Telematics continues to be one of the most valuable tools used by fleet managers to reduce costs and improve driver behaviour. However, this technology also produces a number of challenges, such as data management and getting buy-in from drivers and unions.
These issues were discussed by the attendees at the recent Fleet News roundtable held in Leeds, sponsored by Alphabet.
Other issues raised included grey fleet management.
How have you reduced costs?
Paul Brown (pictured above), head of group fleet, Freedom Group: We’ve had telematics for about two years and in the first instance it reduced costs because we could look at under-utilised vehicles, where they were being used, which of the drivers were taking them and the routes drivers were taking, etc.
My first transport manager said to me ‘if the wheels aren’t turning, the vehicle isn’t earning’. And it’s very true. If you’ve got a vehicle parked up that’s not turning a wheel, then it’s costing you money.
We can also see those areas where drivers are not performing correctly. Is it sharp cornering or braking, is it speeding? For us, that led on to driver awareness and one of the guys in our Colchester office decided that the best way to manage drivers was to let them manage themselves, so he put the driver scores from that depot into a league format. We had the Premier League, Championship and Sunday league tables. At first people said they weren’t bothered what others thought of them as a driver, but we found that it certainly did matter to them when it came to a Monday morning and the rest of his mates were singing football chants at him. Little side bets came in like if one driver got a worse score than another, then he’d wash his van on a Friday afternoon, so people started looking at their scores and trying to improve them.
We’ve also found telematics is like tentacles – it just keeps spreading into other departments. Health and safety look at the data they are interested in, so do the finance directors who want to know about fuel and vehicle spend.
Chris Charlton, driver safety and performance manager, Northern Powergrid: We brought telematics in from a health and safety perspective. The caveat was that it would pay for itself through fuel savings. It was quite controversial when we started using it for time sheets for staff, but that will be one area where we do make significant savings that are not fleet related.
How do you manage the vast amount of data produced by telematics?
Paul Brown: There’s that much data that you can only manage what is relevant to you. Health and safety will look at certain data, as will environmental. As long as you’ve got that working collaboration among the different departments, then all the relevant information can be brought together. If it was all left to the fleet department to monitor everything, then we would probably end up employing people full-time just to do data capture.
Don Porter, group fleet manager, Synseal Group: We send a snapshot of the information up to board level to say where we are as a business. We can identify what drivers we need to target and then look at cost saving as well. We are looking at a rewards scheme for the top performing drivers to say ‘you’ve done well, you’ve saved x, y, z, we’ll give you a reward’. The low-ranked drivers will get further training.
Mark Ford-Powell, assurance and reporting manager, Environment Agency: We are heavily unionised and we’ve had telematics for two years: it’s a no-brainer. It’s there to protect the driver. We have exception reporting that goes to the driver at the end of every month, which gives them parameters of how they’ve scored in areas such as cornering and braking and that report also goes to their line manager.
As a fleet team, we just provide information and don’t get involved after that. It’s an operational decision then as to why Fred or Jane has got that telematics score.
With regard to getting buy-in from unions, you can say that by putting in telematics units you could save a fatality. It could quite easily happen and you can put that to them – what if? That’s a powerful message you can get across.
Paul Tate, commodity manager, Siemens: You are absolutely spot on. We had a guy who was a lone worker who had a heart attack, and his wife rang us up after she couldn’t get hold of him. Using the tracker we were able to locate and rescue him. We were straight on to the unions: look what telematics has done here.
How do you manage your grey fleet?
Graham Telfer (pictured above) fleet manager, Gateshead Council: We’ve introduced a number of initiatives to get employees out of grey fleet because I think that in a couple of years’ time, we will look back and think ‘why on earth did we let people get into 10-year-old cars with no control over them whatsoever?’ We’ve put pool cars in, we use push bikes and the local metro system, and employees can have bus passes if they like. We try to use teleconferencing and the first time we introduced control over using grey fleet, we had a 40% reduction in mileage immediately. We still have grey fleet cars, but we check driver licences, MOT and maintenance records, but we are gradually getting out of that altogether.
Paul Tate: I think grey fleet is getting a bit of momentum again. I don’t think the Government is helping businesses steer employees into company cars with the amount of taxation which is coming out. People are looking at it and saying ‘what is the true benefit of having a company car, because I’m getting battered here, there and everywhere’.
Paul Brown: I’d rather move towards grey fleet. Employees are given the option of a company car or car allowance and the reason we looked at putting more on grey fleet is the inflexibility of our leasing company. If a car becomes surplus within its three- or four-year lease we are stuck with it because of the early-termination costs and inflexibility of the lease company to take that vehicle back. We get stuck with a car that hasn’t been allocated, it’s a dead asset, dead money.
If an employee takes the car allowance and leaves, the allowance stops immediately. We treat the grey fleet as if they are our own vehicles. We have an age limit on the car of five years, it’s got to be in a certain emissions band, we do licence checks in line with company car drivers at three, six or 12 months. We monitor the service and maintenance history, we want to see the MOT certificate if it’s over three years and we want to see that it has got business insurance.