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Vehicle telematics has its roots in the HGV sector but, in more recent years, has become a popular tool for LCV fleets and today the technology is increasingly finding its way into company cars.
Telematics systems monitor the location of vehicles and the way they are being driven to deliver a raft of essential operational real-time information to fleet decision‑makers that enables them to take action to improve business efficiency, cut costs and ensure legislative compliance.
Simply retro-fitting telemetry devices to vehicles and having access to the torrent of data that flows will not solve fleet problems and potentially could cause more pain.
Indeed information overload is a major concern so fleet decision-makers will have to decide from the information and data streams accessible what they require to effectively and efficiently manage the fleet operation and which channels remain ‘asleep’ or are perhaps switched on at a later date.
Telematics users suggest the benefits of the technology include saving money on fuel, improving driver behaviour, and enhancing productivity due to improved journey scheduling. They also say mileage record keeping is improved and savings are made on insurance premium as drivers adopt a more sympathetic style, resulting in fewer accidents and reduced maintenance costs.
Better customer relations due to more accurate response times and call scheduling, is another benefit,.
The list of benefits is almost endless and members of the Fleet Industry Advisory Group (FIAG) are among those utilising telematics.
FIAG was launched earlier this year with the aim of developing and sharing best practice among fleet decision‑makers and at its second workshop telematics will be in the spotlight.
The workshop’s aim – independent of suppliers – is to raise fleet understanding of how in-vehicle telematics technology can assist in fleet operations and the pitfalls to be aware of in adoption.
Get the drivers on board
At the outset communication with drivers is critical as businesses seek to explain that they are introducing telemetry to put the brake on fleet costs and drive forward operating efficiencies and not as a ‘spy in the cab’.
Autoglass has recorded a nine per cent fuel bill reduction equating to cost savings running into thousands of pounds after introducing telematics to its 1,400-strong fleet of vehicle glass repair and replacement vehicles.
Separately, the company has also fitted tracker units to its 75 vehicles that deliver glass to its nationwide network of centres.
The company introduced telematics because it wanted to reduce its annual fuel budget, improve driver safety and improve its accident record, which is centred on low speed incidents. Indeed all three targeted improvements are inter-linked as improving driver behaviour when on the road is one of the most effective ways to save fuel.
Autoglass fleet manager and FIAG founder member Ged Raymond said: “The huge saving in our fuel bill is the result of improving driver behaviour. Drivers do not want to incur violations so they are driving more carefully. In turn that has also reduced the number of low speed accidents suffered meaning downtime has reduced thus also cutting costs.”
Integral to fleet efficiency
Meanwhile, telematics is a key tool in the fleet management armoury of Martin Carter in charge of the 600-strong company car and light commercial vehicle operation at world-leading stairlift manufacturer Stannah.
Introduced as a pilot tracking scheme in a few vans to aid customer responsiveness and schedule flexibility, today the technology is fitted in all vehicles with data collected underpinning the entire fleet operation.
Carter, operations director of Stannah Management Services, and a FIAG founding member, said: “Telematics is not a silver bullet, but it is one thread of fleet management and an integral part in helping us manage the fleet. Fuel, accident and vehicle maintenance costs are all down and telemetry is a contributory factor in improving fleet performance and efficiency.”
Telematics is not just about saving money and improving fleet efficiency, but the data collected from the ‘black boxes’ are also an aid to corporate compliance while issues around driver privacy must also be in focus for businesses.
Embracing the technology
As highlighted, fleets that have already turned to telematics report benefits in numerous areas, but the majority of businesses have yet to embrace the technology.
To-date the telematics market has been dominated by specialist providers. But an increasing number of organisations are looking to capitalise on fleet demand for the technology including vehicle leasing companies, motor manufacturers, telecoms businesses, insurers and firms best know for their breakdown and recovery services.
The disparate telematics market is moving at a rapid pace and what seems clear is that an increasing number of fleets will introduce the technology. Fleet decision‑makers interested in joining the Fleet Industry Advisory Group can visit www.fiag.co.uk and find out details of upcoming workshops. Annual FIAG membership is currently available at a cost of £350.