True Transformers – five ways to turn company cars into assets for performance excellence

So some things never change, the England football team always fall short when it really matters, we Brits always love a good whinge about the weather and politicians always end up apologising!

But in the world of business, it’s a very different story – times they are ALWAYS a-changin’.

Forward-thinking business leaders, entrepreneurs and innovative companies refuse to be held back by ‘same old, same old’ approaches to how they work. They continue in their relentless pursuit to advance the world of business and the ‘knowledge economy’.

Enter stage left – the company car.

Having long been viewed as an employee benefit, advancements in fleet management technology mean the company car can now be regarded as a key ingredient of the ‘knowledge economy’ – a business asset to help companies improve efficiency, productivity, safety and sustainability.

To achieve these successes, the power of actionable data from car fleets must be unleashed. Below I outline five key business areas in which this can be achieved.

Action stations: sales performance insights revealed

The failure of a sales rep can prove extremely costly to a business – but sales managers often run out of the time they need to address underperformance before problems become entrenched.

Fleet management technology can act as an early warning system, revealing all manner of insights into the performance of a sales force on the road. If failings in approach, strategy or time-management are exposed, these can then be tackled at an early stage.

Field sales activity and performance can be examined in easy to read dashboards or reports, enabling managers to analyse a range of data, from levels of appointments with customers and prospects to average appointment times.

As companies strive for that all-important competitive edge, fleet management technology installed in the company vehicle is set to become an increasingly valuable tool for monitoring the effectiveness of a sales team.

Car fleet safety: is your business at risk?

Whether employees are driving privately-owned grey fleet vehicles or company cars, companies have a legal obligation to treat work-related road safety as an integral part of their health and safety policies.

With a third of all road traffic accidents believed to be work-related, by not doing so, they are putting their business reputations on the line.

This is where fleet management technology comes into its own – generating actionable data to help ensure driver safety.

Once a company’s safety guidelines, KPIs and performance benchmarks have been established, these systems can help to alter driver attitudes and enforce change.

I cannot be alone in having witnessed all manner of crazy driving manoeuvres and driver error remains the biggest single cause of road traffic accidents. On a basic level, the technology can be used to ensure these are not caused by fatigue, monitoring the number of hours a driver spends behind the wheel and enforcing a policy of regular breaks. By providing access to a full statistical breakdown on factors such as speed, harsh steering or braking, it becomes easier to identify where employees’ strengths and weaknesses lie, allowing training to be better tailored to suit drivers’ individual requirements.

Webfleet research has revealed that only 36 per cent of car fleet managers currently monitor driver performance to assess risk however, with less than a quarter of those (22 per cent) using technology to do so. Visit our road risk infographic for more details.

Without a clear commitment to reducing road risk, car fleet operators are more likely to fall foul of the law.

The route to insurance savings

Recent Webfleet research revealed that two-fifths of UK businesses have suffered from rising company car insurance premiums over the past 12 months.

A clearer risk profile however, with potential for reduced claims costs, can also help reduce fleet insurance premiums.

Insurance companies are increasingly recognising how the data fleet management systems impart can be used to more accurately assess risk and underwrite policies.

The returns on investment can be considerable in this area alone. One company for example, Zenith Hygiene Group, benefited from insurance savings of £78,000 in just two years by simply monitoring and improving driver performance to demonstrate an improved risk profile to its insurer.

Insurance premiums are set to become a more controllable cost for car fleet operators as such savings become widely publicised and increasing numbers of insurers promote risk-based policies, underpinned by telematics.

Stress-proof your drivers’ lives

Car drivers on company business face a myriad of stresses – from traffic congestion to mileage claims administration – but telematics systems can improve their working lives in a multitude of ways.

Smarter navigation and routing can mean less frustration, for instance, with live traffic information relayed to drivers’ navigation devices helping them to avoid congestion.

Dedicated smartphone apps or dashboard-mounted privacy buttons meanwhile, enabling drivers to selects whether journeys are for business or private purposes, ensure accurate records can be kept for tax purposes. Proof that company car fuel paid for by an employer has been used for business purposes only can mean hefty Car Fuel Benefit tax bills can be avoided (download our handy guide for more information on Benefit in Kind).

What’s more, such smartphone apps used for mileage reporting purposes will automatically update company records, reducing the laborious administration of mileage claims for drivers.

Cutting the cost of car fleet ownership

Having weathered the economic storm, many organisations are now scrutinising the cost of having company cars on the road.

Fuel and maintenance are hot on the coattails of depreciation, as the biggest cost burdens. In fact, they account for around 30 per cent of the total cost of ownership (TCO) of a vehicle. While MPG reporting underpins potential cost reductions in this area, the monitoring and management of driver behaviour helps managers earmark where savings can be made (download our fuel saving white paper for more information).

Fleet technology can generate data on idling, speeding and incidences of poor driving style, such as harsh steering or braking. Simple reports can be created for managers to have an overview of fleet performance, made up of scores that profile individual driving style. These can be used to stack rank drivers and produce league tables for motivational feedback. The performance data can also be fed back directly to the driver on their in-cab device, empowering them to make improvements in real time.

If cars are low on oil or have engine faults, trouble codes can be reported to managers directly from car engines, enabling them to quickly fix problems. What’s more regular service intervals can be automatically scheduled using real measured car mileage, reducing admin and the risk of human error.

Keeping cars well maintained will have a positive effect on fuel consumption and, of course ensure minor mechanical issues are not left to develop into more costly problems.

Long live the knowledge economy.

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