Vehicle tracking: watch and learn

Fleet decisions

With UK economic expansion forecasts slashed by the IMF, there has never been
a better time for fleet-dependent firms to start looking at ways of maximising
‘vehicle and driver’ efficiency as a means of maintaining their competitive

Advanced vehicle tracking technology, or telematics, is one way to sharpen
operations and increase business profitability. By harnessing internet, mobile
phone and General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) technologies, telematics providers
are able to offer tracking applications that are almost universally accessible ­
if you have a web-connected PC and the ability to ‘google’ then you’re already
an expert.

The potential benefits of implementation can be immediate, with enhanced
fleet reactivity and productivity making it possible to generate a fast return
on investment and increase business capacity, in some cases, by up to 20% per

Internet-based, live-tracking systems can offer 24/7 live-visibility of the
mobile workforce via your provider’s secure, map-screen web page. This is
supplemented in many cases by access to online, historical records of journeys
made and other key data. The Quartix system, for instance, delivers copies of
online activity logs to nominated inboxes, daily and/or weekly as part of a
managed service. The logs detail key management information including mileage,
fuel usage, speed, shift duration, driving time and time spent at each site, and
records them in Excel format.

Small companies running just a few commercial vehicles, through to blue-chip
nationals supporting extensive HGV, LCV and sales fleets can benefit from
savings of up to £2,000 per vehicle, per year ­ accrued in a number of ways. Web
tracking makes it easier to eliminate fleet inefficiencies such as journey
duplication/overlap and unscheduled journeys. It also encourages a safer, more
economic driving style among mobile employees and more efficient call placing.
Other benefits include reduced vehicle wear and tear, the ability to cap ov
ertime payments and reduce the admin time associated with maintaining rigorous
health and safety policies.

Making your fleet more efficient relies on a continuous supply of accurate
and comprehensive data. Self-managing tracking systems can provide a sound
backdrop of fleet activity data, against which key personnel can make informed
decisions on maximising fleet potential and improving health and safety.

The potential business benefits of vehicle tracking span every sector and
vehicle-type. For haulage fleets, the main advantages include improved asset
management, enhanced customer service and more efficient load placing, more
accurate timesheets and demurrage charging, protection from claims of
non-delivery and assisted compliance to Working Time Directive legislation.

The technology can also help improve security; most tracking units are
virtually indiscernible when fitted and 24/7 web-enabled live vehicle
positioning can effect rapid recovery of stolen trucks and trailers, which in
turn can lead to reductions in annual fleet insurance premiums.

For van fleets, vehicle tracking can improve efficiency in job planning and
allocation, resulting in greater employee productivity and more frequent meeting
of service level agreements and key performance indicators. The technology makes
it easier to analyse driving time against chargeable time and engineers are able
to work uninterrupted by service centre calls. Using vehicle tracking can
enhance the safety of those employees working alone and it can also serve as
protection from claims of late or non-appearance on site.

But any company with a car fleet also stands to benefit. The software can
dramatically increase sales or service team productivity, reduce the number of
speeding incidents and accidents involving fleet cars as well as strengthen your
company’s negotiating power in relation to incremental rises in fleet insurance

Many engineers keep valuable tools and possessions in company cars and
telematics makes it more likely that if a vehicle is stolen, it will be quickly
traced. The technology enables swift identification of drivers ‘at risk’ to
themselves and other road users through excessive speed or driving hours and
makes it easier to calculate the correct BIK tax charges for vehicles used for
personal journeys.

Typical fixed charges range from 70-80p per vehicle per day; this can add up
over the course of a contract, but the investments can affect the bottom line
quickly providing the data supplied by systems is acted upon by the business. In
common with most technology applications, the data supplied is ‘inert’ and
related benefits are reliant on the skill and insight of the person carrying out

Those most familiar with the business processes and data structures will be
in the strongest position to make good decisions ­ so it pays to seek a
user-friendly tracking option that will make life easier for e.g. payroll
administrator and health and safety officer as well as your fleet manager. The
data can be used to optimum advantage by setting a range of Key Performance
Indicators (KPIs) that can be reviewed regularly.

The level of service, (including ongoing customer support) is the best
differentiator between the many different products on the market. It’s useful to
run several system trials to assess the best option in terms of
user-friendliness, reliability, level of detail and match to fleet

Telematics can’t be introduced on a whim. Its deployment needs sympathetic
management and it is best introduced at a time coinciding with other events on
the company calendar, such as delivery of new vehicles or the annual salary
review. A consultation period is advisable and it can be helpful to point out
that the tracking system will be used in a ‘housekeeping’ rather than
disciplinary capacity.

Stay on track

? A wall-mounted screen, displaying a live-tracking webpage, can be useful
for service centre staff to view fleet movements at a glance, without having to
access individual PCs

? Use a live-tracking webscreen to help allocate urgent
sales/delivery/service calls to the nearest mobile employee able to attend
within contracted hours – minimising overtime costs.

? Arrange for all staff to have access to the live-tracking webpage as it
provides opportunities for honing departmental processes e.g. sales and

? Use historical tracking data to facilitate more-accurate job costing

? By making best use of vehicles at those elusive hours at either end of the
working day; business capacity can be significantly increased

Andy Kirk is sales & marketing director at

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