Viewpoint: Fleet telematics—Managing fleets in difficult economic times

Viewpoint: Fleet telematics—Managing fleets in difficult economic times

The difficult economic climate has increased the importance of cost–related issues for businesses with fleets. As we emerge from a tumultuous 2012, minimising current spending is top of the agenda and achieving this through more thorough vehicle assessments, fuel monitoring, driver behaviour and operating more efficiently have all been cited as key focuses.

However, while it is entirely understandable to reduce costs when sales have fallen, tackling the budget black cloud is not an easy task and there is a right and a wrong way to go about it without sacrificing the quality of the operation. (For more on fleets, see Industry insight: Fleet telematics.)

Efficient management and utilisation of vehicle fleets is of the utmost importance as it can have a major impact on a company’s annual spend. Many companies acknowledge that 2013 will be a year when they will need to do more with fewer resources. This is not an easy task, but by following a best practise approach, fleet managers can maximise the performance of their mobile workforce and extend vehicle life whilst, at the same time, saving on running costs. Some of the major factors to consider in achieving this include:

Reduce unnecessary maintenance costs

Keep on top of vehicle component wear and tear. Efficient management of each vehicle increases its productivity and will lower the risk of mechanical failure.

Reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions

Manage fuel and reduce carbon emissions per vehicle by reducing unauthorised vehicle use and monitoring driver activities such as speeding, excessive idling and route deviation.

Manage productivity

Optimise the use and number of vehicles and equipment needed to complete work efficiently. This will increase the amount of time vehicles are in productive use.

The emergence of vehicle diagnostic solutions take routine maintenance checks a step further by providing real-time data so information can be drawn directly from the vehicle, helping improve vehicle maintenance, service scheduling and uptime by getting fault codes and alerts about engine difficulties before they become a major problem.

Information can also identify how a vehicle is being driven and provide real-time data on fuel consumption, for example, so exact fuel use can be monitored helping identify where fuel is being wasted on poorly performing vehicles.

Taking steps to proactively service underperforming vehicles not only significantly reduces on the road risk but minimises vehicle breakdowns or unscheduled downtime that could considerably mitigate fleet costs.

Managing the driver

So your vehicles could be in the best condition possible and being utilised in the most efficient way, but how are they being driven?

Careless driving can cost companies thousands or even millions of pounds each year. Figures from Fleet200 members indicate that their drivers have 174,000 accidents a year, resulting in a single Fleet2001 company spending £1.3 million on accidents per year. Promoting a safe driving culture is therefore essential. A safe driver is a cost-effective driver. They have fewer accidents, they are more productive and they tend to drive more efficiently, reducing the fuel bill.

Training on economic driving, mapping out the best routes and sourcing out the best local prices for fuel are just some of the ways fleets can manage their drivers to make the most out of the fuel. There are also many different procedures and management polices fleets can implement to help to manage company drivers more effectively, from licence checks to risk assessments.

Driver safety solutions enable managers to monitor driving behaviour and complete back office analysis of aggressive manoeuvres, such as hard acceleration, braking, turns and speed. With this data at hand, recommendations on training can be made for individual drivers, resulting in lower accidents and liability therefore helping to manage the risks and costs associated with work-related driving.

Simple policies to improve driver efficiency can also play an important role in containing fuel costs. This could be as ‘low tech’ as introducing ‘how is my driving?’ stickers, which are proven to improve safe driving (and therefore fuel consumption), or look at a driver training programme that teaches more efficient driving.

Small changes in driver behaviour, vehicle condition and intelligent routing all make a significant difference to fuel use and can be controllable through driver education, better work scheduling and regular maintenance, servicing and even tyre pressure checks to minimise fuel wastage.

Achieve a meaningful ROI

Maintaining efficient fleets is essential for any business to remain competitive and a solution that boosts productivity whilst reducing costs ensures a business achieves a genuine Return on Investment (ROI).

Fleet Management technologies have gained recognition as being powerful management tools and businesses that have rolled them out have recouped the benefits, with increased productivity, reduced fuel consumption, improved fleet utilisation, improved driver safety and reduced vehicle and operating costs, all factors which can lead to a rapid ROI. 

The capabilities of modern field service management solutions can improve a company’s productivity and level of service by enabling every aspect of a mobile operation to be identified, measured, and analysed. Efficiency can be increased by completing more tasks per day with the same workforce, and a boost in customer satisfaction and retention can be achieved through greater appointment flexibility.

The technology also helps boost customer satisfaction by enabling better communication, answering more customer service calls per day and mitigating return visits by getting the right worker to the right job at the right time.

Mark Forrest is managing director of Trimble's Field Service Management (FSM) division.

For more from Mark, see Fleet telematics: Changing driver behaviour for the better and Fleet telematics: The business case for tech investment.

For more on fleets, see Industry insight: Fleet telematics.

For the latest on fleets, visit Telematics for Fleet Management Europe 2013 on March 19-20 in Amsterdam.

For all the latest telematics trends, check out Telematics India and South Asia 2013 on April 17-18 in Bangalore, India, Telematics Detroit 2013 on June 5-6, Content & Apps for Automotive Europe 2013 on June 18-19 in Munich and Telematics Russia 2013 in September in Moscow.

For exclusive telematics business analysis and insight, check out TU’s reports: In-Vehicle Smartphone Integration Report, Human Machine Interface Technologies and Smart Vehicle Technology: The Future of Insurance Telematics.

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