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TELEMATICS: Keep a close eye on drivers

Date: 02 November 2007

The environment, duty of care, staff productivity - the reasons for adopting telematics are poised to overwhelm driver fears about spying, writes Nick Gibbs

The tipping point for telematics in cars could be close. Despite the ever-multiplying numbers of companies pushing the technology, the uptake - thanks largely to driver resistance - is still very low.

But there are now signs that driver resistance is weakening, and at a time when fleet managers are being handed fundamental reasons to adopt the technology.

The advantages will be obvious for any fleet manager. No matter what the chief area for concern - be that environmental, duty of care, employee productivity - then telematics is the magic wand that could see immediate improvement. Just ask any van fleet manager who's already taken the plunge.

Take the environment. As any satellite-tracking telematics system will record position, it also knows how fast a vehicle is travelling, and that information becomes relevant when one considers that speeding drivers use more fuel than those that don't. According to the Government, a car, on average, uses 9% more fuel at 70mph than it does at 60mph.

Even more pertinent to a company with CO2 reduction targets, ALD Automotive's ProFleet 2 telematics system will soon be able to record the exact amount of CO2 being emitted by each lease vehicle. Once next year's upgrades have been completed, their system will become so advanced that it can take fuel consumption information from the car's computer, work out how much carbon dioxide that equates to, and incorporate it into the driver report.

Telematics can help cut idling time too. When one of Cybit's customers discovered from the reports that their catering refrigeration vans were idling 180 hours a week, they worked out they were being left running after loading to wait for the drivers. The company did have electric plug-ins but not enough, and the ones they did have were out of order. The annual fuel-saving was reckoned to be £6500.

Other benefits

Safety is another obvious benefit. Monitored drivers are slower drivers, for a start. Being able to keep a close check on driver hours is another positive, particularly if it means removing that particular accusation from the prosecution's armoury in the event of a fatal crash. One telecoms company, that wished to remain nameless, turned to telematics after suspecting its high-performing sales team were pushing themselves and their BMWs too hard to cram in more daily meetings with potential clients.

Then there's vehicle servicing - ALD's remote diagnostics system will let the driver know 2000 miles beforehand that a service is due and will pick up any faults that develop - and insurance. Talk to the telematics companies and they'll speak of premium reductions to go with your newly accident-free fleet. They do have links. For example, Trafficmaster supplies Norwich Union with black boxes for its pay-as-you-drive scheme.

Strong resistance

So, there are plenty of upsides, but then you run into the firmly rooted tree of driver resistance. No one likes to be checked up on - or spied upon as a fleet drivers' union would no doubt phrase it - and this can't be construed as anything else...