Telematics is a subject than can drive terror into the heart of every van driver, but is it really Orwellian, or does its correct use deliver benefits that go far beyond any perceived intrusion? We’ve been taking a look at some of the different operating systems, the companies providing them and things to consider when looking to purchase, install and employ a telematics system.
The question you have to ask yourself is what do you want the system to achieve? It could be that you are looking to improve fuel efficiency or garner information on driver behaviour to enhance training and make it more targeted. It could be that you are looking for a system that will help plan delivery rounds or assist with managing maintenance. It might be that you want a system that covers all of these or just some elements. That is the beauty of telematics systems, they can be tailored to your specific needs.
Transport Costs It doesn’t matter if you operate one or one thousand vehicles, it is a subject you need to think about because transport costs have such a huge impact on the bottom line of any light commercial vehicle-based business. “Fuel costs account for up to 30 per cent of the total cost of ownership of business vehicles and, aside from vehicle choice, the single biggest factor affecting fuel consumption is driving style,” said Jeremy Gould, vice-president sales Europe for TomTom Telematics. “But new technology is providing businesses with the tools to make a real impact in this area by working with their drivers to improve standards.
“Modern telematics systems offer companies more opportunities than ever before to improve operational efficiency, cut costs and improve the safety of employees and assets. From its origins in straightforward tracking and tracing, telematics has evolved to become a connectivity hub, bridging the gaps between the office, vehicles and mobile workers. The transmission of data between these points means businesses are increasingly able to benefit from automated processes, eliminating the need for laborious and inefficient paper-based administration.”
Route Optimisation It’s a similar story from Telogis, one of the newer players in the UK, where its general manager EMEA, Sergio Barata claims that: “Telematics has numerous benefits. Take its revolutionising effect on route planning and fuel economy, for example. It helps create the most efficient route according to what’s most important to a specific business and the driving style of its vehicle operators. This optimal route planning also helps improve fuel economy, which is critical to maintaining healthy profit margins.
“Implementing a telematics solution is also vitally important when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Solutions such as Telogis Coach have in-built vehicle management and protection capabilities, which intuitively log driver speeds and detect potential hazards. This helps produce valuable insights which allows management to better tackle fuel consumption, improve delivery schedule management and also consider wider environmental issues.
“Occasionally in larger companies, assets can ‘disappear’ or become under-used, both of which represent a significant loss of profits so telematics-based GPS tracking ensures all vehicles are being used efficiently, regardless of their location. It also provides managers with the information needed to make profitable decisions regarding the purchase or disposal of additional vehicles.”
Keeping it Legal Microlise, another big player in this field, raises the issue of private versus business use and has a product called Clear. As well as offering a comprehensive reporting suite, Clear provides operators with insight on compliance in terms of work patterns and HMRC requirements, where private/personal mileage can be tracked. This reporting suite also provides managers valuable information on fleet deployment and productivity, which it claims will deliver additional operational benefits. Real-time vehicle tracking gives fleet managers the necessary tools to understand the location and operational status of every vehicle in a fleet.
“While telematics solutions are traditionally centred on vehicle tracking and driver performance, Microlise Clear comes complete with a range of other features that will help organisations to be compliant in terms of HMRC reporting, DVSA regulations and in-house vehicle safety standards. Comprehensive task management and communications will further enhance efficiency and service levels.” Said Ian Kirkwood, head of mobile workforce telematics at Microlise.
Driving Monitor Lightfoot from Ashwoods Automotive takes a different approach to monitoring driver behaviour and reckons that it’s system provides just the right amount of information to deliver a real benefit in terms of operation costs and driver attitude without overloading the vehicle operator or fleet manager with piles of ,what it believes is, information for information’s sake.
Based upon a traffic light system displayed in the cab, it monitors acceleration, braking and general driving style with the driver aiming to maintain a green light. The driver is subjected to a three strikes and you are in for a chat with the guvnor, rule. If the driving style is not smooth, anticipatory and in essence can be improved, the lights will change from green through to amber and ultimately red. It’s three reds that will alert the fleet manager or vehicle operator which gives a bit more autonomy and responsibility to the driver.
Lightfoot believes that it’s system is less intrusive but still delivers the kind of results operators want to see; improved fuel efficiency, fewer accidents and reduced costs. From as little as £4 per vehicle, this could prove to be a popular option from both operators and drivers perspective.
One user of the Lightfoot system, South West Water, had this to say about it: “As a business we are keen to pioneer new technologies and I believe that South West Water’s investment in Lightfoot is a leading move within our industry. There’s little management intervention required and feedback from our drivers is very positive. There is far more to gain from making your drivers more efficient than making your vehicles more efficient,” commented Mark Karkeek, transport manager, South West Water.
System Adaptability As far as VansA2Z is concerned, that really is the crux of the matter. There is so much more to gain from telematics than just improving efficiency. Systems can be employed in so many ways whether that is to incentivise drivers — run competitions to find the best driver and reward him/her — to improve fleet safety, manage maintenance or improve delivery routes and scheduling.
Ultimately, the manner in which telematics is received by drivers depends almost entirely upon the way it is announced and communicated by management. If the system is introduced without consultation or notice, it is inevitable drivers will view it as a threat, rather than a tool which can make their working lives that much easier.
The best approach according to TomTom Telematics’ Jeremy Gould is to formalise the process by putting any proposals to staff in writing, so there is no misunderstanding or ambiguity. “Clarify what impact it will have on their job day-to-day and allow them to ask questions or make suggestions about how best to smooth over the implementation process. If all that is done, there should be little reason for drivers to harbour serious objections,” he said.
If you are considering a telematics system then you will need to talk to the providers. Work with them to build or adapt a system that specifically suits your purpose because once you have got it right, you will notice immediate benefits and that puts you in the driving seat.