Keeping on the right track
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Cutting costs without jeopardising employees’ safety or customer service is the challenge. James Dallas finds out whether telemetry is the answer.
With little light at the end of the long dark tunnel of economic gloom, van operators are increasingly anxious to find the means to cut costs, and one way to make savings while boosting safety and environmental performance is to turn to telematics.
Telemetry specialist Telemotion claims to have created a driver performance and training system that can cut fleet operating costs and encourage safer driving. Called Nempi, it can be both factory- and retro-fitted and is being trialled by Volkswagen. It works by monitoring the manufacturer’s controller area network (CANbus) – effectively the engine’s electronic nerve centre – to provide instant vehicle and driving performance data to the driver via an in-cab screen and to the fleet manager via a secure website.
Telemotion boss Seppo Hakkinen says the “anticipation factor” is key to Nempi’s success, enabling it to gauge how safely and economically the driver is coping with varying traffic situations by monitoring acceleration, braking and engine revs. By heeding the live feedback from the in-cab screen to adopt an economical driving style, Hakkinen claims drivers can make fuel savings of over 60% in mixed driving conditions where multiple speed changes are required.
Hakkinen also claims the wealth of mechanical information generated can pinpoint when a service is required.
Nempi has been upgraded this year to embrace a messaging system that removes the need to use handheld devices.
“The fleet manager sends a message that is displayed on the in-cab monitor and can be read at a glance,” says Hakkinen. “There is no need for the driver to take any action. If reactions are needed they can be made when the vehicle has stopped.”
The system now also incorporates a sensor to warn the driver of incorrect tyre pressure.
In on the act
Van manufacturers are increasingly seeking to enhance their products’ customer appeal by throwing in telematics solutions.
Iveco is offering provision for TomTom’s Go Live 1000 Navigator on-board platform as standard with its new Daily range in all but the entry-level version. It comes with a 4.7-inch fluid touch-screen with HD Traffic and IQ Routes technology that Iveco says can constantly calculate and suggest more economical routes.
A Blue&Me Fleet system, incorporating hardware designed by Fiat and Microsoft and developed in conjunction with Qualcomm, is also up for grabs. It relays real-time information on fuel consumption, distance covered, speed and vehicle identification data.
A key element in Citroen’s Business Class service for commercial vehicle fleets is its Trafficmaster Smartnav and Trackstar telematics package, which, Citroen claims, is crucial in improving fleet productivity. The package has been standard on Berlingo, Dispatch and Relay panel vans since early 2010 and is a £399 plus VAT option on the Nemo and Berlingo platform cabs, Dispatch platform cabs, and Relay crew and chassis cabs. Operators with vans equipped with Trafficmaster can also specify Fleet Director, a real-time fleet management tool, which costs £19.99 a month excluding VAT.
GreenRoad is a market leader in driving performance and safety management for fleets. It claims its dashboard-mounted GreenRoad 360 system, with its traffic lights-style display, can cut fuel consumption by 10% and halve accident rates.
Last year it introduced an idling feature, which it claims can cut fuel consumption by a further 2-5% by flagging up unnecessary idling while filtering out the unavoidable pauses occurring at traffic lights and stop signs. The application has a GPS component that pinpoints where idling is most prevalent, allowing fleet managers to choose more economical routes where possible.
Construction firm Osborne took on GreenRoad in January this year to reduce driver risk and cut insurance costs in its Property Services Sector fleet of 169 small vans. Paul McCulloch, Osborne’s group supply chain manager, claims the system is able to sustain improvements in driver behaviour because it is “like having an instructor continuously reminding drivers to think about safety”. He adds that GreenRoad has also enabled the firm to take “a critical step towards more fuel-efficient driving”. In 2010 Osborne discovered its fleet was at a higher risk than average, resulting in higher insurance costs. Osborne’s insurance broker Marsh recommended using GreenRoad to improve risk- management strategies and has now tailored an insurance package reflecting reduced risk in the fleet.
Vehicle tracking company Ram (Remote Asset Management) claims more than 3000 small businesses are using its Fleet Vehicle Tracking system to slash fuel bills and boost productivity. A tracker device installed in the van sends GPS coordinates to Ram servers enabling fleet managers to view vehicles’ movements online, via PC or mobile handset.
Boss Chris McClellan says: “Tracking solutions can be used to track the whereabouts of vans, monitor working hours and time spent at locations, maximise fuel efficiencies, plan the most efficient routes, avoid excessive idling, and even trigger alerts to notify managers of unauthorised journeys.
“The system is acknowledged as an intelligent management tool, not just a traditional tracking product.”
In tough economic times the most efficient businesses are the ones that will survive and thrive, and telematics has an important role to play in boosting the bottom line.