Crystal ball gazing: What does 2014 hold in store for fleets?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014 - 16:29
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EXPERT: Giles Margerison, Director at TomTom

In our latest Expert Blog, Giles Margerison, Director at TomTom Business Solutions, offers some buoyant predictions for the year ahead…

Crystal ball gazing

Shaking themselves out of the January blues should come a little easier to fleet managers this year after a flurry of upbeat economic news in recent weeks.

With a fair wind at their backs, spirits are unlikely to be dampened for too long by the dark nights, dark mornings and general post-Christmas malaise.

Optimistic forecasts for the coming months have led to accelerated business investment and have presented opportunities for setting a course to re-energised levels of performance.

Field sales troubleshooting

Historically, managers of car fleets have been slower adopters of fleet management technology but all signs suggest this trend is reversing – the company car and its drivers are increasingly being seen as a conduit for enhanced efficiency, productivity, sustainability and a range of wider money-saving measures.

Before sales staff underperformance becomes entrenched, managers often run out of the time they need to address emerging problems in their approach, strategy and time-management.

It can prove extremely costly for a business if a sales rep fails.

Fleet management technology however can act as an early warning system, revealing all manner of insights into the performance and activity levels of a sales force on the road.

Activity levels and performance can be analysed in easy to read dashboards or reports, enabling managers to evaluate data such as levels of appointments with customers and prospects or even average appointment times.

The use of fleet management technology to monitor the effectiveness of field sales is certainly set for further growth during 2014 as companies strive for that all-important competitive edge.

This trend has been buoyed by a much wider acceptance of the technology in the fleet car sector as it becomes better at addressing any lingering driver privacy concerns and as black box technology becomes increasingly popular among consumers as a means of controlling motor insurance premiums.

In addition, car fleet managers will increasingly see the benefits of the technology in assessing and reducing road risk.

Mileage and driver hours can be monitored to ensure employees don’t spend too long behind the wheel.

This, on top of a commitment to safer driving through the monitoring and improvement of driver behaviour, will continue to reinforce best practice in safety and ensure compliance with duty of care legislation.

The future for our economic workhorse

In the LCV sector, we are unlikely to see a resolution any time soon to the debate over van regulation – but interested stakeholders will watch with baited breath how events unfold.

Although there is no chance of regulation being introduced this year, the government is sure to come under increasing pressure to act and the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) has already told of its determination to drive up operating standards.

As VOSA step up the number of roadside LCV inspections, efforts to encourage the sector to self-regulate – such as the FTA’s Van Excellence programme – will continue with a vengeance and fleet management technology will be viewed as one of the most logical solutions to helping improve operational efficiency and safety standards.

Big business: The next big thing

The year ahead presents altogether different challenges for large corporate fleet businesses.

For many of these operators, the potential for fleet management technology to realise efficiencies across all areas of a business, with information exchanged across different business functions, hardware and software systems, remains untapped.

These companies will increasingly look for blended solutions, with fleet management systems integrated with back office software such as accounting, sales or CRM packages.

What’s more, today the opportunities to achieve this seamlessly are greater than ever.

More and more businesses during 2014 will also benefit from the emergence of insurance telematics – not least those running larger vehicle fleets.

Motor insurance, after all, can add a significant cost to the bottom line – but this cost can be controlled where a low risk profile can be demonstrated to insurers.

A number of dedicated polices have been developed over recent months, underpinned by telematics, to offer managers compelling opportunities for reducing premiums.

Take-up of these is sure to gather momentum.

So 2014 will see a number of important decisions being made as the total cost of fleet ownership falls under increasing scrutiny.

These decisions should not only help our economic recovery, but should also help to lay the foundations for a more sustainable and competitive, future.