Fleet News

Telematics: spy or saviour?

John Catling, CEO at FMG, looks at the change in attitudes to telematics systems.

Just a few years ago, you would have drawn some pretty blank looks from motorists if you quizzed them about telemetry. Still, the word conjures up images for many of a little black box, watching a driver’s every move. The truth is, most systems are more sophisticated than that, and can report, in real time, driver behaviours, as well as vehicle performance and potential faults.

The technology is becoming more important to businesses too, having been pioneered in private lines insurance. In fact, the industry has changed beyond recognition.

From our perspective, there are many devices out there that promise the world, but what some are failing to grasp, is that it’s all about how you use the data outputs. You can record the most diverse parameters imaginable, but if you don’t have a system to process and analyse what it means, they’re virtually worthless.

Some systems flash up red, amber and green in the vehicle, but as well as this being a proven distraction, it’s a bit like locking the stable door after the horse has bolted. Bad drivers are rarely so by accident, they know it and in some cases, aren’t given the support they need to change. The best way, is to analyse fleet performance and then put in place the necessary training modules and systems to enable drivers to make wholesale improvement. Incentivise if necessary, but by anybody’s judgement, there is a business case for better driving.

As an industry we have a responsibility to be clearer about what is being offered and why. Many companies are turning to a telemetry based system, but not all solutions are right for every business. This is where professional standards can help. We’ve seen it work well for other areas of the motor industry, and the natural step would be for minimum requirements to be set out in a governing document. The professionalisation of a relatively new technology might be a big step for suppliers, but it’s vital to prompt business confidence and adoption of the real benefits available.

This would be good news for telemetry providers and good news for business. There are many benefits available for users of the technology, but at the moment, there is too much hard sell and not enough tailored effort going into matching professional solutions to individual customer needs.

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  • Mike Simpson - 15/10/2013 11:29

    Having been at the receiving end of a badly driven 'white van,' I would like to see all commercial fleets/vehicles fitted with telematics devices in order to make the owner of the companies responsible for the poor driving of their employees. The idea that poor driving can be flagged up in real-time and the driver given a warning sounds too good to be true. If this was coupled with the type of dashboard mounted cameras popular in Russia, the roads would be a safer place. However, telematic devices should be used in the right way, as in the private sector, imposing curfews has led to young drivers speeding home before the deadline and causing accidents. On the other hand there is also evidence that without the curfew imposed, the black box devices cut accidents in young drivers by nearly 40%. (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/cars/article-2373513/Banning-young-motorists-night-time-driving-counter-productive.html)

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