Author Gina Clarke

Do you have a little black box in your car? Telematics boxes have been implemented by insurance companies for years now to gather data on how you use your car and discount or raise the price accordingly. But there are also other uses for the technology.

Telematics essentially tracks how your vehicle is used, and so if you want to put restrictions around what time of day the car is used or where it is allowed to go, the little black box then becomes a spy in the car.

Whether the reasons behind it include not trusting a teenage driver or as a prevention method if the car is lost or stolen, the reasons for including telematics boxes are growing. They can now even report your location to the emergency services in the case of an accident. So it’s no wonder that the technology is becoming implemented into fleet vehicles.

A growing sector

In the construction sector, in particular, the need for telematics has grown. Not only are GPS trackers fitted for location purposes, but by including a telematics box it essentially acts as a coach for the driver as data such as speed, breaking and distance gets recorded.

With a demanding need for lower CO2 emissions and ongoing management requirements of a lower fuel bill alongside new health and safety regulations means that realistically, for a fleet manager, telematics is a long-term solution.

As companies look for further analysis to make decisions, what better input than being able to track the lifespan of a vehicle when confronted with choices on maintenance and additional fleet hire?

That’s exactly why BAM Construction Ltd decided to implement telematics on 30 of their fleet vehicles just 6-months ago. Agnes Miller is the Fleet Manager, she says, “Ever since fuel efficiency regulations came in around 2010 we have been looking for ways to achieve better fuel efficiency and CO2 levels.

“Once we succeeded with our commercial cars we turned our energy towards the fleet hire. With 130 light goods vehicles we decided to roll out a test on 30 of our fleet, predominantly work vans, and partnered with Quartix to provide the telemetry boxes earlier this year. The ability for real time information as well providing integration within the workforce made it seem incredibly accessible.”

Agnes insisted that the company fit a tracker in her own car, despite it not currently being a requirement for commercial staff. “I wanted to know what the process is because above all we want to engage the staff. If they buy in to it that this system is not just reducing accidents for the firm and saving fuel costs, but also changing their driving style for the better. It’s a sure way to ensure success.”

Scrutiny for drivers

By Travelarz (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 pl], via Wikimedia CommonsIn consultations ahead of the decision to implement telematics, the scrutiny of drivers styles was a big consideration. But thanks to input from insurers and drivers themselves, BAM decided to go ahead with a pilot which they are now reviewing.

Agnes says, “We currently have a mixed fleet of around 30 vehicles which provides a lot of information on the mixture of short, repetitive journeys and also longer ones with more motorway driving. My team at Fleet is constantly scrutinising the data. Already, we know already that our accident ratio has gone down, fuel consumption is lower and petrol costs much reduced. But the biggest positive has to be the input of the staff themselves.”

At the moment drivers are given a breakdown of their journeys once a week from a line manager who will cover information such as harsh braking, speed and safety. But the company is shortly to introduce an app so that drivers can check their performance immediately after a journey that would then give them an individual score.

“We wanted to get them involved,” says Agnes. “The report they are provided with at the moment is currently very visible, it is seen by both the line manager, the driver and us here at Fleet. But this process needs to be much more than us being reactive, it needs to be proactive too.

“From a safety point of view when someone is driving safely that reduces accidents, lowers emissions and saves fuel. It’s a natural progression. What we hope to do at the moment is collate all of the data we have collected over the last 6-months and create a risk profile. That will enable us to see just if, or what, needs to change. Or if it could potentially be rolled out further across the company.”

Interestingly, there is a psychological effect when a driver knows a tracker has been fitted to their device. Agnes says, “We immediately saw driving styles become much safer but drivers do adjust which is why it is so good to have constant reviews. Although we haven’t had anything come back to us in Fleet just yet, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that the tracker in a works vehicle is changing driving styles at home for the better.”

A growing market

Telematics is definitely an increasing market, in July Fleet News reported that collisions had been cut by 43% by a ‘black box’ implementation. Plus, in 2016, research provided by RAC Business found that over half (58%) found a reduction in speeding and fines with a similar figure claiming a reduction in accidents. While 1 in 10 reported insurance premiums decreasing as a direct result of telematics.

BAM Construction Ltd is clearly not the last to be drawn to such positive statistics. APL Construction found that their tracking system supplied by ABAX gave instant accurate data on fleet whereabouts. Office Manager, Barry Hall, says of the system, “Not only did it increase productivity but it is now an essential part of our business processes.”

For Agnes, not only is this scheme reducing accidents and cutting costs, but it is creating a new culture of driving at BAM and from her own personal experience of a telemetry box, she would be happy to have played a part in it.