In the first of a new panel discussion, we ask our experts their views on how telematics have shaped and driven change within the fleet management profession, and why reluctance to use fleet technology still exists within some organisations
The fleet industry enjoyed another highly successful year in 2016, with developments in technology playing a huge role in the improvement of safety, efficiency and optimisation. One company in particular has been keeping a watchful eye on industry developments – and is adapting to provide the products that are writing a new chapter for fleet managers globally
Those who follow industry news will have noticed the number of UK companies that have become a part of the Trakm8 Group over recent years, with RoadHawk cameras and Route Monkey optimisation joining the group to name a few. GreenFleet sat down with Trakm8 to learn how the Group’s new additions are enhancing their offering to the fleet market.
Trakm8 began providing vehicle tracking to fleets in 2001 and over the years has earned some significant contracts with the likes of the AA, Saint‑Gobain and E-On. In 2013, Trakm8 acquired Midlands‑based BOX Telematics in order to enhance the quality and volume of its tracking devices. Since the acquisition, the manufacturing of Trakm8’s telematics devices has been carried out around-the-clock at its dedicated plant in the West Midlands. Through continual development of telematics products, Trakm8 now offers one of the most comprehensive ranges of solutions in the fleet market.
John Watkins, executive chairman at Trakm8, said: “Many of our customers require solutions which don’t actually exist in the market. One of the things that makes Trakm8 different is that we have the engineering and manufacturing capability to develop and deliver new and bespoke solutions – and by working closely with our customers, we can provide them with the insights that will benefit them the most.”
In June 2015, Trakm8 also acquired the business and assets of DCS Systems, owners of the popular RoadHawk dash cam brand. This was an exciting addition to the Trakm8 Group as the dash cam market for both businesses and consumers continued to grow throughout 2016. Since then RoadHawk has continued to see success with significant contracts with the likes of Euro Car Parts and TNT Express. In addition, their HD-2 forward‑facing camera became an official Volvo Cars accessory after passing rigorous safety testing.
The acquisition of RoadHawk has now led to the creation of an all-in-one camera and telematics product, the new RoadHawk 600, which is currently being trialled before a proposed launch in spring 2017. It will contain all of the features of Trakm8’s telematics devices such as driver behaviour monitoring, location data and vehicle health alerts, alongside forward and rear facing camera capabilities. Trakm8’s driver behaviour algorithms, which take into account factors such as speeding, harsh acceleration, braking and cornering, will now be complemented by high-definition video footage. The RoadHawk 600 comes with a detachable head, meaning that fleet managers can choose what part of the vehicle they would like to monitor.
Trakm8’s Watkins said: “The ability to record what is in front of the vehicle and inside the cab allows fleet managers to gain a greater understanding of how their drivers are behaving behind the wheel. This new camera will also incorporate technology that will allow fleet managers to monitor whether drivers are distracted by mobile phones, whether they are drowsy, or whether they are demonstrating poor lane discipline; adding a whole new dimension to how we score drivers for risk.”
The new camera will highlight driver behaviour faults, such as harsh braking events through its telemetry capability. Fleet managers are then able to gain further insight into why the event unfolded.
One distinct advantage of Trakm8’s new camera is that drivers can now be monitored in real-time with live streaming. If, for example, a truck is stationary for five minutes at the side of the road, a fleet manager will be able to be notified, log in and gain an insight into the reasons behind the delay. Drivers are also able to send footage of an incident directly to their manager with the event button. Events can also be triggered automatically when the accelerometer within the camera device detects an impact, giving business the peace of mind that they will have footage of a collision, should they need it in court or for insurance purposes.
The RoadHawk 600’s event button also doubles up as a driver feedback device, which tells drivers how they are being scored in real‑time by using red, amber and green LEDs.
The RoadHawk 600 will also open doors to providing Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS), for example collision warnings if the fleet vehicle is approaching the car ahead at too fast a speed, notifications when drivers are drifting in and out of their lanes, and driver identification through face recognition.
John Watkins commented: “We want to make sure that no stone is left unturned in terms of the RoadHawk 600’s capability. Our goal is to ensure that it can provide a level of functionality that is not available from any other camera on the market today. We have a reputation in both the camera market and telematics market for providing high-quality, ground breaking products, which is why we are making no compromises on the features and quality of data that businesses can retrieve from it.”
