Telematics systems track vehicles’ location and can also record performance data over their journeys. When combined with other information, these systems can provide interesting insights about the operation. Monitoring these over time can provide trend information, to determine whether the operation is getting better or worse.
And that’s not all. As telematics providers have many customers, it may be possible for the provider to compare the data of one particular fleet against its overall customer average; this is called benchmarking.
It can provide fleets a vital reality check, argues Steve Thomas, managing director of Ctrack. “You might think you are doing well, improving standards year-on-year, but there is no external comparison to prove if your results are good or bad.”
However, he cautions, the basis for comparison needs to make sense for the business. Thomas continues: “A courier operation, for example, might be interested in average distance per drop, while a service company might be more concerned with response rates to call-outs. For most fleets, road safety and sustainability are huge considerations, so speeding and harsh driving events are of particular value, along with MPG and idling.”
And he adds that this information needs to fit into the right kind of measurement philosophy: “Acknowledging the importance of tracking your fleet and those in charge of them on the road, should be the foundation of any successful operation. However, it’s equally important that the tools pulling the data, the quality of the data, and the way it’s interpreted or acted upon, will make the difference in successfully using operational benchmarks to improve performance. Understanding how you’re doing in regard to productivity, costs, driver performance, route efficiency etc. will all make you more empowered to make better decisions about the future of your fleet.”
For Barney Goffer, Teletrac Navman UK product director (pictured above) it’s the elements that fleets have in common that are most useful here. “There are a number of commonalities that are a good foundation for fleets to benchmark against. As a minimum, operators and fleet managers should be looking at trip data on planned versus actual routes, idling times, incidences of speeding, harsh braking or cornering to review driver performance, average driver hours per job, compliance and maintenance levels, as well any infringements against performance parameters, which can be alerted to fleet managers in real-time.”
More advice for operators comes from Paul Verheijen, product management vice president of Webfleet Solutions. He says that those trying to evaluate the efficiency of their fleet should focus on variables like fuel usage per mile or utilisation time.
Looking beyond the benefit of these services, some operators may be concerned that a competitor’s benchmarking exercise might reveal some of their own operational secrets. Not so, the telematics firms say; their processing methods are said to make the data anonymous at the level of individual drivers – protecting their privacy – and at company level too. States Thomas: “Any benchmarking exercise needs to maintain the highest levels of GDPR compliance and data security. At no point are any identifying elements visible in terms of company or driver data, providing fleets with complete protection.” Adds Goffer: “Anonymised data offers that happy medium where performance data can still be retrieved and acted upon, while ensuring only the pre-approved eyes have visibility of who’s behind the wheel.”
<xhead> HOW TO DO IT
To avoid comparing apples and oranges, telematics firms can filter data by fleet size and industry to provide relevant comparisons, says Goffer. Adds Thomas: “Like-for-like data is crucial for any benchmarking, so It is important to start off with a large sample base that can be segmented to create an accurate and worthwhile comparison.”
Whichever factors may be chosen for analysis, benchmarking is different to telematics service provision in that it is often project-based.
Thomas at CTrack explains: “We offer a custom solution for industry analysis that involves comparison with either similar fleet operations or against industry-wide or vehicle-type averages. For example, we recently undertook a project for a public sector organisation to benchmark levels of speeding against ten other comparable vehicle operations. The customer in question had believed it had a good record, but following the analysis it found that it was the worst-performing fleet by quite some distance.”
Goffer advises that operators try to focus on what they need, rather than what they can measure. He says: “For fleets embarking on their digital transformation, the level of data and reporting available can be daunting, but with the right guidance on hardware-software set-up and ongoing training and support via our professional services, fleet managers will get exactly the data they need in order to report back into the business, benchmark and improve performance, and ultimately deliver a strong ROI.”
He concludes: “It is generally accepted that three months’ worth of data is enough of representative sample to pull the out the correlations in the data and put some initial benchmarks in place. However, it’s important to highlight that while this is a good means for creating a starting point, benchmarks are there to be improved upon, so if a business is bettering them over a sustained period, they should look to establish new ones against their own performance with industry levels in the back pocket as a reality check.”