Tracking the changes

If you want a glimpse of the future of vehicle management, take a look at the latest GPS tracking technologies. There’re many ways they can benefit your business.

By Glenn Baker.

To fully appreciate the stand-out features of leading edge GPS vehicle tracing technology, we went to Navman. It’s latest GPS software platform, Teletrac Navman DIRECTOR, helps businesses improve the efficiency of their fleet management through data about their workforce’s driving habits. 
“Along with DIRECTOR we released a new complete driver and vehicle behaviour solution called Safety Analytics,” reports Ian Daniel, VP and MD Asia Pacific, Teletrac Navman. “This provides an unprecedented view into fleet activity, showing driver and vehicle behaviours in real time, and promoting better behaviour within company vehicle fleets. 
“Health and safety is top of mind for many businesses at the moment. With a visual event viewer and driver scorecards, our software feature enables businesses to monitor and replay unsafe driving events that occur on the road. The real-time scorecard function creates comprehensive reports, summarising unsafe road behavior, and provides side-by-side driver rankings.” 

The data from the system allows managers to work proactively with staff, in order to change driving behavior.
DIRECTOR goes far beyond fleet tracking to include messaging capabilities and workflow forms, helpful user alerts, extensive vehicle maintenance, instinctive user search functions and robust driver behaviour analysis, says Daniel. “It’s also a completely web-based platform which means it’s scalable to any size fleet.” 

NZBusiness asked Daniel to explain the savings and benefits a GPS system delivers for business.
First, it’s about health and safety, and risk mitigation, he says. A good example is Taranaki engineering firm Energyworks NZ, which experienced an 80 percent reduction in over-speeding after installing the Teletrac Navman system. 
Secondly it’s about improved customer service. Take the case of Professional Farm Services (PFS), a Cambridge-based sales and service company that’s on call 24/7. Customers phone PFS directly for urgent jobs and the company can pull up the location of staff members immediately, then send the closest person to the job. It’s fast and efficient.
Thirdly, fuel savings is an added benefit. Using PFS as an example again, the company made cost savings in charged-out mileage immediately after installing the Teletrac Navman system. Savings amounted to $125 per vehicle per month.

There are lesser known benefits of GPS tracking technology too. For example, job management software integrates with the GPS system. Combining Teletrac Navman with the SmartTrade system allows BPS Plumbing to generate reports about where its plumbers drive, how far, how long they were onsite, then compare this with the timesheets. 
“This creates a huge saving in time and paperwork,” says Daniel.

Keeping up with vehicle servicing and maintenance is another plus.
“Our DIRECTOR software dashboard functionality provides an at-a-glance snap shot of things like total kilometres per week, out-of-hours use, speeds over 105kph and vehicle maintenance. It also shows when the next registration or warrant is due, or where RUC usage is at. 
Professional Farm Services uses the Teletrac Navman DIRECTOR maintenance module to keep track of WOF, tyres, oil changes, and so forth, he adds. 
There’re benefits around Fringe Benefit Tax and the requirement to keep log books too.

Choosing an appropriate system
Any GPS tracking system can locate your vehicles. To turn that raw data into information for making sound business decisions you need a tracking system that manages and makes best use of the huge data volumes generated. 
“Start by defining your priorities in terms of overall mobile management of your fleet, gaining insight into vehicle and driver behavior, improving safety and compliance, improving customer service and enhancing your bottom line through cost savings and improved productivity,” advises Ian Daniel.
“Then consider what you need to achieve this. Platform, technology and features are fundamental. Your system must efficiently collect locational data from three sources: GPS, vehicle diagnostic plug-ins and driver input data updated directly from in-cab. 
“Then your software provider needs to optimise the data, instantly converting geographical coordinates into usable and accessible location data, such as street names and intersections. It can then be matched to individual drivers and customized sub-fleet groups allowing you to better manage your fleet. 

You need to consider what the underlying operating principles of your GPS tracking system are. Is it a real-time event-based GPS vehicle tracking and monitoring system? Is it always on? How frequently is location and event data updated? Is the data transmitted immediately upon generation? 
Weigh up the feature set too, says Daniel. Does the system monitor idling time? Does it provide stolen vehicle tracking and real-time safety data? Does it deliver alerts and customised reports directly to managers? 

Beyond the technology
It’s not just about the technology and features. To choose the right GPS tracking system you must consider other factors. 
First, there’s the experience and capability of the provider. How long have they been tracking fleets? How many vehicles do they track? What level of support do they provide? 
“Tracking systems have a major role to play in compliance, too,” Daniel reminds us. “Can you satisfy hours of service regulations through electronic logbooks (E-logs)?  Can you electronically file Driver Vehicle Inspection Reports? Do you want to run reports against your own workplace safety policies? 
“If so, then the depth, detail and usability of reporting is a primary differentiator,” he says. “You will want to see things like driver safety event reports of harsh stopping or hard braking, performance reports that help evaluate driving trends and problem areas, and statistics on actual engine run time, distance traveled, gas usage and odometer readings. “You’ll also want operational reports about jobs and deliveries, including scheduled and unscheduled stops. And calculate which of your vehicles have the lowest km/l fuel efficiency, average ‘engine on’ times, idle times, travel times, miles driven and usage. 
“Finally, your GPS provider needs to present the optimised data in a way that helps fleet managers quickly locate and manage vehicles in realtime, anytime,” says Daniel. 
“The usability, user-friendliness and intuitiveness of the software is key to providing fleet managers with the most relevant, profitable and rewarding information in the most serviceable way.” 

Glenn Baker is editor of NZBusiness.

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