At the inaugural Field Service Summit held in Oxford last month Field Service News and Greenroad co-hosted a series of five 30 minute roundtables on Fleet Management. With Chatham house rules in place to allow the participants to speak freely about both positive and negative experiences of fleet management, these sessions provided fascinating insight for all of those who took part.
Here we share with you three of the key points of discussion from across the day.
Who is responsible for fleet management?
One of the most crucial factors for understanding how field service companies manage their fleet operations is to understand where fleet management fits within the organisational structure of a company.
During the day there were a number of different alternatives brought up as to who is responsible for fleet management.
Perhaps unsurprisingly it was amongst larger organisations that we saw the role of a dedicated fleet manager, however, even when a fleet manager is in place, their role doesn’t necessarily involve the implementation of telematics or routing and tracking solutions. Often these more strategic elements ,that are designed to yield business improvement, sat within the field service division. Whilst the fleet manager role is more logistical, responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the fleet.
"For a number of companies fleet management as a discipline sat alongside the health and safety department..."
As one participant commented: “For us it’s more about managing the health and safety side, health and safety in the UK is now getting to a point where it is actually tying us up to a certain degree.
We are dedicating a significant amount of time to dealing with health and safety legislation in work.”
Another option that was utilised by some companies was to completely outsource their fleet management requirements as part of the lease arrangement for their vehicles. In fact as telematics becomes more and more embedded by vehicle manufacturers in the not too distant future it may be that such arrangements become more common.
Meanwhile, for those smaller companies with more manageable fleets, the responsibility for fleet management sat firmly with the field service management team.
What was clear however, was if companies are to get the most out of their telematics solution, which currently many companies admit they are not doing, then the field service management team must have some input and control over the decisions made around fleet management and telematics.
It is also clear that the use of telematics is now becoming far more encompassing than simple vehicle tracking.
"It is also clear that the use of telematics is now becoming far more encompassing than simple vehicle tracking..."
Other comments around the ownership of fleet management and the drivers behind implementing a telematics solution included:
“The ownership of managing the vehicles is all down to our fleet department in terms of health and safety. Telematics and fuel consumption is in our [field service] space.”
“Through risk assessment we make sure our service engineers are doing everything correctly, and we send them on advanced driving training courses, to ensure we comply with health and safety regulations and procedures.”
This last point is something that Ryan Davison, Enterprise Sales Manager, Greenroad, believes is becoming more and more prevalent. He explained:
“We are starting to get approached a lot more now about the health and safety and environmental factors of fleet management.”
“Whereas traditionally telematics has always been logistical and operational, we are starting to see a lot more around a duty of care compliance side of things.”
“Companies are coming to us now and saying effectively we’ve got our telematics system running on the operational side but we are looking for something independent of that, that will take care of our R.O.I. that will look into duty of care that will make sure our drivers are behaving responsibly on the roads.”
“What we are looking at now is finding the synergy between fleet management and performance and health and safety and where you can transfer that data. Data is abundant at the moment and any telematics system can produce an enormous amount of data, but it’s how you interpret and manage that internally that is the key. Handing somebody 20/30 spread sheets in their inbox is not going to create any value for your organisation.”
Data, Data Everywhere:
Indeed, one of the common themes of the day was how to harness the amount of data that a telematics system could produce and how to effectively utilise that data.
"The consensus was that it was important to be able to access that data in an easy to manage visual manner, with configurable dashboards being high on the wish list for most companies..."
In general most companies now see the value of data available to them.However, there is also a clear fear of drowning in data if it is not possible to access it in a meaningful fashion.
Also as more and more providers are developing APIs for open integration the flow of data is becoming increasingly seamless.
What was also interesting was that there seemed to be a dual use for data, highlighted throughout the day’s conversations.
Firstly, it became apparent telematics data is used as a day-to-day management tool, but it is also used secondly as a strategic tool to help push a business forward.
This concept was neatly summed up by one particular participant who said:
“There are two main elements. There is the data that provides the behavioural stuff and we are a fortunate position where there are sixteen area managers and they are directly responsible for the field engineers and their behaviour and being able to send data around whether their engineers are driving too fast, or braking too hard etc. is something that they can use as a tool to deal with these issues as line management.”
“But from an organisational perspective the big win is the data that outlines the utilisation of our equipment.”
“We have a big fleet and before, whilst this information was there it was in paper format so wasn’t easy to access. But now it is easier to access and it can inform our decisions on whether to buy or rent new assets, whether we can move things around the country and so on.”
Driver behaviour and fleet management
It is however, the first of these uses, feeding data back to the field engineers that was discussed the most across the day’s sessions. And gamification played a significant role in how a number of companies utilised their telematics data to improve their engineers driving standards.
"Gamification played a significant role in how a number of companies utilised their telematics data to improve their engineers driving standards..."
And gamification tools can actively encourage improvements . Indeed, there was almost universal acceptance that gamification could be used as a tool to improve driver behaviour across an entire mobile workforce.
However, the first battle, which is quite a common one it seems, is getting the field engineers to accept a telematics solution in the first place.
All too often we heard similar stories from the delegates – namely that of push-back from unions and engineers. “Definitely there is a kind of resentment.” Commented one participant.
“It comes down to trust, they believe that you just don’t trust them and then it becomes an issue. The mind-set is ‘if your putting something in it’s because you don’t trust how I do something.’ And then you get the push-back against it.” another delegate commented.
“It can then become a vicious circle where the company says if your not doing anything wrong there is nothing to be concerned about, whilst the engineers say if I’m not doing anything wrong why do you need to track me.”
However, it does seem to be a problem that often heals itself over time following implementation.
“Eventually they saw it wasn’t being used as they expected it to be and now it is accepted” another delegate replied before adding “some of the guys are even asking for print outs from the system so they can see their own performance.”
Yet getting that initial acceptance can still be a tricky balancing act as Davison explained further.
“The two sides of the scale are encouragement and enforcement.”
“To begin with you can take the approach of explaining this is for your own benefit and what those benefits are, but with those who are persistently driving badly then it is a case of falling back on policy and saying to that engineer ‘we need to take you off the road and explore training before we can get you back on.’”
"In terms of driver behaviour, data can also play a crucial role in streamlining training..." strategies
“Applied driving techniques is a good example, what they will do is work with us in partnership and use our data to avoid taking a scatter gun approach, but rather focus the training on areas that it is needed.”
“So each individual driver will have their own risk profile and therefore we can assess how effective is that training been in improving them and reducing the risk they pose on the road."