Fleet News

Managing your company cars: Using technology

Giles Margerison, Sales Director, TomTom Business Solutions UK & Ireland - An extract from the Managing your Company Cars book edited by Colin Tourick and produced in association with Fleet News

Please introduce yourself and your business

I am Sales Director for the UK & Ireland at TomTom Business Solutions, the business to business division of TomTom, the world’s leading portable navigation solutions provider.

The Business Solutions division is the fastest-growing telematics provider in Europe and currently sits within the top three market-leading manufacturers after only four years of rapid growth.

The Business Solutions division, like the consumer division before it, has proven success and looks to build on this with ambitious growth plans, aiming to outperform the expected European fleet management market growth rate of 10-20% and has a development strategy in place which is set to firmly position them as market leader in this space.

I joined TomTom in 2010 from Road Angel where I was group sales manager. Before joining TomTom I had over 10 years’ experience delivering significant growth, managing direct and indirect sales channels for leading providers in the telematics industry.

My previous experience includes commercial vehicle rental, contract hire, leasing and maintenance where I managed operations for Dawson Rentals and Ryder plc.

What developments have there been in the fleet telematics market in the last few years that have been particularly valuable to fleet managers?

Telematics affects so many businesses in so many ways by increasing the visibility of the details of how your fleet is performing and giving you accurate data enabling you to make effective decisions.

There are many examples of fleets that have adopted this technology and have seen massive savings through greater efficiency, yet surprisingly a large percentage of companies have yet to adopt it.

Fleet management systems or telematics have evolved to what they are today as a result of developments in mobile telecommunications systems.

In the past, telematics systems were simple systems for reporting positional data back to the central office PC.

There have been developments in the functionality and usability of telematics systems to the extent that it is now reasonable to assume a fleet without telematics cannot be operated a maximum efficiency.

Telematics delivers a diverse range of historic reporting on routes taken and jobs completed but the live vehicle data relayed to the traffic office has dramatically broadened in scope.

Far from simply illustrating vehicle position, devices such as TomTom’s ecoPLUS, which are easily installed by slotting into the OBD II port, also give the traffic manager access to engine revolutions, gear selection, fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

Developments like these give fleets an empirical way of measuring, benchmarking and acting on fuel-saving and emission-reducing programmes.

To assist fleet managers and support driver training, there has been a growth in monitoring driver behaviour.

Accelerometers in the telematics hardware measure the forces created by harsh braking and steering.

Monitoring these closely and working to reduce these will improve road safety and reduce wear and tear on vehicles.

How does satellite navigation enhance the functionality of telematics?

Integrating a personal navigation device (PND) into a telematics solution transforms the possibilities for fleet operation.

Using the global positioning service (GPS), the sat nav is an obvious driver tool, and typically reduces journey time in unfamiliar areas by 10%.

This is further enhanced by live traffic information being relayed automatically to drivers en-route, which makes the time saving jump to 15% – which across a fleet makes a massive difference.

However, the real strides forward come from the additional functionality a sat nav can offer a telematics system.

Typically, the PND is connected to the telematics ‘black box’ via a Bluetooth connection, fully integrating the two technologies.

Information from the sat nav can then be relayed back to the traffic office by the telematics unit, using global packet radio services (GPRS) that connects to the office-based computer.

Acting as an interface between the driver and fleet manager, it allows for two-way messaging – thus reducing dependence on costly mobile phones.

Jobs can also be dispatched directly to the device with the address pre-programmed, turning a simple sat nav into a communications and job management device.

How can fleet managers use telematics to reduce costs and increase control over fleet expenditure?

Knowing where every vehicle is at all times helps fleet managers to co-ordinate their fleets in a more efficient manner, as it shows a driver’s availability and/or proximity to a job.

This means vehicles travelling fewer miles and drivers being able to complete more pick-ups and drop-offs in a day.

In addition, telematics can add an extra dimension to customer service relations by sending a message to the customer to let them know that the vehicle transporting their goods is nearby.

This manages expectations and reduces frustration, culminating in a better experience for the customer and strengthening the company’s reputation.

Fuel is arguably the biggest cost of any fleet operation and having the tools to monitor and manage it means companies can potentially save thousands of pounds in operational costs.

Fuel economy can be tracked over a period of time and if a driver is perceived to be driving uneconomically, telematics can provide evidence of bad practices such as excessive idling, speeding, erratic acceleration and braking and off-route usage.

Having this data allows a fleet manager to train their drivers on best driving practice and highlight areas for improvement.

Many fleet operators integrate their telematics systems with their workshop data because the system can deliver accurate mileage reports, which can then be compared to servicing records.

This makes scheduling the maintenance bookings a simple task that can be automated to remind the fleet manager of impending vehicle service requirements and help with duty-of-care compliance.

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