Fleet News

How to hit 211,000mph without even moving...

SPEED – it's all a state of mind. Power and performance are all very well, but is there an even quicker way?

Take the most powerful car even made, Thrust SSC Super Sonic Car. It took nearly three years to develop and then 100,000 man-hours to build over another two years.

When finished, it blasted to 763.055mph on Black Rock Desert in Nevada, USA, on October, 1997.

Now take Mike from accounts. He is based in London and needs to get to a meeting in Edinburgh, a distance of 411 miles which would take about seven hours at an average 54mph.

Or he could be face-to-face with his customer in about seven seconds, covering the distance at about 211,000 miles per hour.

Luckily, he isn't being fired out of a cannon or being dissolved, Star Trek-style, into the ether.

Like a growing army of converts, he is using video-conferencing to travel without moving and seven seconds is simply the time it takes to phone your contact and for them to answer the phone.

A large number of multi-national companies have become video-conferencing converts as staff travel becomes more dangerous in an era of international terrorism and slower in the face of increased congestion.

But these converts are flying in the face of an even bigger force of sceptics who insist that meeting in person is the only way to do business.

They are also the same people who rack up huge business mileages, with examples including one executive who covered 4,000 miles a month, spending six hours a day in the car to spend two hours in meetings.

Leading road safety organisations called for a safety overhaul in fleets this year after it was revealed that one company car driver covers a staggering 120,000 business miles a year in a 1.3-litre city car.

Executives often argue that 'pressing the flesh' is a vital part of doing business, suggesting you can tell more in a handshake than in a half hour meeting with a new client.

They also claim they couldn't possibly conduct business through a television screen and they have too much to do.

But lots of activity and rushing about doesn't mean things are getting done. It's a state of mind that says: 'I'm in a hurry so I must be busy.'

Drivers are doing nothing while travelling up and down the motorway, but it feels as if they are doing something because they are moving, experts argue. Furthermore, you could get 10 times as many meetings into a day through a TV screen compared to meeting face-to-face.

Again, cynics might argue that vital business contracts could be put at risk because you 'can't be bothered' to make the effort to attend a meeting. What video-conferencing suppliers suggest is holding your first meeting face-to-face, then any future catch-up meetings by video-conference, unless it is absolutely necessary to meet up.

Yes, but unless someone on the other end has video conferencing technology, you can't use it anyway, drivers argue.

True, but while the most expensive video conferencing equipment can cost £10,000, there are now web-based systems and even your 3G phone can offer video conferencing.

Microsoft is a market leader in PC-based conferencing, with its Microsoft Office LiveMeeting software.

And a growing force in video-conferencing is face2face meetings, which is creating a nationwide network of video-conferencing centres.

Customers are offered the use of equipment from around £50 per meeting at 300 locations throughout the UK.

TV celebrity Noel Edmonds is behind the company, which claims video-conferencing is a viable alternative to driving on business.

Roger Bibbings, occupational road safety adviser at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, said: 'It is now accepted that for the majority of people the most dangerous thing they do at work is driving. RoSPA has said for a long time that many road journeys could be avoided by using video-conferencing.

'What we need now is for businesses and organisations to reduce the number of work-related road accidents. Video-conferencing can make a key contribution to ensuring that British businesses become safer, healthier and more efficient.'

A survey carried out for the launch of face2face estimated that the average cost of a business trip is £2,000.

Travellers in the survey estimated the time they spent meetings on most trips is often less than just two hours, or 30% of the total time spent out of the office.

About 60% were travelling purely for business purposes, with UK destinations as far away as North Yorkshire and Hampshire. In addition, almost half would consider video meetings as a preferable alternative. On average, three employees travel to a single meeting, driving staff costs to as much as £6,000 per trip on top of hard costs for travel, food and entertainment.

Edmonds, who is chairman and co-founder of face2face, said: 'Even with the recent sharply increased travel problems on railways, planes and roads, not to mention the introduction of congestion charges and the concerns over terrorism and safety, this research confirms that people continue to travel unnecessarily because they are not aware of the alternative.

'While video communications can never remove the need for all meetings, many companies do realise the real business benefits.'

Useful links

  • www.microsoft.com/windows/netmeeting/
  • www.face2facemeetings.co.uk
  • www.megameeting.com
  • www.videoconferencinguk.co.uk

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