APPS: Useful tools of the trade or a case of form over function?
20 December 2013
Author: Jack Carfrae
Car manufacturers have been keen to jump on the bandwagon, and virtually every one has an app of some description. Ones with real worth to fleets are few and far between, but Toyota's MyCompanyCar and Complete Company Car Tax Guide are aimed squarely at business car operators.
Fleet marketing manager Jon Hunt explains why the company chose to develop them: "Two years ago, I produced a tax guide, which was a printed booklet. It was really popular but it lacked the ability to be updated quickly and it wasn't able to clearly show a proper comparison.
"I developed the first one (tax calculator) as a guide to tax and company cars - that in itself was a little bit crude, so over the last year, I decided to make it a proper Apple app.
"It has another usage in that you can quickly bring up the information you need and say, 'here's another vehicle you might like to consider that might save you, say, £1500'. It's handy from a customer-facing and a dealer point of view. It's also a way of connecting people because they can respond via the app."
Hunt says the apps have been reasonably well received by fleets and that they are being used as they were intended to be - not just sitting dormant on people's phones.
"The tax guide had been reasonably well used. It had had 8500 downloads or so. We could tell from the number of downloads when they were updated. We had one full tax year of it and most people updated them [when the financial year changed or the Budget was announced]. It's less when advisory fuel rates change, but it's still a significant portion."
There's a safety aspect to consider too. Some apps - satnav systems and green driving ones in particular - operate in the car, on the move when the phone is mounted in a cradle, which, is a cause for concern, according to managing director of Fleet Risk Consultants Nigel Grainger,
"There are good ones and bad ones," he says. "The big worry is about what stuff is being used for. I've seen examples on Facebook where people take pictures while driving.
"We're getting into winter now and people love to take pictures of their temperature gauge - you can see that they've done it while they're driving and it's just ludicrous. Fleet operators need to be aware of this and take the appropriate steps. There's no obvious way to keep on top of it."
He says a no-nonsense strategy is the way to deal with this sort of behaviour: "You need to have a robust policy in place and police it. If you catch somebody, penalise them. You have to see it through."
But Grainger acknowledges that there are useful apps around: "Ones for lone workers are good - you can actually find the employee. That's important from a health and safety perspective because you know where people are. If you've got a salesman who's out and about all day, he's done a day's work - how do you know he's got home safe? How do you know your fire alarm engineer's not stuck up a duct somewhere?"