Company car users predict the rise of the robot car
01 September 2015
With ever more technology available to fleet managers - letting them keep tabs on drivers' fuel economy, location, speed and even how fast they take corners - monitoring company car users is easier than ever, though staying up to date with fleet management tools is increasingly difficult, a report by Lex Autolease has found.
The provision of company cars, meanwhile, is as popular as ever with staff, claims managing director at Lex, Tim Porter: "It is clear that the car remains a vital tool for work and is also a highly valued employee benefit. I was particularly encouraged to see that many young people aspire to driving a car and that having a company car is still seen as a mark of achievement."
With the advent of autonomous cars on the horizon, things could become even more complicated for fleet managers, too, with just over a quarter of the fleet managers surveyed expecting driverless cars to be on the road within 10 years.
The research, which quizzed more than 1000 employees and 249 fleet managers, found that automatic driver aids are supported by the vast majority of drivers, with 85% backing the use of warning systems that alert the person behind the wheel when they appear to be losing attention or falling asleep.
Meanwhile, 75% also approve of more invasive automatic braking systems, which can seize control and slow the car in the event that the driver fails to respond to a hazard. Also receiving strong support - with the backing of 68% of respondents - are automatic steering systems, which prevent cars from straying out of their lane.
Fully autonomous cars, however, don't seem to be as popular with drivers, with just 25% approving of driverless vehicles that need no human input, bar setting the destination. Similarly, automated systems that take control from the driver on the motorway - allowing for 'road trains', where vehicles could drive closely behind each other in dedicated lanes to reduce fuel consumption - are not a popular concept yet, with only 38% of drivers comfortable at the prospect.
While autonomous vehicles are very much a thing of the future, telematics and driver monitoring appear to have become a key part of many fleets, with 36% of drivers having their mileage logged and 22% having their fuel consumption monitored. This seems to have been accepted b a large proportion of drivers, with nearly half happy to have this data tracked by their employer.
More contentious, though, are telematics systems and dash cams, with only 23% happy to have kit monitoring how they drive and 36% willing to have a camera fitted to their vehicle. This comes as 19% of fleet managers say that they have installed telematics in their fleets and 7% have installed cameras - though many of these cases are likely to be commercial vehicles, where the stakes for being involved in a crash can be much higher.
As well as leading to safer fleets, technology is also one of the key distractions for company car drivers, the Lex Autolease data reveals. Topping the list of distractions are laptops/tablets, with two-thirds of fleet drivers finding them dramatically reducing their level of attention. Next in line are mobile phones, with 59% of drivers finding them distracting, closely followed by children in the car, with a figure of 58%. Surprisingly, 39% of respondents claimed that work pressures were a distraction when on the move.
A large number of those in the research also admitted to law breaking or other bad habits while behind the wheel, with 63% owning up to speeding on major roads or motorways and 55% admitting to breaking the limit on urban roads.
One-fifth of drivers also continue to use their mobile phone handheld when driving - despite the fine for those caught being hiked up in 2013 with plans drawn up to increase it further. Meanwhile, 16% of respondents held their hands up to smoking or reading a paper map while driving.
Worse than this, 8% of those questioned fall into a category branded by Lex as 'Law Breakers' who admit to "serious driving offences, many of them multiple offenders". Within this group, a substantial 83% have had an incident in the last year due to being distracted at the wheel.
However, technology also provides an answer to this with 9% of fleet managers using devices restrict vehicles' top speed and a further 8% planning to introduce these in the next two years - encouraging safer driving and reducing fuel consumption.
Fleet manager role changing
Lex Autolease's research has also established that the role of fleet managers has shifted dramatically, with managers moving away from being technical experts to spending their time getting to speed with the legal intricacies of running company cars and managing relationships within the organisation.
Keeping tabs on costs, negotiating with different stakeholders, dealing with suppliers and making sure to take into account the environmental implications of running a fleet of cars are also deemed very important by the managers who took part in the survey. HR skills scored highly too, with knowledge of the car market ranking and technical car knowledge coming much lower.
Know your users
Business users vary dramatically in their level of interest in what they drive and how closely they follow driving laws. Lex has divided company car drivers into six bands; 'Law Breakers', 'Greens', 'Car Lovers', 'Home-from-Homers', 'Functionalists' and 'Others'.
While Law Breakers don't follow motoring laws too closely - as seen in the high proportion who have had an incident in the last year - the Greens focus on the environment when deciding which car to go for. Car Lovers on the other hand are more likely to choose a sports car, while Home-from-Homers drive on autopilot and the Functionalists see a car as merely a way of getting from A to B.