By Alisdair Suttie 06 August 2012
Monday 6 August 2012. Fleet Voice Column.
As fleets have ever more pressure applied to them to reduce fuel costs and emissions, finding ways to make cars and drivers more efficient is essential. This is a more accessible and quicker to implement solution, too, than simply replacing a fleet with newer, more economical vehicles.
Managing Director of ALD Automotive, Keith Allen, says: “Over the last seven years, the technology surrounding telematics has improved and evolved dramatically.
“It now delivers a functionality that can help businesses better manage the costs and risks associated with their fleets. Drivers are also now far more aware of what telematics are and how they can help, benefitting themselves and their employers.”
By monitoring the data of individual drivers, fleet managers can not only work out how to best improve the efficiency of that user, but also the car itself. The fleet manager can also build up a detailed picture of overall fleet performance, whether that means using different vehicles for specific roles or deciding on driver training.
Not Big Brother
ALD’s Keith Allen is quick to assure drivers this is not a Big Brother operation to spy on company drivers, but it is a chance for all concerned to get the best from themselves and the vehicle.
This type of technology has been in use for some time, notably in larger commercial vehicles as a supplementary system to the existing tachograph and for young drivers keen to cut their insurance premiums.
With the spread of the technology to the wider fleet business, there is a chance for company drivers to show they are among the safest and most considerate on the road. The popular image of a stressed-out, mobile phone-wielding road rage incident in waiting is very far from the truth as we all adhere to health and safety guidelines and remember corporate manslaughter legislation. Yet, the public perception of company drivers is closer to that popping blood vessel behind the wheel of urban myth.
Introducing telematics to the wider company car park can only help stamp out the last remaining examples of such bad driving that brand us all with the same iron.
Talking about the use of telematics for younger drivers, Simon Douglas of the AA says: “Telematics can help moderate driver behaviour and ensure young drivers are more likely to drive safely rather than roar around in their cars”
Douglas also talks about telematics’ advantages for the wider driving community and points out that anyone who is afraid of having such a device fitted is possibly just the sort of driver who needs it most. If you drive responsibly, why should you fear having your driving habits recorded?
This raises the question of personal freedom and the associated liberties and laws that go with it. However, simple telematics that tell a fleet manager where a car is, the duration of its use and fuel consumption need not spark concern among business drivers.
It is tacitly acknowledged that many drivers exceed the speed limit regularly but not excessively. If this behaviour is moderated by fitting telematics, that is a boon to a fleet’s safety record, especially if this speeding is in town or areas where there are lower speed limits in force.
If the telematics identify a particular driver has little regard for speed limits or the places where he or she speeds, such as near schools or in heavily inhabited areas, then it’s a chance to offer further training and education to that individual.
Equally, telematics can also offer an element of praise for those drivers who get the best economy from their car through safe, correct driving techniques. As has been seen in studies in the USA, by making good driving habits and standards a competition between those in a company or organisation, often it is the previously worst offenders who rise to the top as the standard bearers for better driving.
The competitive element appeals to many drivers natures, even those who are otherwise placid souls outside of the car. Behind the wheel, many people change their attitudes as they are ensconced in a steel box that becomes their personal fiefdom.
By adding telematics into the mix, it makes these drivers more aware there is a world beyond their windscreen and they have to be part of it in a responsible, courteous and safe manner.
Trials of telematics have shown individual drivers can save as much as 25% in fuel spend without noticing any great shift in their driving. Apply this across the whole of the UK’s company car fleets and the savings run into the billions of pounds per annum. Those are savings we’d all like to see on a bottom line, recession or no recession.
With the vast majority of fleet drivers now open to the idea of telematics being fitted to their vehicle, and with the cost of installing such technology now dropping to very affordable levels, the question we ask ourselves must surely change. It has to shift from ‘do we want telematics in our vehicles’ to ‘can we afford not to have telematics in our vehicles’?
Such a fundamental change in attitudes and approach may seem radical or even unlikely to some, but look at the great changes that have happened in the recent past we now all accept as the norm: diesel is the predominant fuel for company car drivers, carbon dioxide-based taxation, and hybrid technology being used on ever more cars.
Be in no doubt, telematics will play a much greater role in all of our working lives behind the wheel of a car very soon. Not only will it save companies money, it could positively help to reduce stress for business users as time limits can be more appropriately enforced and safety improved as a result.
Another spin-off benefit of telematics in a vehicle is, should the worst happen and you’re involved in a collision, the technology will be able to establish liability more easily and save a great deal of red tape and form-filling by innocent parties.
Just think: technology that actually saves on paper work. That really is a future worth dreaming of.
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