In December 2015, Trakm8 completed the acquisition of routing and scheduling experts, Route Monkey. Route Monkey’s software primarily enables businesses to cut emissions, reduce fuel costs and increase productivity by calculating the shortest possible routes with the least amount of vehicles. Over the last 12 months, Trakm8 and Route Monkey have been busy integrating their highly complex algorithms to embed the power of optimisation and route scheduling into their telematics interface, allowing their customers to plan, optimise, and track journeys all from one dashboard.
The fleet and logistics sector benefits hugely from the optimisation of routes, with frozen food giant Iceland Foods reporting a 30 per cent increase in productivity from the 50,000 hours its drivers spend behind the wheel every week, in addition to a 10 per cent reduction in fuel costs.
These optimisation algorithms also assist in optimising the routes of mobile workforces and the capacity of vehicles, as well as assisting in the optimisation of electric vehicles.
The merging of the two companies’ algorithms has created Trakm8’s unique logistics solution which, when completed, will enable users to optimise the number of vehicles used in their day to day delivery duties. By reducing the number of vehicles used, businesses will be able to dramatically reduce costs that surround fuel and maintenance.
Fleet managers can input all their requirements into the SWIFT interface, including delivery addresses, contact details, vehicle types and capacity, driver working hours, and customer-specified delivery windows. The system’s powerful algorithms will then calculate the best way to fulfil the day’s tasks by using the least number of vehicles, while also achieving the lowest cumulative mileage and the most fuel-efficient route for each driver.
Drivers can access their personal schedules via a mobile device or in-cab navigation solution – but only after they confirm completion of the vehicle’s relevant DVSA safety checklists. The app will also integrate with Google Maps to facilitate accurate navigation to each delivery address. As well as route optimisation and scheduling, the new logistics solution will host an electronic proof of delivery (ePOD) feature which will ensure the delivery driver’s activities are fully transparent to the fleet manager. Features will include electronic signature collection on delivery which is accessible in real-time to a fleet manager along with photographic proof of an attempted delivery and additional notes in instances where goods are undeliverable.
The day’s tasks will be displayed to fleet managers on a Gantt chart or pinpointed on a live map which indicates the progress and whereabouts of the planned schedule. Through the monitoring of the delivery process, fleet managers will be able to keep track of delivery status thus having the option to inform customers should their delivery time be delayed or interrupted.
Colin Ferguson, managing director of fleet and optimisation at Trakm8, said: “The data provided by telematics now means that journeys can be optimised in real-time, taking into account variables such as traffic information and accidents. Having this feature allows fleet managers to compare planned schedules versus actual schedules and in turn inform their customers transparently when goods are undeliverable or running late.”
Trakm8 Logistics will also offer a wealth of extensive reports relating to fuel cost, mileage, carbon footprint, delivery time, resources and jobs, and also explores the overall cost to the business. This can then be compared to previous costs in order to monitor savings and develop improvements.
Ferguson added: “As a former fleet manager, I know of many fleets that will benefit from this sort of technology. This is a true end-to-end solution that is intuitive and straightforward to use, yet capable of highly complex calculations that help businesses generate substantial savings.”
August 2016 saw fleet telematics and safety experts Roadsense Technology Limited also join the Trakm8 Group. Roadsense specialises in telemetry and safety devices for the SME market and the experience it brings will provide Trakm8 with the expertise to further expand in this sector. The company, which was set up by former Masternaut directors, has also introduced in-cab phone blocking technology to the Trakm8 portfolio.
Last month, Roadsense conducted a survey amongst 3,376 people to explore attitudes towards mobile phone use at the wheel. The survey discovered that six per cent of drivers think it is acceptable to use a phone at the wheel, while 12 per cent of respondents said despite whether they think it’s acceptable, they do it anyway. Amongst those who do not use a phone at the wheel, almost one-third (32 per cent) said that they have done so in the past.
In the Fleet Safety Survey conducted by Brake in October, only four per cent of fleets said that they make use of apps to prevent mobile use behind the wheel.
Roadsense’s Cellcontrol product is designed to stop mobile phone use amongst drivers of commercial vehicles and young drivers. The solar-powered device which sits in the cab allows fleet managers or parents the flexibility to block apps such as music, social media, and texting while a vehicle is in use. Fleet managers can allow certain applications such as those that serve as a means of electronic proof of delivery or sat navs and drivers still have access to contact the emergency services.
Mobile phone use behind the wheel is a major cause of distractions. October saw HGV driver, Tomasz Kroker, jailed for 10 years after he changed the music on his phone whilst travelling on the A34. His decision led him to plough into stationary traffic, killing four family members and injuring another.
