How to improve driver safety while controlling vehicle operating expenses

Fuel consumption and maintenance bills make up nearly 30 percent of the total cost of owning a fleet vehicle. Both factors are affected by the driving style and behavior of fleet drivers.

By utilizing key real-time features of a sophisticated, intuitive and easy-to-use fleet management system, a fleet can go a long way towards improving its vehicle maintenance, while at the same time reducing maintenance costs. Such a system allows an effortless way to track, monitor and analyze fleet driver behavior, with an eye towards improving fuel consumption, reducing wear and tear on the vehicle and improving adherence to vehicle maintenance schedules - in real-time when it counts.

The result: a boost in vehicle fuel efficiency and vehicle longevity, savings on operating and maintenance costs and increased profits.

 

Importance of Real-Time Information

With a fleet management system that offers real-time traffic reports, drivers can avoid heavy traffic, with its stop-start frustrations and fuel consumption problems, plus maintain more fuel-efficient driving speeds. Independent tests have demonstrated that changing driving styles can reduce fuel consumption by up to 8 percent.

Take, for example, Telent (www.telent.com), a technology services behemoth that provides, through a large mobile workforce of around 2,000 employees covering the whole of the United Kingdom, a broad range of network and communications services across a variety of industries.

The company used its fleet management system to collect data on its fleet drivers’ harsh braking, cornering, idle time and speeding. It then analyzed this data to identify and improve the bad driving habits of 250 of its fleet drivers.

It was able to save $337,000 in fuel costs, plus significantly reduced vehicle wear and tear and the need for more frequent vehicle maintenance.

A good fleet telematics management system should provide real-time and historical data formatted in easy-to-read reports to give a clear view of when each vehicle in the fleet needs to be scheduled for regular maintenance or emergency services by automatically tracking such data as service records, engine hours, tire rotations, oil changes, etc.

 

Empower Drivers

A key factor in improving driver style and behavior is real-time feedback to the driver.

As a first step, look for a fleet telematics system that gives a driver a sophisticated, yet easy-to-use, driver feedback/navigation device. With a hands-off, voice-activated, dashboard-mounted unit, drivers can keep their eyes on the road and their hands on the wheel for safety sake.

This will help a fleet avoid accidents that not only sideline drivers and vehicles, but derail delivery schedules and add costly vehicle repair bills to the vehicle maintenance expense budget.

Real-time alerts that appear on a navigation device can guide drivers’ awareness as to their current driving style, as well as indicate when it’s time for each and every scheduled vehicle maintenance service.

This type of device represents a significant step in helping drivers accept greater responsibility for improving their behavior in line with a business’ scheduled vehicle maintenance goals.

Also, when drivers know that fleet managers have this type of information at their fingertips, drivers have an added incentive to follow the schedule and do their part for vehicle maintenance.

 

At a Glance Understanding

The best fleet telematics systems offer management insights into fleet activity, relaying information in real-time and in a clear, concise, format so managers can best direct and oversee drivers for optimum performance, productivity and profitability.

Such a system has a customizable dashboard so that fleet management can see, at a glance, where all drivers are, where they are headed, how efficiently they are using their fuel and their time and whether vehicles are due for any scheduled maintenance stops. A system that permits the adjustment of settings to reflect a business’ particular concerns – such as fuel consumption or vehicle maintenance – is highly desirable.

Moreover, look for a fleet telematics system where all of this information can be reviewed retrospectively or in real-time, both for individual drivers or entire fleets. This enables a business to encourage stable and fluid driving styles and adherence to maintenance schedules across the board, plus reward those drivers who consistently meet their obligations.

The system’s reporting functions should enable driver performance data to be measured against pre-defined business targets. By setting a benchmark on adherence to better driving styles, as well as scheduled vehicle maintenance for an entire mobile workforce, managers can pinpoint sub-standard performances for individual drivers and work with those drivers to improve their performance.

Better maintained vehicles that deliver better fuel economy have a longer useful lifetime and provide for better driver safety. When the fleet delivers the best ROI that management can expect, there are substantial cost savings for the business’ operations and greater overall business profitability.

 

Kathy Kelleher is vice president of fleet management solutions for LoJack Corporation, a provider of vehicle theft recovery systems and advanced fleet management solutions (www.lojack.com). She has served as vice president of business development for the company’s international division and has led the development of its commercial division. Early in 2013, LoJack entered into a strategic alliance with TomTom Business Solutions to offer LoJack Fleet Management Powered by TomTom (www.lojack.com/Fleet-Management-Solutions), a comprehensive GPS-based advanced telematics system designed for tracking and managing fleets.

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