Busting the myths around telematics
How to avoid being overwhelmed by ‘too much information’ and ways to engage staff in the adoption of the technology, were just some of the areas covered by Nick Walker, RAC Telematics MD during a recent live webinar.
The aim of the session was to look at some of the myths that have built up around the use of telematics but also to explore how businesses can benefit from the adoption of the technology.
Nick, who worked in the technology and telecoms sector for about 30 years before taking up his current role at the RAC, hosted an online audience of fellow professionals taking them through some of the basics in terms of how the technology works and where it came from, as well as discussing the potential for the technology to deliver on savings and efficiencies.
Can you explain what telematics is and how it has developed?
“Telematics initially came about as a tracking device so businesses could track vehicles and understand where their people were at any given time. This is really what gave rise to the idea of it being a Big Brother-type tool.
“In essence it is a black box device, about the size of a matchbox, which plugs into the onboard diagnostics port in the vehicle. It works as a GPS in order to be able to track the vehicle, but also monitors things like speed, acceleration and braking levels, in order to give a picture of how the vehicle is being driven.
“But the reality is it has become much more sophisticated over the years, and now the technology is used much more to understand vehicle health in terms of the condition of the vehicles, but also to support Duty of Care obligations among staff, which can often be overlooked. It feels to me like the Big Brother tag is no longer relevant.
“In addition, at the RAC we’ve developed technology to help the driver retain a level of privacy if they choose, with the RAC MyDrive Bluetooth fob. This is a simple key fob that connects to the device, and enables the user to switch to private mode when not at work, which is crucial for a lot of the ‘grey fleet’, drivers who use their own vehicle for business journeys. The other advantage of the fob is that it generates mileage reports which automatically identifies private vs business.”
In what ways can telematics save my business money?
“Cost reduction is what most people are looking for, of course every business is interested in saving money. At its core, telematics can monitor driver behaviour and vehicle health.
“By improving driver behaviour and particularly driver style in the areas of acceleration, braking and overall speed, you are able to reduce fuel bills and wear and tear, simply because the vehicle is being driven more efficiently and less aggressively.
“Typically a business can expect to see a 10 to 15% saving on fuel bills and similar figures in reduction in wear and tear and accidents. We’ve introduced telematics in our own fleet of RAC Patrol vehicles which has seen impressive savings on fuel and even insurance premiums due to improved driving styles.
“But actually it goes further than just monitoring the vehicles when they are on the road. The reports generated by the devices enables the business owner or fleet manager to identify when vehicles are being used and when they’re not, which gives them a much clearer idea about fleet downtime and which vehicles are being underused.”
How do I convince my staff to adopt the technology?
“One of the questions that often comes up when considering telematics, is how to engage staff who have the devices installed in their vehicles, and encourage better driving habits, in order to be able to unlock the cost savings that come with it.
“We know about 40% of businesses are using telematics, but there are still some perceived barriers to adoption, for instance there are concerns around things such as cost and installation taking vehicles off the road.
“In terms of cost, at the RAC we’ve been looking at ways to make that much less of an issue with payment models that are more cash flow friendly, spreading the costs over monthly segments.
“Regarding installation, we would always recommend professional installation to ensure it works as it should, and for our customers now that takes around 15 to 20 minutes, rather than up to two hours, which we’ve heard from elsewhere.
“Of course it’s really important to get drivers onside. The last thing any driver wants is to know that the box is in there and at some point just get a tap on the shoulder to be told they’re driving badly.
“So by making a feature of the driver score it means people will instinctively want to compete to get the best score, which builds interest in wanting to improve driver style.
“What we see quite often now is the driver score being the basis of a competition among drivers or even as the basis of a bonus scheme, or driver of the month initiatives. These are all good ways to make it relevant to the drivers using it every day.
“They can also keep on top of their own driver score and monitor behaviour by using the RAC Telematics smartphone app, which will sync with the device in their car and give them the data on their phone to help them stay on top of their driving performance.”
How do businesses deal with all the data that can be generated by the telematics devices, particularly across a large fleet with vehicles operating all the time?
“This is a really key area as sometimes this can be a barrier as fleet managers feel they may be put in a position where they go from knowing almost nothing about their fleet, to being in danger of data overload. We talk to customers about this all the time and have consultants who can advise the best way for businesses to deal with it.
“In general we recommend identifying the top three things that as a business you want to be able to manage, which could be fuel use, location tracking and speeding alerts for a start. Focus on those, understand the best way to manage the information, then choose another three, and another three. Work on a process.
“That data is coming at you in real time and can be overwhelming, so choose what you want to know and deal with that. It’s important to remember this isn’t a technology that requires a lot of resource to deal with, as you can customise the alerts and reports to tell you just what you want to know.”
What do you see as the future of telematics in terms of integration with other services?
“As the technology behind telematics continues to develop, it is clearly playing a more important role in the services we provide.
“For instance the device is capable of detecting a crash, and our device is very advanced with a detection accuracy rate of 92%. That means, as a fleet manager, you know exactly when one of your vehicles has been involved and the system will give a report with details and location within minutes. This is really important in being able to assist the lone worker or driver really quickly.
“In addition, if there is a crash that can trigger accident management services, sending an alert to the appropriate resource automatically. It’s the same with vehicle health data in the sense that when the device diagnoses a problem, or if a driver breaks down and calls for recovery, the call handler will be able to see a lot more information about the condition of the vehicle and then pass that on to the patrol attending the breakdown, making the whole process more efficient.
“We’re in a rapidly changing world and telematics is enabling the RAC to move from a service where drivers call us when they break down and we respond, to the point where we can proactively contact customers to warn them about potential issues before they happen.”
If you would like to find out more about RAC Telematics, go to: http://www.rac.co.uk/business