Driver behaviour has become a key focus for many field service organisations but what are the key reasons for companies paying more attention to how their engineers are performing when on the road?
In fact the benefits of focussing on this particular aspect of field service operations are numerous, although often health and safety compliance is the primary driver with other benefits only being realised later as a byproduct of implementing a driver improvement strategy.
As Paul Foster, Director of Solutions Engineering for Telogis explains;
“There are two main aspects to driver improvement projects. One is compliance and showing that your able to keep your workplace safe.“
“At the end of the day your providing them with a tool to do the job and what you need to do as an employer is prove that your not doing that irresponsibly.”
“Safety is paramount but that can then have all sorts of knock on effects not least around costs,” he adds.
“The big thing is design for safety, but that will have its impact on costs.”
If your engineers are driving safely then they will be driving within limits and that means that fuel consumption and vehicle maintenance on items such as tyres, brakes and general wear and tear will be reduced.
“It also means that in operational terms you stand a better chance of having your assets available for work more of the time so it’s a win, win really.”
This is a sentiment echoed by Jeremy Gould, VP Sales Europe, TomTom Telematics.
“The management of driving behaviour for field service companies can not only enable the improvement of the business bottom line by helping to cut fuel usage, it can also help protect driver safety, the environment and a business’ brand image,” Gould comments.
“From a financial perspective, fuel costs account for a significant proportion of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of field service vehicles and, aside from vehicle choice, one of the single biggest factors affecting fuel consumption is driving style,” he explains.
Stuart Kerr, Senior Vice President, Global Enterprise Business, Fleetmatics also highlights economic benefits as a major factor for embarking on a driver improvement program.
“The economics of improving driver behaviour are staggering,” he states.
“With ROI’s of 400% to 700% the financial returns are immediate and significant. Firms assume their drivers are following the plan and order of the days activities. The reality is that every day your drivers head off into the fog and you are left with a sea of assumptions. These turn out to be false but without telematics you do not know what you are missing,” he continues.
The reality is that every day your drivers head off into the fog and you are left with a sea of assumptions. These turn out to be false but without telematics you do not know what you are missing,
As Kerr comments “Cutting edge telematics solutions, offer an exceptional view of field tech behaviour.
You can spend serious capital ensuring you have the optimised plan for your technician’s day but if it is not followed well or if the driving is erratic and unoptimised, a great amount of those savings will fall by the wayside.”
“Over and over we see our clients using the simple fact that ‘the truck is the truth’ to ensure that they have good data on how long jobs really take and how better to optimise the schedule going forward.”
“That often results in managers seeing a 15% jump on technician productivity and drops directly to the bottom line,” Kerr adds.
“The advance of technology is allowing us to step away from the direct management of driver behaviour,” Foster adds.
“We can now introduce systems that allow us to create self management, so if you can give a driver feedback about his behaviour without having to call him into the office every-time something has gone wrong and allow a driver to correct himself based on results that are relative to his peer group, then you’re saving cost in terms of both time and money - but it’s also a more effective way of doing things because your no longer relying on somebody’s judgement on driver behaviour and safety, your using a system that is going to plan the landscape and judge everybody by the same measure.”
“Whether you agree or not with what those measures there is no argument because everybody is held against the same standards.”
Technology is fundamental in improving driver standards.
“Not only does telematics help measure initial performance, but it allows organisations to measure improvements in standards over time, understanding return on investment from any training perhaps.”
“Furthermore, telematics helps maintain improvements over the long-term - any drivers slipping back into bad habits can be identified and mentored.”
“Advancements in technology that monitors driver behaviour and provides feedback to both drivers and managers have continued apace over recent years,” agrees Gould.
“New technology is providing businesses with the tools to make a real impact in this area by helping them to work with their drivers to improve standards.”
“Telematics technology can draw upon a wide range of actionable data, taking live information directly from vehicles to profile individual drivers or entire fleets.”
“Driver behaviour tools are of course an offshoot of telematics technology really, and we’ve seen the basic hardware become a lot cheaper, the services that go around that have become a lot cheaper and therefore more affordable to small and medium sized businesses. That means that adoption rates can go up,” Foster explains.
There is more and more standardisation around the way data is being recorded so that we can standardise how the technology works
“With the improvements we are seeing in the technology we are not just looking at things like idle behaviour or speed but better and better hardware is giving us better insight into what harsh braking is or harsh acceleration or harsh cornering and so on. We can begin to look through more of the different aspects of driver behaviour as the hardware improves.”
Indeed the solutions today are becoming ever more advanced. “The technology available now is able to provide businesses with a complete approach to driver improvement. Pre-trip, it provides motorists with best practice advice on how to drive safely and fuel-efficiently. Direct feedback and driving advice can be offered during the trip to actively coach the driver, through technology such as our OptiDrive 360,” adds Gould.
“This technology has helped slashed fuel consumption by 10% for ventilation product manufacturer EnviroVent and by 11% for gas distribution giant SGN.
Developments in driver behaviour improvement technologies have helped revolutionise the performance and safety of mobile workforces in recent years and this trend shows few signs of abating,” he expands.
Now we can not only know the drivers behaviour, but we can view it in the context of the overall business.
“Now we can not only know the drivers behaviour, but we can view it in the context of the overall business. How many stops did he make today that were actual work orders? What portion of his day was spent on work orders versus other activity?”
“Firms can use modern telematics to also determine who is driving safely and who is heading towards an expensive accident. Being able to truly identify dangerous drivers and improve overall safety is a monumental shift forward.”
“Lastly, the world has gone mobile. Truly advanced telematics vendors have fully fledged, rich and robust mobile apps that run on both IOS and Android.
These provide info at the fingertips for managers and can be even be very useful to give to the drivers themselves so they can see first hand the results of the choices they make while driving.”