As telematics specialist Microlise launches Clear, its new driver coaching and behaviour app developed specifically for field service organisations, Kris Oldland discovers his inner White Van Man and realises that not all stereotypes are true…
UPDATE: SINCE THE PUBLICATION OF THIS EVENT REVIEW MICROLISE AND FIELD SERVICE NEWS HAVE TEAMED UP TO REPEAT THE DAY FOR FIELD SERVICE NEWS READERS.
When we hear the phrase “white van man” it doesn’t always conjure up the most positive connotations: a red top paper somewhere on the dashboard, an arm hanging lazily out of the window and, worst of all , reckless driving with little care for other motorists all fit into the traditional stereotype.
However, the white van driver is not only at the heart of the field service industry but also at the heart of the UK economy as well.
“Over the last few years there has been a meteoric explosion in the white van market. From September 2014 to February 2015, 150,000 vans were registered in the UK” stated TV presenter and author Quentin Willson. Willson was opening an event hosted by telematics specialist Microlise at the Milbrook Technology Park to launch its Clear telematics solution for field service.
“Bringing in £35Bn to the UK economy the idea of White Van man being the spine of the UK economy has been embraced by government.” Wilson continued underlining just how significant a role the White Van Man has in the British economy as the UK continues to rebuild it’s status as a leading financial power following the economic downturn and double dip recession of recent memory.
And of course for those companies who operate these vehicles, there are huge potential savings to be made from improving driver behaviour, to ensure that fuel economy is at an optimum whilst vehicle degradation remains at a minimum.
Service engineers are drivers too
There are huge potential savings to be made from improving driver behaviours..
This in itself isn’t a particularly new concept, of course. Telematics companies such as TomTom, Telogis and Fleetmatics have been raising this point and aiming their products at field service companies for some time now. It’s a busy market as it is so is there space for another telematics company toeing the same line as everyone else?
What do Microlise bring to the table that differentiates them from their competitors and peers?
Well for a start they have an extremely strong pedigree in the haulage sector, where they are very well established with fleet operators and truck manufacturers. The annual Microlise Transport Conference is the biggest transport conference in the UK with over 1,000 delegates attending this year’s event held at the Ricoh arena.
Secondly, Clear is aimed specifically at field service companies and is actually a very slick piece of kit indeed.
Clear is aimed specifically at field service companies and is actually a very slick piece of kit indee
The Clear launch event included interesting presentations from associations including the FTA and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency which both highlighted the looming burden to van operators of having to meet the stricter servicing and roadworthiness compliance regime that already apply to HGV operations. (Given the fact that almost half of all vans fail their MOT first time this could, arguably, be merited. However, it would likely prove costly to both operators and government alike.)
We also heard some excellent case studies from facilities management giant Interserve and pay-TV providers Sky.
The road ahead is Clear
After a morning of we had the chance to test out Clear first hand which of course meant getting behind the wheel of a van ourselves. Our challenge was to complete the Alpine course as close to the optimum time of seven minutes, with as few driving faults as possible. The course which was apparently model on a section of road actually in Alps, certainly provided a challenge, with hairpin bends, heavy cambers and steep inclines combining to make a route that certainly demanded attention.
Stepping into a brand new Ford Transit van provided by co-sponsor Hertz , I admit I felt a sudden rush of nerves. I’d only ever driven a van once and that was not long after passing my test and I’ll readily admit that on that particular occasion I found myself quickly living up to the stereotype as I hogged the middle lane of the M40.
I’d only ever driven a van once and that was not long after passing my test
With my dignity secured I could now spend some time with the coaching side of the app to understand better how it works. With my recorded data transferred I was ready to see where I went wrong and was duly handed a tablet (the app is available on both IoS and Android) to have a look through the low points of my run.
The app itself had a nice intuitive interface and I was impressed with how quickly and easily I was able to drill down into data such as fuel efficiencies, carbon emissions and of course dangerous driving elements such as over steering and harsh braking.
And as I looked through my reported errors, I was advised on where I went wrong by none other than Ben Collins, AKA the Stig, the former racing driver who know makes his living perform insane stunts for the movie industry.
Whilst our group were each getting their specific feedback there was also an opportunity to see the back end of the system at work, as it comfortably managed our ‘fleet’ of 30 or so delegates and fed back data in real-time.
The reporting suite also gives field service managers valuable information on fleet utilisation and productivity, delivering additional operational benefits, whilst real-time vehicle tracking gives fleet managers the insight to understand the location and operational status of every vehicle in the fleet.
Clear field service benefits
“Clear will deliver huge benefits to organisations operating fleets of vehicles” commented John Mills, Head of Mobile Workforce Telematics at Microlise. “The product has been developed with the specific needs of these organisations in mind, and we’re excited to be working in such a dynamic space.
“Whilst telematics solutions are traditionally centred on vehicle tracking and driver performance, Clear comes complete with a range of other features that will help field service organisations to be compliant in terms of HMRC reporting, DVSA regulations and in-house vehicle safety standards. Comprehensive task management and communications further enhance efficiency and service levels.”
As well as highlighting driver faults in real-time, Clear also offers easy access reporting. I could very much see how self coaching via smartphone or tablet helps improve engagement and education of our field workers. And such a tool could be very powerful means of communicating to our engineers that they are indeed professional van drivers as well as professional engineers.
In fact, perhaps one of the biggest challenges of improving the driver standards of our field engineers, could possibly be convincing them they are professional drivers in the first place.
WANT TO EXPERIENCE THE DAY FOR YOURSELF - INCLUDING DRIVING A WHITE VAN AND PERSONAL DRIVING TIPS FRPOM THE STIG?
Coming soon: More on the importance of convincing field engineers they are also professional drivers.