Andrew Tillman, fleet strategy director at Trakm8, commented: “Our findings show that there is still an extremely long way to go in putting a stop to using phones at the wheel. Phone blocking technologies like Cellcontrol are an excellent way for businesses to ensure that their drivers and other road users are protected on their behalf.”
Building on its success in the SME market, Trakm8 has now launched its Trakm8prime product which is specifically designed for fleets between two and 25 vehicles. Trakm8prime uses Trakm8’s Connect 300 device, which is self‑installed by fleet managers from as little as ten pounds per vehicle per month.
Trakm8prime is a simplified version of SWIFT which allows small businesses and SMEs to enjoy the same cost and time-saving benefits as Trakm8’s corporate customers, without needing the technical know-how on how to draw useful conclusions from the data. Prime hosts vehicle tracking alongside driver behaviour insights and vehicle health warnings just like Trakm8 SWIFT. Frustrating P11D admin time also becomes a thing of the past with the new solution allowing drivers to clock their business miles at the click of a button through the Prime app. This information can then be exported directly into PDF or excel spreadsheets, shaving off hours of administration time.
The use of mobile apps is now becoming a prevalent trend in the fleet industry and besides Trakm8’s new ePOD application, the company is working on various other apps to provide fleet managers and drivers with on-the-go insights.
2017 will see the introduction of Trakm8’s latest app, Drive, which brings the power of their telematics software to mobile. The app allows fleet managers to track their vehicles in real-time, learn about underlying vehicle health issues and see driver scores.
Connected vehicles will become commonplace over the next ten years and as a result, fleet managers must be prepared for how this heightened level of connectivity can be used to benefit business operations. Trakm8 is now identifying how the industry can take advantage of connected car technologies and how both end users and fleet managers can easily access the new insights that they offer.
The company is now exploring how to achieve this through innovative technologies such as mobile and even wearable devices. These developments will primarily aim to provide safety benefits to drivers, other road users and mobile workforces and will evolve in line with the popularity of connected vehicles. This will enable new methods of smarter working and streamlining efficiencies.
Trakm8 has recently announced a number of organisational changes to allow it to take full advantage of the new products and expertise acquired following four acquisitions in the last three years.
The Trakm8 Group is streamlining its businesses into four discrete units to reflect the complete end-to-end solutions that it is now able to offer to both its new and existing customers.
As part of this restructuring the company has now concluded a brand strategy review which has resulted in the decision to integrate these businesses under the Trakm8 brand and, as a result, the Group will now operate as Trakm8 Fleet, Trakm8 Insurance, Trakm8 Optimisation and Trakm8 Automotive.
These businesses will form two commercial units, headed up by highly talented and experienced personnel already within the organisation. Colin Ferguson, former CEO of Route Monkey, which was acquired by the Group in December 2015, is now managing director of Trakm8 Group fleet and optimisation. Jon Law, who has been with the Group for four years as Trakm8 Limited’s sales director, has now become the managing director of insurance and automotive. By appointing these individuals to these roles, the Group is ensuring focus in each avenue to prevent unintended concentration on a particular customer or vertical, maximising sales output across the organisation.
Supporting these key roles within the Fleet sector include both Andrew Tillman and Robert Goldwater of SME telematics specialists Roadsense, which the Group acquired in August 2016.
Robert Goldwater, former sales director of both Roadsense and Masternaut will be fleet sales director and Andrew Tillman, who has been managing director of Roadsense and previously a senior director of Masternaut and Minorplanet, will be fleet strategy director responsible for fleet strategy and group marketing.
Streamlining the businesses is in part a consequence of the rapidly expanded investment in sales resources during the earlier part of this year, but there are a number of positions still to fill. This streamlining will also assist the business in simplifying current processes, ensuring the business stays focussed on maximising the opportunities that it develops. The Group believes that this restructure will ensure cross-selling prospects are fulfilled with accountability being clear to the business units.
The Group has increased marketing support through all units already this year, including investment in much-improved websites and a telemarketing team. This trend of increasing investment in marketing will continue.
John Watkins, executive chairman of Trakm8, said: “We expect that these changes will lead to even greater vigour and success in each of our chosen verticals as each one will have dedicated and focussed resource deployed to them.
Trakm8 has gone through a rapid period of growth and these carefully designed plans have come from an extended period of discussion with many stakeholders within our business. We expect to see positive results in the near future.”