The same is happening with telematics and tracking aids. Companies are welcoming their use but even though awareness of this kind of technology is high, take-up remains sluggish. These findings are confirmed in a recent study which polled more than 200 commercial fleet operators. The report – Telematics Opportunities in the UK Commercial Vehicle Environment – covers issues such as awareness of telematics, desirability and preference of systems. It also gauges the willingness of fleet managers to pay for the technology. Surprisingly, those polled said they were more willing to pay for telematics than satellite navigation but, although 63% of fleets were aware of the technology, only 40% had or would consider introducing telematics into their fleet. A spokeswoman for consultant Frost & Sullivan, which conducted the survey, said: ‘With penetration of telematics in new commercial vehicles expected to reach more than one million vehicles by 2009 in Europe, fleets need to understand the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.’ AWARENESS OF TELEMATICS ALMOST two-thirds (63%) of commercial vehicle (CV) operators in the survey were aware of telematics, which means fleet managers running commercial vehicles are more responsive to the technology than those running cars. Only 37% of car fleets are aware of the benefits of installing telematics systems. In Europe, the UK has the highest penetration of CV telematics. FEATURES DESIRABILITY WHEN asked which telematics would be most useful, the majority of commercial fleets cite vehicle location and performance monitoring. Navigation and traffic information come a close second alongside safety and security. Emergency assistance and tracking functions are less desirable options. PORTABILITY LARGER and local CV fleets say they need the systems to be portable to allow them to be removed from vehicles in case of a breakdown or replacement. The ability to transfer data and information in ‘real time’, being able to upgrade, and having a single portable unit with common features are also important. WILLINGNESS TO PAY Telematics systems are worth the investment, say fleets. But CV operators add they would be less inclined to pay extra for safety and security features as they expect them to be standard. Infotainment systems are perceived as the least desirable. SPOTLIGHT ON NAVIGATION WHILE most managers say being able to see their drivers’ locations is important, the drivers themselves rate traffic information highest. Point of interest and toll-site features are most beneficial to international operators and those in the logistics and food industries rank navigation highly. Motorway toll tag technology helps clear the way ahead COMMERCIAL vehicle operators responding to the Frost & Sullivan survey –which led to the Telematics Opportunities in the UK Commercial Vehicle Environment report – claim toll information is one of the most important aspects offered on telematics systems. Telematics company Masternaut has now teamed up with M6 Toll to ease fleets’ passage through the relief road with the introduction of a tag which automatically raises toll barriers (Fleet NewsNet, June 2). The group is aiming the technology at commercial vehicle fleets, but if the vehicles are already equipped with and use technology produced by Masternaut, they can be issued a tag pre-loaded with £30-worth of credit. The tags incorporate a high-frequency radio transmitter. Barriers are raised and the account is debited automatically. Transactions and account details are also available online including driving hours, messaging and routing. Martin Port, managing director of Masternaut, said: ‘Anyone using the M6 will be well aware of the high number of commercial vehicles on the road, in particular the frequent traffic jams on the Birmingham stretch.
‘The M6 Toll road and tag technology, combined with Masternaut, have all had a big impact in reducing travel time, mileage, fuel consumption and congestion.
‘With drivers’ hours now having to be cut due to Working Time Regulations, commercial vehicle operators need all the help they can get to maximise driver utilisation.’ Tips on choosing tracking systems FLEETS can choose between systems that track the vehicle or track the driver’s mobile phone. Several systems are available. Some use a ‘black box’ which fits inside the vehicle and uses GPS technology to transmit the vehicle’s position back to the fleet manager’s computer in the office, while others hook in to mobile phone networks. To use the latter system, the driver’s mobile phone number is entered into a website. The position of the mobile can then be seen and mapped by the fleet manager live on screen.
Other mobile phone systems can be linked to the in-vehicle satellite navigation system. The vehicle is tracked and viewed by both the driver and the fleet manager. New locations and new jobs can be allocated to the driver by this method. The basic points a fleet manager should consider when deciding on a tracking system include: