Since the launch of the first GPS satellite in the 1970’s, telematics solutions have gone from simple vehicle trackers to systems capable of live diagnostic reporting for thousands of vehicles simultaneously. As we head into the era of electric fleets, solutions are now being built to optimise power usage to ensure charging stations are never out of range – helping to secure telematics’ place in the future of fleet management.
How can telematics help?
Today, fleet managers have access to a high volume of data points that cover almost every aspect of vehicle and driver, with live results and reporting that allows managers to make fleet-wide decisions based on a greater amount of data than ever before. This data-driven approach to fleet management can give decision makers detailed visibility of the inner workings of their fleets, from overall mileage to the idling time of a single vehicle on a particular route.
It’s not uncommon to find telematics solutions that cover:
- Vehicle tracking
- Diagnostics monitoring
- Fuel usage and efficiency
- Route optimisation and planning
As the role of a fleet manager changes, taking on more responsibility for managing costs and moving away from driver safety, telematics allows them to automatically optimise existing fleet operations and quickly find efficiencies that may otherwise be overlooked. What’s more, purchasing or leasing decisions can be influenced by telematics data, helping managers to make informed decisions when it comes to what’s right for their operations and drivers.
Telematics can highlight areas where drivers need to improve, while managers are able to benchmark entire fleet performance and work on a fleet risk management plan to improve it. But is a telematics system all that’s needed to achieve this? Let’s take a look at the limitations.
Where do telematics fall short?
For bigger fleets, there can be large costs associated with implementing a sophisticated telematics solution, with ongoing budget needing to be allocated to cloud storage for the high volume of data now being collected. What’s more, smaller fleets are unable to benefit from the same economies of scale and may find the unit cost for kitting out each vehicle outweighs any perceived benefit the solution may offer.
But it’s not just about finances. High-quality information can quickly lose value if decision makers have to work hard to understand it, and the large amount of data from telematics solutions can mean that a busy fleet manager simply doesn’t have the time to pull out useful insights. This highlights the importance of any risk management or telematics solution being easy to understand and able to clearly highlight the key areas for improvement.
The most important issue with telematics, however, is the question of how to actually improve driver behaviour. Telematics solutions can fall short by simply highlighting issues within fleets, but being unable to facilitate appropriate techniques needed to improve driver behaviour.
Take braking, for example. Telematics may identify that x-percentage of drivers brake too harshly on every delivery route, however a meeting to review this data with drivers and advise them not to do so isn’t enough. Some drivers may not see the importance or significance of the telematics data beyond trying to save their employer money, and real support is needed to improve behaviour. Not everyone is data-driven, and professional drivers need targeted training that relates to their skills as a driver – not simply to be presented with telematics findings and asked to improve.
The responsibility for these conversations has also become blurred in recent times, with health and safety executives and training and development managers becoming increasingly responsible for driver safety. This can mean the cost-saving aspect of telematics solutions are studied by the fleet manager, but the training of those drivers and their safety lies in the hands of someone who may be getting the data second hand, or perhaps not at all.
How can on-road training and e-learning help?
Plugging this final gap between telematics and driver safety can be done through on-road training and e-learning. By using telematics data to influence decisions around risk management, fleet managers can boost the skills of their drivers, which will not only help to improve the results seen on telematics but also help them to be safer and more efficient in the long run.
Investing in on-road training and e-learning can have the following benefits:
- Investing in personal development. Upskilling drivers and investing in their personal development will help to create a culture of safety within a fleet by being mutually beneficial to driver and employer.
- Putting theory into practice. On-road training enables drivers to put into practice theory they have learned in real time, in real-life scenarios, cementing their new learning through immediate experience and feedback.
- Improved fuel efficiency. Driver behaviour is critical to improving fuel efficiency of fleets and equipping drivers with the knowledge and on-road skills to achieve significant fuel savings could see a reduction in fuel costs and see telematics scores improve.
- Reduced incident rates and associated costs. The fundamentals of defensive driving – Observation, Anticipation and Planning – can be taught and then used to by drivers to avoid collisions, benefitting their own safety and that of other road users, and reducing unplanned costs for their employer.
Since April 2019, Link Contracting, a nationwide construction and maintenance contractor working with major clients such as Co-op, Tesco and Well Pharmacies, has used IAM RoadSmart’s e-learning portal, CHOICES, and on-road training packages for all its new and existing drivers. Backed by their existing telematics system, Link Contracting identified key areas for improvement and used the e-learning portal to set about improving driver behaviour, with high-risk drivers receiving on-road training and development. Since then, Link Contracting have seen the following improvements after combining their telematics with e-learning on on-road interventions:
reduction in insurance premium in first 12 months
significant health and safety awards in 2019 as a result of IAM RoadSmart partnership
reduction in collisions and claims
“THE BUSINESS GAINED TWO HEALTH AND SAFETY AWARDS IN 2019, AND OUR PARTNERSHIP WITH IAM ROADSMART DIRECTLY CONTRIBUTED TO THIS”Simon JonesLink Contracting Head of Health & Safety
If you’d like to learn more about how our fleet risk management and e-learning portal, CHOICES, can help your fleet to plug the gap between telematics and improved driver behaviour, please click here to learn more.