics that it was able to really understand the ins-and-outs of its operations. “Awareness was our biggest challenge—we just didn’t know what was happening,” said Sandy Leonard, the City’s Program Manager for Fleet Services. “We have that visibility now with telematics and we’re able to change behavior. This is huge.”

Understanding how all the operations moving parts are working together is particularly important to the public sector—an industry that is highly scrutinized to cut down costs while remaining efficient by necessity. And since the public sector often includes fleets of vehicles in various locations serving very different purposes, it can be especially difficult for fleet managers to keep track of everything that’s going on. Among the public sector attendees at GFX using telematics, the majority found increased visibility into operations to be the leading benefit.

Telematics helps public fleets not only understand how to optimize operational efficiency, but resolves issues fleet managers might have otherwise never known about. One attendee at the annual conference shared how this additional layer of visibility led him to discover how one employee was simply not completing the job he was assigned to do. "A tax assessor was always completing his assessments much faster than his colleagues," he said. "Upon investigating, the city realized via a door monitor that the assessor was never leaving his vehicle to assess."

Data management

While GFX attendees agreed that the implementation of fleet management software has been useful, they face new challenges in effectively sifting through the troves of data. To combat this influx, attendees noted the importance of finding a telematics system that helps make sense of so much information.

Telematics providers, like Samsara, offer devices that plug directly into a vehicle’s OBD port to capture engine data that informs vehicle health and maintenance programs, while sensor technology captures information to inform safety and fuel savings decisions. This information is captured in a dashboard and viewable in a searchable and user-friendly way that makes the data truly actionable. Certain telematics devices even let fleet managers set alerts to determine the best time to take action on a task. This helps the public sector get valuable insights into important areas including:

  • Fuel management: Keeping costs down is always top of mind for the public sector. And since vehicle idling is a leading contributor to fuel waste, it’s important for public fleets to have a good grasp on how often their vehicles are idling. By tracking vehicle idling time by vehicle and driver, telematics helps fleet managers pinpoint excess fuel use and certain fleet management solutions can even alert fleet managers when an engine is idling over a specified time.

  • Preventative maintenance: With so many different types of vehicles completing various duties at any given time, public fleets can’t simply put all their vehicles on one streamlined maintenance plan. With telematics, fleet managers can create a usage-based maintenance schedule by setting up alerts for vehicle mileage or engine-hours.

  • Safety: Telematics solutions can help measure and reduce the frequency of harsh incidents—like sudden braking and accelerations—by automatically alerting fleet managers when harsh driving does occur. Fleet managers can use this information to better understand which drivers need additional coaching or to create a driver safety program.

  • Power take-off detection: Certain telematics providers enable public sector fleets to detect power take-off on specialized vehicles, like snow plows and street sweepers. Fleet managers can simply search a vehicle to see when, where, and for what length of time it was using a power take-off. This can help public sector fleets understand whether a specific service task was performed and can provide fleet managers more visibility into when those assets need maintenance.


According to Government Fleet Magazine, public sector fleets face retention challenges as a number of technicians and fleet managers approach retirement. One public sector fleet, for example, shared that nearly 40 percent of its workforce is due to retire in the next five years. This is especially challenging as the public sector struggles to secure talent for technician roles and back office staff. To help, a number of public sector fleets are turning to telematics. With built-in programs that assist with employee training and coaching, telematics is making it easier to engage talent while digitally documenting processes and institutional knowledge that might otherwise get lost with turnover. Telematics makes it simple for fleet managers to retain domain expertise by helping fleet managers make sense of data—even if an employee leaves. Answers to reporting questions or concerns about which KPIs to track can all be easily answered when data is continuously collected and stored. And because this information is readily available, telematics systems can also make it easier for new employees to transition into their role. Meanwhile, selecting a telematics provider that offers actionable coaching tips as well as built-in methods to motivate drivers is key. With Samsara coaching tools and scripts, fleet managers can take the guesswork out of determining the best ways to help drivers work more safely and efficiently. Plus, Samsara’s user-friendly app can also help fleet managers encourage friendly competition through gamification, using things like a high safety score as a benchmark for success and the foundation for a fleet safety rewards program.

What's next for public fleets?

Although many public sector fleets are already using telematics, some have not yet implemented fleet management software into their operations. So what does this mean for the future of public fleets? With so many added benefits, it's likely that there will be an onset of new adopters sooner rather than later. And though the public sector might experience an initial learning curve, the industry will ultimately benefit from the use of a streamlined technology—especially one that improves operational efficiency while elevating the quality of service for communities.

To learn more about Samsara's telematics solution, reach out for a free demo or free trial today.

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