In a climate of transformational disruption, ‘the biggest risk is to not think big enough’.
Thomas Schmidt, managing director of Webfleet, urged fleet decision-makers to heed this warning as he spoke on the future of fleet management at the Let’s Explore 2018 event in Birmingham.
The event, hosted and sponsored by Webfleet, and held in association with fleet decision-makers’ organisation ACFO, welcomed numerous industry expert speakers, as well as a 200-strong crowd of delegates.
In his address, Schmidt described the exponential growth of data and computing power in recent years and how this is set to continue, fuelled by technology, change, and transformation.
“Disruption innovation is happening all around us and we, as decision-makers, are responsible for our people, for our employees, for our businesses, to consider this in the right way,” he said.
Some companies, he warned, are causing disruption and changing entire industries in the process, exploiting their own data-driven, technology-driven business models.
Fleet decision-makers must ensure they are ‘driving change’ not ‘driven by it’ to ensure they survive and thrive in an ever-more connected world.
“Connectivity will drive your business forward, data-mining will drive your businesses forward. If you don’t act, you will be disrupted,” he said.
“The best way to predict the future is to create it, which means you, as the decision-maker, are responsible for creating this.”
So, what is the strategic direction for fleet management? According to Schmidt, it is ‘the preparation and execution of the transition to become a fully digitised business.’
Telematics technology, he said, can support this transition into a ‘fully connected business’, in key areas, from fleet efficiency, vehicle utilisation and driver support, to fuel management, legislative compliance and delivering improved customer satisfaction.
Fellow speaker George de Boer, leader of connected car initiatives at Webfleet, echoed Schmidt’s sentiments.
He emphasised the need to not only anticipate trends, such as electrification of cars, connected car technology, and Mobility-as-a-Service, but react to them too, in order to future-proof the industry.
He spoke about how, with connected car technology, cost-saving is not the main and overriding motivator – it allows mobility managers access to ‘powerful new insights’, as well as significantly improving the driver experience.
The evolving role of fleet managers was also addressed, including the transition to mobility managers, the shift to varied modes of transport to cater for the younger generation, and the dynamic approach needed to ensure a transparent – rather than disjointed – overview of cost.
Telematics driving behaviour change, says driver safety expert
Dr Lisa Dorn, associate professor of driver behaviour and director at Driving Research Group at Cranfield University, hailed telematics as a ‘very effective’ way of changing driver behaviour to improve fleet safety.
Dr Dorn explained how driver interventions were key to achieving behavioural change, and how a number of techniques must be deployed to enable this change.
Telematics has a big role to play, by faciltating key techniques such as monitoring behaviour, setting goals and giving informative and evaluative feedback on a driver’s performance.
“If drivers are not aware of the danger they are in, how can they be expected to change?” posed Dr Dorn.
“Telematics data is a good way of fleet managers providing evidence to address the risk.”
Relaying feedback is imperative; indeed, ‘self-monitoring, supervisor and telematics feedback was proven to increase safer driving by 12 per cent’.
“If you want to change behaviour over the longer term, you need to have a coach, with telematics, giving feedback through regular interventions,” said Dr Dorn.
“The message is clear. It is not just a one-off driver training intervention, once a year, or once every two years, but a sustained conversation you are having around the driver’s behaviour.”
Fleet managers need to embrace change – or get left behind
A variety of speakers also addressed delegates, including Craig McNaughton, corporate director of Lex Autolease, Alison Moriarty, fleet risk manager at Skanska UK, John Pryor, ACFO national chairman, and Graham Short, fleet and facilities at Zip Water, speaking on a range of issues facing the industry today, including new legislation, ultra-low emission vehicles and ‘grey fleet’ management.
But a common theme throughout was the prominent role technology and data is playing in the world of fleet management today, not just in the future.
Moriarty urged fleet managers to ‘wipe the slate clean’ and use technology-based data to rewrite policies and procedures, while McNaughton said that telematics and data analytics were key in the transition to a ‘sustainable future’.
“Working smarter and having the ability to analyse and improve operational areas of the fleet will be the route to cost efficiencies and keeping the company car fit for the future,” he added.
Placing this against the backdrop of GDPR, data compliance was, unsurprisingly, the topic that dominated discussion at Question Time, which closed the event, where delegates put their questions to Gordon Dadds Solicitors’ Alex Matheson.
See our new GDPR guide for practical guidance on how fleet managers can stay on the right side of the privacy law.