Fleet News

Round table: How telematics, cameras and remapping cut costs

Fleet operators are turning to technology to improve the safety of their fleet and to lower costs.

Many of the 2014 Fleet News Awards nominees who attended a recent Fleet News roundtable, sponsored by Škoda, have introduced telematics or are currently trialling it.

Video cameras and engine remapping software are also proving beneficial.Some fleet operators that have fitted telematics to their van fleet are now rolling it out to their company cars. One fleet operator has gone as far as introducing it to private vehicles that are used for business journeys (the grey fleet).

Driver buy-in is essential when introducing this kind of technology. Fleet operators have won drivers over with incentive schemes and by simply pointing out the benefits.

For example, telematics or video cameras can be used to absolve a company car driver of blame in an accident, and the data from tracking vehicles reduces the administration burden of mileage claims for drivers.  

Why did you decide to fit telematics?
Nigel Rowden: We introduced it because we want to track our assets and be compliant with HMRC for no private use of the vehicle.

Our drivers keep their vehicles at home, so that means they don’t need to come into the depot at the start or end of the day, so we weren’t quite sure how much overtime employees should actually be claiming and how much they were actually doing.

Overtime plummeted after we put the trackers on and we actually got more work out of the staff because they were at work when they said they were. We reckon it paid back in about three months.

It’s going so well that the cars in our division are now being fitted with trackers as well.  

Rob Paddock: We fitted trackers in our vans back in 2006 and that was purely for route planning. We knocked out a lot of dead time between drops.

Then last year we introduced trackers to all of our company cars and our grey fleet. If it’s a private car we fit a tracker through the cigarette lighter so we won’t go into any of the electrics of the car itself.

That has stopped drivers saying that they can’t turn it off, they just unplug the cigarette lighter.

The second option for some of the cars is a private button so when they are doing their own private miles, the button is switched off by default. There is a light on the dash so they know exactly if they’re in business mode or private mode. Before they used to hand write where they had been, all of their appointments, now that’s all done by the system.  

Do you have any concerns about telematics?
Dermot Coughlan: We’re trying a couple of systems. You can create another risk for the business with having all that information because if you’ve got 2,000 drivers and one of them is habitually speeding and the line manager has done nothing about it and you have an accident, you’re wide open.

That’s a huge exposure so you have to do something about it. We feel we will have to invest probably one person for every 300 units.

We would manage it centrally as well, we would be dealing with the adverse driving and monitoring the fuel usage.  

Nigel Rowden: We included a data analyst in our budget because we felt that, with the massive amount of data that comes out of the data warehouse, we needed somebody to sift through it.
We didn’t want contracts managers inundated with reports every few minutes of the day.  You do need somebody centrally to do headline reports and not necessarily rely on your supplier to do that.

If the data shows that drivers are speeding, how do you tackle it?

Rory Morgan: We introduced Greenroad speed by speed zone towards the end of 2012 and, after ironing out the anomalies, it’s now hugely successful. Our incidents have reduced by 12% off the back of that. Within six months, we had reduced the number of violations by 80%.

We now average less than one violation per vehicle. This is for the UK and Ireland only, which is about 330 vehicles, and our vehicles are covering about 200,000 miles per week.

So I think that’s a phenomenal effort by the drivers. The way we managed it was by simply picking out the habitual speeders and targeting them. We found very quickly that 5% of our drivers accounted for more than a third of our speed violations so you target those. It goes to the line manager and they have a discussion with the driver.

How do you get drivers to buy-in to telematics?

Nigel Rowden: We just sent drivers a letter saying this is what we’re doing, end of story.

Steve Haigh: We’ve incentivised the drivers on a quarterly basis. They can effectively earn a week’s salary per quarter if they hit their key performance indicators over three sections.

It sounds like lot of money, but year-on-year we’re seeing a reduction in our insurance premium so it pays for itself.  

Have you used the technology to help with insurance claims?
Rob Paddock: We had an incident with a van and a gravel lorry coming in the other direction. They were provisionally saying it was our van driver’s fault but the tracking data proved that our vehicle was obeying the speed limit so the other company paid the insurance claim.

Jan Kozlowski: We’ve installed video cameras in our vehicles. It’s just a small unit that goes behind the rear-view mirror. It’s really good in terms of resolving insurance claims.

We are self-insured so every penny we spend on the claim comes out of our budget. The investment we made in cameras has been paid back in about 13 months because I estimate they have saved about £60,000 in a year.

There have been so many positive comments from drivers because when there is an incident we can review the video to see what has happened.

A classic example was people reversing into our vehicles and then claiming that we hit them in the rear.  We’ve had a number of those in the last year.

Rory Morgan: There is a camera – and we’ve explored it – that looks
both ways.

It tracks normal driver behaviour and then keeps the footage if there’s an event, like harsh braking, but it also films the driver.

So when you go back and have a look at that particular violation or that particular event – harsh braking – you know why the driver hit the brakes so you’re actually getting to the source of the problem.

We didn’t take it up simply because our incidents are so low we couldn’t quantify the expense.

Has technology reduced your fuel costs?
Nigel Rowden: We’ve saved a fortune in fuel through reducing idling, using telematics data.

Mike Langford: We’ve remapped the engine management system on most of our commercial fleet now and it is delivering a 10% fuel saving.

Dermot Coughlan: We’ve used a different system and it really does work. It limits the rate of acceleration as well so our driver can’t thrash the vehicle. They have to drive it properly.

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