Fleet News

The hi-tech aid for fleet driver safety

ONE of Britain's best-known names in stolen vehicle tracking and recovery was a late arrival in the burgeoning market for telematics vehicle asset management systems. But being among the last allowed Tracker the time to create what it claims to be the best products of its kind – a view reinforced with the accolade of being named Best Telematics System at the 2003 Fleet News Awards.

Marketing manager Michelle McLaughlin said: 'We were pleased with Communicator, our first product of this type that was launched back in 1999, but we believe that our new line-up of fleet management systems is simply the best available. They're certainly the most developed and offer the most functions.

'For a company that has built its reputation on stolen vehicle recovery products, it's great to be recognised for providing the equipment that is now seen as best meeting the needs of employers and their employees.'

The systems operated by Uxbridge-based Tracker are branded as Communicator and Reporter. More comprehensive and aimed at larger fleets, Communicator is the more costly option, leaving Reporter as a management tool for smaller or less complex fleets. But both make use of the latest GPS, GSM and telematics technology that allows fleet managers to access vehicle information via the internet, WAP-enabled mobile phones or ISDN lines.

McLaughlin added: 'With Communicator, fleet information can be accessed from the office, home or out on the road because the central monitoring bureau we have provides customers with constant out-of-hours or emergency monitoring.'

Features unique to Communicator include a Tracker-patented voice reporting system called Talk that provides live reports on vehicle status at any time from any touchtone telephone anywhere in the world. Constant monitoring with an optional driver help desk ensures the most up-to-date travel and service information is always available en route.

The company's most powerful reporting tool also offers a choice of historic and live reports tailored to the needs of individual customers and capable of delivering up to 10,000 event reports for each vehicle. It can also be accessed through a secure internet site. Information for drivers can be shown on an in-cab display and controlled GSM telephone access restricts phone usage to necessary business calls.

Communicator also has a key fob that allows drivers access to pre-programmed call numbers and includes a panic button to raise the alarm should the vehicle be hijacked or stolen.

McLaughlin said: 'We wanted to create a package capable of raising the standard of service while also lowering the cost. It took us two years to do it, but we have succeeded in positioning this technology within reach of most commercial vehicle operators.

'Knowing where each vehicle is allows the system user to provide a schedule that maximises its use at all times. As a result, direct cost benefits come from reduced operating time, lower mileage and fuel savings.

'Communicator is also a wonderful aid to consumer relations. Let's say a customer calls in and wants to know how long it will take for a service engineer to arrive.

'Using this system, the company knows exactly where the engineer is and can work out the arrival time.

'In addition, it allows the company to take a look at driving patterns and the routes drivers take.

'We spent a lot of time asking fleet managers what they needed. We did have some resistance with regard to spying, and ADT, which has 1,400 service engineer vehicles, ended up at an industrial tribunal after it tried the equipment for the first time. Drivers felt it was a Big Brother situation and were not happy about it, and we developed a privacy button as a result. Our view on all this is that if you are working for a company and driving a company vehicle during company hours, the company has a perfect right to know what you are doing.

'ADT's attitude was that, as staff members were entitled to use vehicles out of working hours, it was perfectly reasonable for them not to want their bosses to know what they were doing at night or during weekends. The privacy button allows the vehicle to be isolated and the company is realising many benefits of the system installation.'

According to McLaughlin, a top priority at Tracker is for drivers to be happy using its telematics systems.

She said: 'We explain to them that if they are being sent on routes around the country that are not logical, this equipment can make their working life easier by cutting down on the number of hours they need to spend on the road. This in turn allows them to spend more time at home – and it doesn't take long for them to appreciate the benefits.'

Reporter, Tracker's entry-level fleet management product, allows historical movement data to be downloaded from the company's website. The system is designed to hold up to 2,000 events per vehicle – such as position, speed, stop-start times, cumulative journey time and excessive idle time – over 30-day periods.

McLaughlin added: 'Reporter allows fleet managers to access data that was previously not available and empowers them to optimise vehicle use, resulting in reduced operating time, greater control and more effective usage. Prior to Reporter, there was no effective product on the market specially tailored for smaller fleets – we've filled this gap and are now able to offer a cost-effective vehicle monitoring solution to replace guesswork.

'Cutting down waste helps driver safety and we believe telematics is a terrific aid to risk management in allowing companies to pinpoint the precise location of vehicles, and their speed, in the event of accidents.

'Tracker is recognised by a number of insurers, and as well as allowing operators to actively monitor driver and vehicle behaviour and other features that contribute to a company's health and safety commitments, it can provide significant data that helps reduce fleet insurance premiums.'

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