The development of fleet management software is being driven by a desire to avoid information overload and cut costs. Catherine Chetwynd reports
need to simplify the growing amount of data fleet operators receive is driving the way fleet management software is being developed.
Advances in technology such as telematics and smartphone apps have seen more information on drivers and vehicles created than ever before, increasing fleets’ administrative burden.
Any developments which make this data easily digestible for a fleet operator is invaluable – a need picked up by software companies. “We want the graphical representations of information to become ever more flexible, for dashboards to become the central point of fleet management,” says David Gladding, sales director of Chevin.Although the completely paperless office is probably an unachievable goal, the trend towards digitisation continues, as demonstrated by the removal of the tax disc. The implication is that electronic interactions are now business-critical. In addition, the ability to access and enter information while away from the workplace is key, reducing the cost of administration.
In the case of the mobile workforce, it also allows more efficient planning of schedules, saving time and money, and facilitates better and quicker decision-making on the ground.
“The challenge for fleet software companies in the future is to be able to provide this kind of access on a huge variety of devices, with different screen sizes and operating systems, while maintaining a simple-to-use product for the customer,” says Matt Goodstadt, general manager of Civica UK.
The proliferation of those devices ensures that apps are taking an increasing role in the operation of a fleet, covering every eventuality from car maintenance reminders and expense claims facilitators to vehicle tracking and traffic report instruments, while accident management tools help drivers through the procedures for reporting any incidents.
Small- and medium-sized businesses are also getting more attention, with companies in many industries devising services and products to serve this segment.
These cover two angles: cost – many services are aimed at big-budget operators; and scale – buying small amounts of anything generally proves more expensive than bulk purchasing.
For example, Drive Software Solutions which traditionally targeted only the largest fleets, is now targeting SMEs, while Chevin is concentrating on products dedicated to particular sectors.
Duty of care
Fleet management software suppliers are also moving towards better integration of their technology with companies’ operational platforms.
“This gives a high level of accuracy in data output specific to the changing needs of fleet providers and operators,” says Simon West-Oliver, sales and marketing director of Drive Software Solutions.
Telematics is expected to increase its penetration with fleets through the coming year and RAC Business is developing its offering. Duty of care is also key.
Fleet managers cannot afford to be lax in how they manage their fleets, particularly in terms of physical risk, and telematics will play a large part in that.
The advantages are manifold and embrace monitoring driving techniques to create greater safety and fuel efficiency, knowing where drivers are and how they got there, plus risk management surrounding incidents and accidents.
Industry consultant Professor Colin Tourick thinks that, for the first time, suppliers will connect multiple data sources to give a new type of real-time, proactive service to fleet drivers.
For example, the system could send the following text message to a driver if a fault is detected:
“Fifteen minutes ago your engine generated a major fault code which has been transmitted to us.
“We have provisionally booked your car in to XYZ Services tomorrow morning. Mr Jones is expecting you and they have reserved the parts.
“You can continue your journey by taking the 686 bus from outside the garage to your office. They run every 15 minutes from 7.25am. The journey will take 19 minutes. The car will be available to collect from 5pm.” Not so long ago, that kind of service would have been considered futuristic fantasy.
We look at some of the major fleet management software companies, what new products they expect to launch this year, how they will benefit fleets and market trends.
What are you launching this year? We are continuing to develop Bynxfleet, in accordance with market demand, technology developments and customer needs, incorporating new apps, functionality and enhancing usability. We have several exciting announcements coming up in the next 12 months, but cannot release specific details.
What are the benefits to fleets? Bynxfleet enables fleet managers to support board-level policy to cut costs and streamline operations. But this cannot be done at the expense of customer service and it is important to focus on usability, functionality, business intelligence, compliance, collaboration and communication as well as efficiency. Most people in the workplace use at least one mobile device, and behind each is an advanced infrastructure of telecommunication networks, hardware and applications. In the case of fleet management telematics, this means a mobile can become a ubiquitous force behind mobile asset management.
What is the biggest trend in fleet management software? The move towards the cloud and mobility has brought about a requirement for apps that reinforces usability and speeds up the process of getting information to where it’s needed – increasingly, in real-time. Such information could be from the vehicle to the back-office system, from the back-office system to the driver, or from the system to management, where it is used for analysis, reporting and informed decision-making. Such applications can also simplify processes and procedures and facilitate vital data capture.
What are you launching this year? We believe that specialist products aimed at organisations that operate in particular sectors are likely to be a key feature of the next generation of fleet management software, developed partially in response to the size and scope of some current systems, but we do not release details about new products ahead of launch. Chevin’s FleetWave is suitable for a huge number of fleet applications, but some customers are seeking a fleet management software package that is preconfigured to meet their requirements. Chevin is investigating several sectors to look at the viability of this kind of software.
What are the benefits to fleets? An off-the-shelf system of this type would require less of the investment in time and effort required to configure a system. It could be put into operation and produce measureable results very quickly.
What is the biggest trend in fleet management software? Software that enables fleet managers to make sense out of potentially overwhelming amounts of data – amounts that are set to grow exponentially over the next few years. And the second trend is helping fleets get the most out of their software through improved support, training and implementation. The 21st century has been all about learning how to maximise the advantages available from web-based technology, but the focus is now shifting away from the product towards the people that use it.
What are you launching this year? We are launching several modules and updates. By far the biggest of these is a complete re-write of the Tranman user-interface. The system will have a modern Windows 8 look and feel, will be touchscreen/tablet ready and will feature ‘live tiles’ which show tailored KPI information and warnings, prompting users to take action. We are also launching a number of apps to make popular features of the Tranman system available on mobile devices, including daily vehicle checks, hire bookings and returns, reporting defects and accident reports.
What are the benefits to fleets? Fleet managers and other users will be able to access key information without having to run reports or search for data, be prompted to take action as needed and get information from a larger number of devices and KPIs. Menus will be adaptable for individual job roles, saving time. Collection of data via mobile apps will improve fleet departments’ customer service as their users will be able to request services at their convenience at any time. It will significantly reduce time spent processing transactions, and accidents and defects will be reported faster and more accurately, reducing vehicle downtime and costs.
What is the biggest trend in fleet management software? Fleet systems are becoming a data hub, pulling data in from numerous sources, including HR/training systems, GPS tracker/black box systems and organisations such as the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency. In addition, there is a move towards digitisation and mobilisation of records and workforce.
Drive Software Solutions
What are you launching this year? A Software as a Service (SaaS) version of Drive will make our full-on fleet management, workshop and stores platform available to small and medium-sized fleet operators. Also new will be DriveDirect, a managed service, designed for companies in the mid-tier of the leasing sector, enabling them to manage their business and provide new mobility management products to fleets.
What are the benefits to fleets? The SaaS version of Drive allows small and medium-sized fleet operators to take advantage of the sort of functionality that has previously been available only to the largest fleets and fleet management providers, who could make significant investments in IT. Crucially, it de-risks their IT strategy because it is delivered at a price point that makes it affordable. DriveDirect gives mid-tier leasing companies an ability to compete at a level that has not been possible before, allowing them to switch on economies of scale that enterprise grade IT power gives national and global operators. A version for fleets, also called DriveDirect, is available.
What is the biggest trend in fleet management software? Control, and empowering fleet operators to deal with the explosion of data which is being created by ‘the internet of things’ is the biggest trend. Fleet management products are moving towards a better level of integration into business’s main operational platforms, providing a high level of accuracy in data output. Fleet management software companies will have to provide customers with an architecture that can cope with vastly increased data volumes and ever more demanding, client specific KPI reporting.
What are you launching this year? Jaama is a member of the Association for Driving Licence Verification and, working within the organisation, hopes to launch improved integration with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) – subject to availability from DVLA – regarding not only real-time driver licence checking but also the all-important driver CPC and tachograph driver card information.
What are the benefits to fleets? Customers can be more confident about their compliance and mitigate their risks.
What is the biggest trend in fleet management software? There is a growing trend among fleet decision-makers to use software to reduce the amount of time they spend on administration by encouraging drivers to ‘self-help’. For example, Jaama’s Key2 Electronic Driver Services is designed to put the emphasis on company car drivers and employees who use their own cars for business to keep the data pertaining to both them personally and their vehicles up-to-date. The module enables drivers to upload information such as eyesight checks and insurance certificates. Jaama is also winning a lot of driver licence checking business from new and existing customers because Key2 enables fleet managers to take a holistic view on risk. Demand will further increase with the 2015 abolition of the paper counterpart to the photocard driving licence. Finally, we are seeing a trend towards improved interfacing with suppliers’ software systems to ensure that data entry into client fleet management is kept to a minimum, thus limiting the risk of errors being made.
What are you launching this year? A key focus for 2015 is the continued development of our Business Club product for small business owners, which brings together all the elements of fleet management in one secure portal. This includes information on vehicles, drivers, insurance and maintenance. A number of new features will be launched this year to support a business with its duty-of-care responsibilities as well as provide access to various exclusive fleet-based offers. Also, our telematics product will be rolled-out. This will see the launch of our InSight and InRescue portals. InSight gives users online access to breakdown data on a 24/7 basis, while InRescue provides real-time updates during a breakdown from any device.
What are the benefits to fleets? Access to greater levels of data means fleet managers can identify areas where they can drive down costs and retain control of their fleet, with real-time data telling them what every vehicle is doing at any one time. This data will also illustrate how reliable a fleet is, giving an understanding of common faults.
What is the biggest trend related to fleet management software? We are seeing increasing numbers of businesses turning to telematics and the kind of data-generating software that comes with it as fleets look to take more control. This software creates reporting that enables fleet managers to understand much more about what is happening in their business.