Information overload. The scourge of the 21st century. More data, more statistics, more figures in a world awash with technology-enabled information, but not necessarily knowledge. For fleet management, modern integration with existing software platforms means big data seems to get ever bigger, especially when you consider that a typical large fleet of 100 vehicles making 60 trips every week will generate thousands of lines of data every week.
Often faced by reams of endless, 8pt Excel spreadsheets, fleet managers are sometimes simply not equipped with the right skills to manipulate useful management information out of fleet data.
Too often, telematics data is only used reactively to highlight and address isolated incidents like speeding, for example. Yet companies are often sitting on a goldmine of information which, when used proactively, could be used to drive significant ongoing business improvements in areas like fuel usage/costs, customer service and driver safety.
Here are, in our experience, the 6 most common mistakes people make when using a telematics system:
1. Not setting the system up correctly at the start
The huge array of reporting functionality available from modern telematics systems can be daunting, but a top tip to get the most out of the data is to group your drivers in a sensible way right at the beginning, when you set the system up. Grouping them by vehicle type (HGV, vans, cars) or use allows you to make much more meaningful comparisons, rather than trying to compare all drivers across a fleet. Grouping by department or team can also be helpful, with the relevant team manager being given the responsibility for addressing any issues highlighted by telematics data covering their drivers. This means senior managers or company owners do not have to focus on granular data but can instead look at the wider trends affecting the whole organisation and trust managers to handle the day-to-day.
2. Focusing mostly on speeding
Speeding is often the focus of analysis but harsh braking, steering and cornering data can sometimes be a more accurate signal of a high risk driver than one that occasionally drives at 78mph on an empty motorway – even though this is an issue that clearly requires attention too. Driving events (incidences of harsh steering or harsh braking) per thousand miles can act as a useful benchmark, as this provides a guide to ongoing performance behind the wheel and the extent to which a driver exercises due care and attention. A figure of 15 driving events per 1000 miles is generally seen as an acceptable standard to aspire to.
3. Not reviewing data regularly enough
Especially if fleet management has been devolved to another office function, it can often slip perennially to the bottom of an overflowing in-tray. If there is no dedicated staff member to use the system, you are unlikely to get the full benefit from it. You should be reviewing your results on a monthly (or ideally weekly) basis if you want to drive real change. To ensure this happens, it is important to develop reporting that focuses on the most important performance indicators for your business and to make sure reports are delivered to the most appropriate managers. It is also advisable to clearly assign responsibility for the processing and analysis of data – as well as the action taken in light of the results – to defined members of staff as part of a detailed fleet policy.
4. Not asking for ongoing support
Once the training finishes, this is not the last you should be seeing of your provider. You’re paying for a monthly service, so use it! Ask your account manager for regular meetings so they can check whether you are exploiting the true potential from your system. This is particularly important as the needs of your business – and the functionality offered by the technology – will change over time, so it may be necessary to alter your approach to account for this. For example, telematics technology has become increasingly able to integrate with other software platforms as well as hardware and mobile apps, so the possibilities for bespoke solutions that meet specific needs is greater than ever.
5. Not communicating well enough with your drivers
Data can be used to help drivers directly through active driver feedback in the cab. Even if this is not available though, employee engagement is absolutely key to helping you get the most from telematics. Regular communication with drivers, perhaps in the form of a monthly email or even text message, can help to neatly sum up performance and encourage change where necessary. But a collaborative approach can also include educational resources, ongoing driver training and support, one-to-one briefings and workshops, helping to keep performance front of mind and get drivers on board with any key initiatives that are implemented.
6. Not integrating the telematics data with other business systems
It is also important to consider the integration possibilities of any new technology systems. For example, does a telematics system talk to customer relationship management (CRM) tools or enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms? In our recent research into the use of technology by UK businesses, more than a third (37 per cent) said the technology they had invested in was incompatible with existing systems and processes. But by ensuring the seamless flow of data between different elements of software and hardware, benefits can be realised across different functions of the business, helping to remove traditional silos that have prevented effective technology implementation.
Thinking of investing in telematics? The buyer’s guide to choosing the right fleet management solution can help you to match a system to your needs, overcome integration issues and future-proof your technology.
 TomTom Telematics, A study into the attitudes and barriers to technology adoption among European businesses, 2017