The use of telematics in the fleet sector has been growing gradually in recent years, as companies and fleet managers are becoming increasingly convinced about the benefits of the technology.
Organisations using telematics have found that they’ve made savings in lower fuel and service, maintenance and repair (SMR) costs, while most are also seeing a lower incidence of collisions – with all the obvious benefits that also brings.
However, there remains a resistance to telematics among some fleet drivers, who feel that having their journeys tracked and their performance monitored smacks of ‘Big Brother’ tactics.
This resistance is diminishing: a 2015 survey by LeasePlan, one of the largest vehicle leasing groups in Europe, found that the case for telematics is slowly winning over even drivers of company cars and commercial vehicles yet to be faced with monitoring, with 50% saying that they would feel comfortable with telematics monitoring.
The reason for this growing acceptance is that fleet operators are taking the right approach to the introduction of this technology and explaining to their drivers what it does and how it will benefit them.
John Pryor, chairman of ACFO – the organisation that represents fleet decision-makers in charge of cars and light commercial vehicles – told us: “In terms of the monitoring of driver performance, there’s an understanding that you don’t just install telematics: there has to be a conversation with drivers about what it’s for.
“It’s good for drivers, because it helps them drive properly and ensures that you get value for money from your vehicle. Certainly, if you use some of the more advanced telematics and data options, you’re getting route guidance and route planning, which can help people. But it has to be with the cooperation with the driver.
“There are also dash cams that a lot of drivers find beneficial to them, because if there is an issue or an accident, you’ve got it on camera and that certainly helps.”
At Shell’s Make The Future in London, George de Boer, international alliance manager for TomTom, which has a cloud-based vehicle tracking and fleet management software product called Webfleet said: “I really do think there needs to be a culture shift. If we are working in an office, our manager can see what we are doing or when we are going to lunch, so why is it strange that we can see what a driver is doing when he is in the car visiting someone? I really don’t see that it is a problem to monitor what employees are doing during working hours. It is all about explaining the processes around data collection and what can be done with settings – for example, private mode for trips outside of working hours.”
Once employees are won over, they quickly find that it’s not just the fleet that sees the benefits: they soon find that they become safer, more economical drivers.
Part of the impetus for this is a psychological phenomenon called the Hawthorne Effect, which posits that people alter their behaviour when they have an awareness of being observed. So fleet drivers realise that the performance of the car – including any incidences of sudden lane changes, harsh braking and excess speed – will be recorded and they could be questioned about them.
Introducing a competitive element to the telematics programme, especially one that is incentivised, can also increase acceptance. De Boer said: “Incentivising employees can really help – some companies offer bonuses for the most efficient driver at the end of the month so that they directly benefit from cost-savings alongside the company, for example.”
The data recorded by fleet telematics systems can be used to produce league tables, with the top-performing (and also the best-improving) drivers being rewarded gift vouchers or such like. This is very much the definition of a win-win situation: fleets benefit from lower costs all round, while drivers not only improve the skills, but also receive tangible rewards.
For fleets considering the introduction of telematics systems, or who have a rump of drivers who still see the systems as intrusive, it’s clear that a conversation has to be initiated to convince them of the benefits.
And if you can appeal to employees’ competitive streaks, an incentive scheme can often seal the deal.