Features & Interviews

Proactivity is the key to safety – and enhanced customer relations

30 November 2023 #Features & Interviews

By Mark Cartwright, Head of Commercial Vehicle Incident Prevention,Highways England

Telematics is potentially one of our greatest tools for proactively lowering road risk, yet some hauliers and most van fleet operations still eschew it. Of those who do use it, most prioritise tracking and delivery visibility, rather than driver improvement.

It is very hard to quantify how many LCV fleets use telematics but outside the top 200 fleet companies, which collectively run a small proportion of the UK’s 4.6m vans, usage is probably quite low.

The 2021 Commercial Motor survey into the use of telematics showed that usage by hauliers had risen from 69% to 79% since 2019. One in five truck fleets is still not engaging. 90% of those who used it felt it benefitted the organisation, yet for 85% of them its biggest benefit is still in vehicle tracking. Driver behaviour monitoring came in second at 69%, but only 38% felt that a key benefit was preventing collision and reducing road risk. This ties in with some National Highways research conducted in 2022 which found that only 30% of operators were actually using telematics to improve driver performance.

There can be a big difference between ‘driver behaviour monitoring’ and actively improving driver behaviour. Too often fleet monitoring is reactive with the operator using data to find out whether the driver was at fault after an incident. The second is proactive – using data to highlight drivers’ risky behaviours and eliminate them before a collision ever occurs.

Telematics – and the ancillary data streams which can complement them such as proactive camera technologies – are vital for fleet operators to manage their road risk and fulfil their statutory duty of care to drivers and to the public with whom their vehicles share space.

Manufacturers and dealers know well the huge financial and productivity benefits of using the technology to its optimum. Why then are operators allowing this opportunity to evade them?

There are three likely reasons. First is the potential for data overload. The second is the difficulty of combining data from different systems in a mixed fleet of vehicles into a single actionable set of insights. And the third is the perception that operators or managers lack the skill or time to invest in driver coaching.

The good news is that manufacturers and dealers can help with all three. The telematics providers who prove most adept at integrating different streams of telematics data into a single dashboard, and making meaningful analysis quick and easy for operators will stand to win this very lucrative part of aftermarket sales.

Consultancy Ptolemus says that 83% of vehicles will come with embedded telematics by 2024, and by 2030 the commercial vehicle telematics market globally will be worth €24bn – a prize worth playing for.

National Highways Head of Commercial Vehicle Incident Prevention Mark Cartwright says: “Not only must we as an industry underline for fleet managers the opportunities they are missing by not using telematics to improve driver behaviour, but there are also opportunities for the industry to pool anonymised data to enhance road safety. For instance, if telematics providers will share anonymised data with National Highways we can potentially identify high-risk zones on the strategic road network, such as where harsh braking tends to occur. This gives us an opportunity to manage such behaviours through engineering and external interventions, making all road users safer.”

AI and machine learning should give operators unprecedented opportunities to capture and distil insights from more data than ever – and the telematics suppliers who focus operator attention on driver performance now can link it directly to electric vehicle sales.

Currently vehicle manufacturers and independent telematics providers are all investing in future proofing their products to aid greater fleet connectivity, with more online services, and the ability to manage electric vehicles.

There is a huge opportunity here for suppliers. Those operators who have focused hard on creating safer, more fuel-efficient drivers are now reaping the benefits when they transfer to their first electric vehicles. Drivers who keep a steady speed with excellent anticipation and smooth, pedal-free transitions maximise electric vehicle’s range and productivity.

Fleet operators do not need to be ready to decarbonise to have a new and compelling reason to engage with driver improvement data. If they use telematics proactively to drive down their collision risk, they will reap the benefits of minimised downtime, better driver retention, lower insurance and repair costs and, of course, lower fuel bills.

What’s more, they’ll be creating the driver workforce that they need to optimise their use of electric vehicles.

Driver behaviour data is therefore the perfect way for suppliers to engage in ongoing dialogue with fleets, add value, enhance their customer relationships and prepare the way for that customer’s transition to decarbonised vehicles.

For more information on how reduce your business’s work-related road risk and costs while improving compliance, please visit Driving For Better Business.

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