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The future of commercial vehicles: the connected van

Mark Lovett is Head of Commercial Vehicles at LeasePlan UK

We’re all used to commercial vehicles. With around 3.8 million vans and 490,000 heavy goods vehicles on UK roads, they’re a familiar part of our everyday lives.

But even the most familiar things can change – and that’s what is happening with vans and trucks today. A revolution is occurring that will make commercial vehicles more efficient, more reliable and safer than they have been before. This is the revolution of data.

Some of these changes are apparent already. Fleets have been installing telematics systems in their commercial vehicles for years now, and benefitting from the data that they provide. Initially, these systems might have revealed a driver’s location on a map, but their capabilities have expanded far beyond that. Nowadays, they can provide information on everything from the health of the vehicle’s engine to how hard the driver is on its brakes.

This information will help companies to save money. For example, by identifying peaks and dips in fuel efficiency, fleet operators will be able to plan more economical routes for their vehicles. Real-time data from sensors could help to identify mechanical problems before they turn serious, therefore reducing maintenance costs and downtime.

But it’s not just money. Data will save something that’s far more important – lives. The technology has the potential to determine, for instance, whether a driver is distracted or tired, their heart rate, and, ultimately, whether they are in a healthy condition to drive. Drivers will never need to be put at risk because their managers didn’t know better.

And that’s before we consider the safety benefits of having more and more connected vehicles on the roads. It’s now estimated that one-in-five vehicles will have some sort of wireless connection by 2020, adding up to over a quarter of a billion vehicles around the world. Increasingly, these vehicles will communicate with each other and with the road systems around them. By doing so, they’ll be able to prevent accidents before they happen.

This is an exciting time for commercial vehicle operators, but also for fleet providers such as LeasePlan. It’s our job to explain the worth of these systems, to help put them in place, and to make them easy for our customers to use – and we’re eager to do so. After all, vans and trucks are a crucial component of our economy. Who wouldn’t want to make them work even better?

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