Fleet News

Tracking systems warning

FLEETS investing in tracking systems to cut risk among their fleet drivers must take a careful look at their requirements before signing any contracts.

Buying the wrong system could not only fail to achieve any savings, but also lead to increased costs, industry experts have warned.

Companies assume that tracking technology can be introduced with minimal planning and that all tracking solutions are the same.

Michael Bateson, managing director of Siemens Datatrak, said: 'The result is often disappointment and, more significantly, a failure to realise the all-important return on investment.

'In today's climate more than ever, business decisions have to provide an appropriate payback. On paper, vehicle tracking certainly fits the bill, but more has to be done to enable fleet directors and their companies to realise the benefits in a practical sense.'

Key benefits of using tracking systems, apart from knowing where vehicles are and being able to more effectively manage their use, include reduced costs, as information can be sent more cheaply than through expensive mobile telephone calls.

Security is improved, as stolen vehicles can be tracked, while fraudulent claims for overtime or unauthorised use of vehicles can be spotted and stopped.

Bateson said: 'The optimal return on investment, measured in terms of increased productivity and efficiency of fleet resources, goes to those companies that apply vehicle tracking technology effectively.'

For example, fleets may have to choose between GPS-based tracking systems and one based on low-frequency radio waves.

If the firm is based in a city centre, then GPS may have 'blind spots', as tall buildings block the satellite signals used to calculate the vehicle's position. Low frequency radio waves do not have this problem.

He added: 'Research in a number of European capitals shows that GPS-enabled positioning in urban areas is reliable for only about 75% of the time.

'However, GPS-enabled tracking solutions should be considered for fleets which undertake long-distance routes with large payloads. In this scenario, tracking is important in terms of days rather than hours or even minutes. It is also good for remote areas, such as the highlands and glens of Scotland, providing tracking in a way that matches the evolving or ad hoc requirements of the business.'

Expandability or future-proofing is another important factor. If it will be essential to track the fleet in Europe as well as the UK in a couple of years, find out if this is possible with the system you are choosing.

Also, check whether the system is provided for a flat-rate subscription cost, or whether charges are based on use, as this can make a major difference to the cost of running systems.

So-called 'hidden' charges, such as licence costs for maps, should be checked.

Bateson added: 'Fleets should not overlook the cultural aspects of introducing vehicle tracking. It is easy to forget that too many mobile workers, whether delivery drivers or salespeople, are apt to see tracking as an intrusion that limits their ability to exploit the system.

'The sting can also be taken out of the 'big brother' issue by formalising some of the 'grey benefits' people gain from working the system.

'For example, if you have a 45-minute lunch break but find people are used to taking up to an hour, adjust company policy to offer this flexibility, customer requirements allowing. Empower your drivers.'

In the UK, Siemens Datatrak has an installed base of 24,000 vehicles from emergency services, service management, distribution & logistics, transport and rental companies. Customers include Avis, Europcar, Arcade, Staffordshire Ambulance Service, Securicor Cash Services, Saints Transport and Target Worldwide Express.

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