Having too much information can be as frustrating as not having enough. John Maslen meets the bosses at telematics supplier Eagle-i to find out how the firm is tackling the problem.
Fleet management can be a bit like mining at times.
Most of those in charge of van fleets have dreaded the
experience of digging through mounds of paperwork and information just to find a nugget of valuable data that could make all the difference to running costs.
Spreadsheets and fleet software have made the process less time-consuming, but there is still a vast amount of raw data to process before these systems can be used effectively.
However, times are changing and many fleets are investigating telematics as a powerful tool to speed up the process.
A little black box under the bonnet can record all the
information a fleet operator needs about a vehicle’s location and how it is driven, along with driver details – and can regularly deliver bucket-loads of valuable information to the
fleet manager every second of the day.
But even this latest technology can still leave fleet managers digging their way through mountains of reports trying to
uncover information that will help them find savings, such as speeding trends, mpg reports and so on.
Telematics companies admit there is a problem and some of the leading firms in the market are acting to tackle it.
Eagle-i was so concerned about ‘death by data’ in the industry that it completely redesigned the reporting system that interprets data from its telematics services in a bid to ensure fleet managers get the information they need without
digging through data to find it.
Ian Walmsley, chief executive officer of Eagle-i telematics, based in Runcorn, said: “Fleet managers are often bombarded with huge amounts of information that takes hours of analysing to reach the real point at which decisions can be made and telematics providers have often added to this problem.
“We took a step back and looked at what information was needed by each of the key people in the business, from the managing director to the finance director and fleet manager. then we looked at how that information could effectively be fitted on one piece of paper.”
The result is Monitor3, the new online system that interprets data from its telematics systems and provides an at-a-glance view of a fleet’s operations.
When a user logs on to the system, he or she can personalise it with simple summary reports, nicknamed ‘widgets’, which provide an at-a-glance guide to every aspect of the fleet, creating a personalised ‘dashboard’ that acts as the fleet manager’s homepage.
This can range from mpg and vehicle mileage to distance travelled, time travelled, idling time and so on.
A vast amount of data can be delivered in a single page and Eagle-i is predicting that more than 100 customisable widgets will soon be available as the system is rolled out to more customers, to ensure that information can be tailored to any company and any job title.
Click on any box and it drills down to provide much more detailed information that makes up the summary on the home page.
But just as a diamond remains a dull stone after you dig it up until it has been expertly polished into something of real value, raw fleet data is useless unless you know what to do
once you have found it.
Mr Walmsley said: “Normally the telematics provider is nowhere to be seen when it comes to using the data to take action and we believe that is a key reason why up to half of
customers of telematics companies don’t renew with their existing supplier at the end of their contract period.
“One key problem is the way data is delivered and the second is that fleets realise they just don’t have the processes to act on the data they are getting.”
Eagle-i has created a consulting division that focuses on ensuring companies get the best out of telematics, from creating the business case for its use to having policies and
procedures in place to make sure information the system generates is acted upon.
Eagle-i has appointed Simon Jackson to head up ei Consulting.
He has several years’ experience in the telematics market.
One of the key questions fleets need to ask when they are
considering opting for telematics is what information they want to see from the system.
After all, you don’t want it delivering data if it won’t be
At its most basic level, eagle-i’s system can deliver mileage information along with business and private mileage data, so van fleets can be certain their vehicles are being used effectively and that they can protect drivers from receiving a huge tax bill for private use.
By spending more, the system can be upgraded to deliver every imaginable piece of data needed to ensure the smooth running of the fleet.
Drivers can be issued with special identity keys which mean a fleet manager can automatically examine their vehicle use, no matter how many vans they drive.
Some critics say this level of control over drivers smacks of big brother, because systems know where drivers are and when, so a crafty afternoon break will soon be spotted.
The system can even benchmark how long delivery stops are taking and pick out the slowest drivers.
But eagle-i argues that drivers stand to gain
as much as companies.
Andrew Hunter, commercial director at eagle-i, said: “It is
more like Big Mother than Big Brother now. telematics levels the playing field.
For example, when a company’s customer accuses
a delivery driver of not attempting to deliver a package, the system can be used to prove the employee was actually there.”
Clearly there are savings for the company as well, either through reduced overtime claims, more efficient routing, fuel savings and even reduced accidents as risk-taking drivers can be pinpointed and trained.
Industry estimates vary, but at least two times return on investment can be expected and in the most successful applications this can rise to six times ROI.
With up to 800 providers in the market, it pays to ensure you are asking the right questions before buying.
Financial checks are a must, according to Eagle-i.
Also ask about timescales for getting equipment fitted to vehicles, the failure rates of their equipment and the level of support available.
Top tips for choosing a supplier
1. Does the prospective supplier have an established
and proven track record, ideally of a minimum of five
years, and are they financially viable?
2. Do they own and develop their own technology or
are they dependent upon others? In other words, do
they have complete control over their own systems or
do they have cast-iron service guarantees with their
3. Do they provide implementation and support services
to ensure that the customer achieves the desired
return on investment, rather than leaving them to ‘get
on with it’?
4. Can they demonstrate a strong reference base of
customers and third party testimonials to prove that
they are capable of delivering what they say they are?
5. Do they back up their promises with a service level
agreement that essentially underwrites the services
they are providing?
6. When selecting a telematics system, fleet customers
should consider whether the system offers a range of
service levels to match their requirements
7. Is the system modular and scalable, enabling the
user to add applications if their requirements change?
8. Is the system secure, reliable and simple to use?
9. Is the system capable of distilling management reports,
by Key Performance Indicators, to a single sheet
of paper, thus eradicating ‘death by data’?
10. Is the system capable of being customised to meet
management needs, including human resources,
finance, sales and operations, as well as fleet?