Many fleet managers will shudder at the thought of installing telematics in grey fleet vehicles.
It can be a big enough challenge to introduce the technology to company cars because HR, unions and drivers themselves often raise concerns about invasion of privacy, so the idea that an employee will allow it to be fitted to their private vehicle raises a number of issues.
There is also the problem of actually knowing all the details of the grey fleet in the first place.
John Pryor, chairman of ACFO, says: “There are so few controls in this area that I cannot see companies going as far as putting telematics in. A lot of them don’t even know what grey fleet they have got. It might happen as manufacturers put telematics in, but that is years away.”
However, some companies have already introduced telematics to grey fleet vehicles.
“There is a growing awareness of the need to do it and we are having a lot of conversations about it, which we weren’t a couple of years ago,” says Giles Margerison, director for UK and Ireland at TomTom Telematics.
There are compelling reasons for keeping track of grey fleet vehicles. Companies are as responsible for the employees using their own vehicles on business as they are those in company cars, which means duty of care applies.
As well as reporting on a vehicle’s location, telematics gives an additional element of risk management by providing a profile of how safely and efficiently an employee is driving. This can provide useful information in the event of an accident.
The advantages are not all to the employer. Drivers may see a reduction in their insurance premium, as well as removing the labour-intensive process of completing expense forms by hand.
Instead, the technology marries up fuel consumption with mileage and emails it direct to the driver’s inbox, HR or accounts – whichever is required. If necessary, the system can be set up with an alarm to protect those driving alone, at night or in risky areas. Most telematics systems come with a privacy button, which can be applied according to company requirements, but at least allows the user to turn off tracking when driving private miles.
If a vehicle breaks down, “companies can get vehicle services to employees more quickly because they can pinpoint them”, says Ben Creswick, business development director of FMG, which has fitted telematics to its company cars and grey fleet vehicles where drivers are covering more than 5,000 business miles a year.
In short, telematics has a lot of benefits for grey fleet drivers, but it can be a hard sell. Here is a six-point plan to gaining employee buy-in.
Know why you want to install telematics
Whether it is duty of care, monitoring driving techniques to improve driver behaviour, knowing where drivers are and how they got there, risk management surrounding incidents and accidents, to record mileages accurately or all those things, you cannot sell the idea to employees if you are not clear about why you are implementing the technology.
Get buy-in from stakeholders
Before raising the idea with employees, it is important that the HR department is in agreement.
“Get HR involved at an early stage because it will be sensitive to all the issues surrounding data protection that are likely to be raised by the drivers,” says Nigel Trotman, strategic fleet consultant at Alphabet.
Finance and procurement will also have an important say and the business case is likely to need to go to board level.
Telematics providers should help with stakeholder buy-in. “We often provide support regarding how to position the proposed deployment with employees, employment contracts and occasionally suggest running a trial in order to measure return on investment,” says Richard Lane, European distribution and partnership manager at Ctrack.
Ideally, senior employees that have taken a cash allowance should subscribe to having telematics installed.
Telematics supplier FMG has fitted Ingenium Dynamics technology to senior managers’ vehicles “from the point of view of leading from the front”, says Creswick.
Senior managers can also demonstrate the benefits. Creswick chose to have telematics fitted to his car when he joined the company and has seen a 20% improvement in his scores.
“Using the system, I can see my journeys, where perhaps I accelerated too heavily, braked too harshly… you become much more aware of what is going on around you,” he says.
Decide which type of system you want
t is easier to persuade grey fleet drivers to accept telematics if they feel they are in control, so a smartphone app, a device that plugs into the 12v socket or connects to the vehicle’s OBD port, might appear to be the best option.
Tax and expense apps are commonplace and are largely HM Revenue and Customs compliant – a particularly important feature now that it is cracking down on estimated mileage calculations that cannot be substantiated.
However, there is a downside with apps, including the need for a driver to remember to use them, keep their phone charged and, ideally, have a stable connection or mount in the car. There is also the risk that it will eat into the owner’s data allowance. “Also, you might not be able to get fuel data and some of the diagnostic information,” adds Creswick.
In addition, apps and 12v versions are not ideal for vehicle tracking. OBD versions can be plugged in – and therefore unplugged – by the driver and are generally viewed as being less robust than wired-in. “OBD is a more open network and is more liable to be hacked, so we have chosen not to get involved with it,” says Jon Gilbert, director of strategic projects at Masternaut.
For the employer, these devices do not incur installation costs, but the savings made from committing to a hard-wired version in a company car fleet might pay for installation in grey fleet.
Chris Chandler, principal consultant at Lex Autolease, warns there is an “added complication”.
“If someone took a cash allowance and got a car through a personal lease, hard-wired telematics devices might comprise an alteration to the vehicle and the driver might not be able to put a personal piece of kit on a privately-leased vehicle,” he says.
Also consider whether there will be any impact on a manufacturer warranty.
When Commercial Group introduced telematics to its 75 company cars, drivers were not given an option and with its eight grey fleet drivers “we got agreement from them to tap into the wiring system or plug a tracker into the cigarette lighter,” says logistics manager Rob Paddock. He says just one manufacturer had an issue with this.
Consider data protection and employee privacy
It is vital to convey that the company is not stalking its employees. Most devices come with, or can be set up with, a privacy button, which can mask as much or as little information as the company and its employees agree to.
The systems available offer different levels of discretion. CTrack, for example, can be set for specific hours, when it will automatically measure business and private mileage and track location.
Outside those hours it can continue to record the miles covered but with details of locations visited automatically masked. The driver then marks mileage according to business and personal use.
“You do need to include the data protection you are going to adopt in company car and cash allowance policies,” says Creswick.
FMG has a driver policy which makes it clear what it expects of drivers.
Derek Robinson, head of business process improvement at FMG, says: “We get drivers to ensure they understand the requirements of the policy and the reasons the vehicle is being monitored.”
FMG drivers’ journeys are rated red, amber or green and the report from each car goes to a nominated person in the HR department – and drivers know that.
Trotman adds: “It is important to get the employee to opt in and to get that in writing.”