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Optimising van fleet efficiency as home delivery market grows

01 October 2020 #Features & Interviews #TNB News #Van

Home delivery services are surging in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic and it may change the way we shop forever. Supermarkets are expanding their delivery fleets and additional chains are working to introduce their own networks. According to data and insight company, Kantar, 12% of all grocery shopping is currently completed online – down from a lockdown peak of 13.5%, but up on 2019’s 7-8% figure.

The home-delivery market was already growing and evolving before the current pandemic. Intriguingly, more vehicles spending greater time on the road is an opportunity to reduce emissions, cut accident rates and improve fuel economy. This is the view of UK-based cleantech engineering company, Lightfoot. It is pioneering an innovative solution that enables modern technology to enhance driver performance, optimising the potential benefits that can be unlocked from latest powertrain developments.

Lightfoot plugs into a vehicle’s OBDII socket to monitor the vehicle’s health and the way it is driven. Unlike some conventional systems, the emphasis is very much on positive driver engagement and the promotion of considerate driving through competition and rewards.

“You can buy the most efficient modern vehicle, but the driver is still the most important aspect for releasing its benefits,” says Lightfoot founder and CEO, Mark Roberts. “Our algorithms are applied to live engine data to provide a greater connection between driver and machine, rewarding conscientious driving and avoiding the sometimes-negative connotations associated with black boxes. However efficient the vehicle, Lightfoot driver feedback can help optimise its operation.”

Through a traffic light-based green-to-red system and subtle audio cues leveraging the power of nudge psychology, the Lightfoot box communicates a driver’s real-time performance and will provide a score at the end of their journey – encouraging improvement, not penalising fault. It takes into consideration the need to overtake, accelerate and merge from slip-roads at speeds, provides drivers with an opportunity to react and sustain an ‘efficient’ manner of driving without penalty.

“Lightfoot enhances driver engagement with a focus on the positives – there’s no need for fleet managers to see negative engagement without justifiable cause,” explains Roberts. “Drivers can access the whole solution via an app to view their scores, enter leagues with friends and colleagues, competitions and the Lightfoot Drivers’ Lottery. All they need to do is achieve Elite Driver status (the top level for scores of 85% and above) for entry. One in 10 Elite Drivers wins a cash prize of up to £200 with weekly draws.”

Launched in 2013, the evolved solution, which includes telematics, has already inspired a high level of driver buy-in, with “50% of drivers using the app every week,” according to Roberts. Several high profile, large-scale fleets have fitted Lightfoot systems and have reported swift returns: the Genus fleet of 380 vans and 200 company cars has recently announced an MPG improvement of 10.4% across its vehicles.

According to Lightfoot, the technology was developed as a way of investigating a lack of reported efficiency gains delivered by an early fleet of electric and hybrid vans. Telematics confirmed that the driving, and not the vehicle technology, was at fault and so a ‘carrot and stick’ monitoring system was born.

“Driving style appears to have a bigger efficiency impact on electric vehicles than on their petrol or diesel counterparts,” explains Roberts, confirming that Lightfoot is compatible with internal combustion powered, hybrid or electric vans.  Validated by tests at the University of Bath, the system’s real-time driver feedback can help reduce harmful tailpipe emissions by 10-20%, cut fuel consumption by up to 15% and reduce fault accidents by up to 40%. A more diligent driving style can also contribute to wear and tear savings of almost half; a considerable saving for large fleets.

Accident data provided by insurers over the last four years has evidenced up to 60% claims cost reduction. Fleets that adopt Lightfoot technology receive discounted insurance, further helping operational costs and providing return on investment, says the company.

Driver motivation is the primary function of Lightfoot adoption, but it also provides fleets with advanced health management. The app allows drivers and manager to monitor vehicle health through fault alerts and battery condition, carry out daily vehicle checks and benefit from first notification of loss in the event of an incident. While the system is currently compatible with vehicles up to 7.5 tonnes, the company is developing an adapted solution for heavy goods vehicles and is ultimately working towards the option of OE integration.

As the country works towards increasingly stringent emissions targets it is crucial that the industry is unified in its efforts to enhance efficiency. This can be through the adoption of the latest forms of electrification or engine downsizing technologies, or through more precise fleet management of existing vehicles.

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