LCV TELEMATICS: Monitoring developments to help keep your fleet on track
23 June 2009
Telematics systems can improve productivity and cut costs, as well as keep drivers safe. Steve Banner reports
Even the most competent and experienced van driver may occasionally drive like a numbskull, while some, alas, behave like idiots every time they get behind the wheel, endangering both themselves and other road users.
Vipul Palan, commercial director at web-based vehicle tracking company TMS2, believes his company has come up with a way of reminding both types of individual not to be foolish.
The firm's Driver Feedback module, which can be added to a telematics system, is an in-cab device that uses 'traffic light' colours to show drivers how well or badly they are driving. The system moves from green through amber to a red light when the driver is doing something that's at best ill-advised and at worst downright dangerous. That could be for example speeding, over-revving or excessively harsh braking. The module enables fleet managers to see how many times the red light has been illuminated, and its presence should help ensure that a firm's employees drive more sensibly, he says, resulting in less accident damage and wear and tear on components, lower fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and fewer speeding tickets.
The information produced by the system could also be used to create a league table showing the best and worst performers, Palan suggests, with the former receiving an award. That way, poorer drivers may be encouraged to raise their game. The package costs £45 per van per month.
Even without an in-cab traffic light, drivers who know a tracking system has been fitted to their van usually behave more prudently because they're aware they're being monitored. That isn't the only benefit tracking brings, however, says Christian Payne, head of marketing at telematics specialist Minorplanet.
For a kick-off, drivers are more productive. They're less inclined to start late, finish early and extend their breaks excessively because they know that everything they are doing is being recorded. Companies can operate more efficiently, too, because operators can see the location of each van and can direct the nearest one to a customer who needs an urgent visit.
"You have to get your costs under control, now more than ever, so that you don't end up exceeding your overdraft limit," says V-SOL managing director, David Isom. "You cannot afford to send somebody 80 miles to do a job when one of your other drivers was just round the corner and you didn't know."
If they're being tracked then drivers are less likely to wander off route, wasting diesel, too. That's one reason why Asda has opted to use Isotrak's Active Transport Management System (ATMS) to control its fleet of 800 home delivery vans.
The supermarket giant says tighter control also means more deliveries per shift plus the ability to deliver within more tightly defined time frames, and that spells better customer service.
Asda is using ATMS to provide remote monitoring of the chilled and frozen food compartments on its vehicles. This allows managers to anticipate fridge unit failure and take remedial action rather than end up having to dispose of an over-heated load. It also ensures that the doors to temperature controlled areas aren't left open for too long.
Sensors are fitted to the load area's doors, and to the cab's passenger door, to boost security and detect unauthorised access. They're fitted to the bonnet as well to ensure drivers open it and conduct all the necessary daily checks prior to departure.
Tracking also means improved security, says Minorplanet's Payne. If a van is stolen or hi-jacked, or if, for example, a lone worker comes under attack, the owner can see where it's gone, and notify the police.
"Such monitoring helps employers fulfil their duty of care obligations to their employees," he points out.
That's a point not lost on Masternaut Three X. Its LoKate wristwatch also works as a miniature mobile phone and GPS receiver with a panic button. If a worker feels threatened, they can discreetly press the button to summon help via a control centre in operation round-the-clock, seven days a week. The caller's location is pinpointed on Microsoft's Virtual Earth map and the centre can alert the emergency services or one of the worker's colleagues.
Still with security, geofencing - using a virtual perimeter on a geographic area - can be used to alert a van's owner if it is being driven out of a depot at 2am when it should be stationary. Odds are that it's either being used illicitly by the authorised driver, or being stolen.
Other benefits tracking can bring include the ability to dispute wrongly issued parking tickets, to prove vehicles are not being used privately - which should reduce the driver's income tax liability - and to check on vans going into the London congestion zone.
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