Cutting costs with telematics

Budgets at many South African companies are under extreme pressure, with cost-cutting prevalent in almost every department. Fleet managers are among those feeling the pinch, under orders to reduce expenses in the face of ever-rising overheads. Experts say telematics is one tool that can help them. WANITA WALLACE reports

When a business has a fleet of vehicles to manage, small savings can go a long way – especially when it comes to fuel, which is typically the second-biggest expense after vehicle depreciation. “Fuel, alone, can account for up to 40 percent of fleet costs. With a telematics solution in place to reduce fuel consumption, customers can quickly start saving,” says Henry Smith, sales director of fleet at MiX Telematics Africa.

He says the most important element in reducing fuel consumption is driver behaviour. In particular, this means reducing the five major contributors to high fuel usage – speeding, over-revving, harsh braking, harsh acceleration and excessive idling.

“A control-room service or a mobile app that continuously monitors driver behaviour helps to instil good road manners – and has the added benefit of creating a safe and productive vehicle fleet,” Smith says.

He maintains that telematics systems help to ensure positive returns for fleet operators across a broad spectrum of comportments. “It’s not only fuel costs that can be reduced – efficiency has been shown to improve, too, due to real-time driver management; insurance risk is reduced, due to the ability to track and recover stolen vehicles or goods; and fleet productivity is increased thanks to fewer unauthorised stops.”

The managing director of Legratron Electronics, Itumeleng Matshego, says data from telematics can be used to identify drivers who do not drive economically or who deviate from scheduled routes. “This data can be used to implement interventions, such as training or disciplinary procedures, to improve and correct behaviour,” he says.

Smith adds: “Telematics data tells the fleet operator exactly where his or her fleet of vehicles is on the road, and how each vehicle is being driven. A computer tracks the assets in real time and is aimed at helping fleet managers to boost performance of drivers in the field, ultimately saving money. Other major advantages include improved customer service and better route management.”

Telematics systems connect businesses with their teams on the road, allowing insight into where vehicles are located and how they are being used. “Time wasted by drivers, who use ineffective route planning, take unnecessarily longer routes, or use company vehicles and time for personal errands, can be reduced,” adds Matshego.

Smith says: “To realise the full benefits of a telematics system, drivers need to be proactively managed in real time. A professional 24-hour control room service can mitigate risk and ensure the safety of vehicles and drivers on behalf of the client. Risky and inefficient driver behaviour can be swiftly identified through round-the-clock monitoring of predefined critical driving event notifications, which are pro-actively managed and automatically highlight repeat offenders. Also, knowing which drivers practise bad driving habits is not only important as a fuel-saving measure – having that knowledge can also help to reduce maintenance costs.”

According to Matshego, harsh acceleration or braking and incorrect clutch control help to drive up a vehicle’s unscheduled servicing and repair costs. “Fleet managers who do not obtain data on their drivers’ habits will be replacing brake pads, tyres and clutches much sooner and more often than necessary.

“Conversely, if these mistakes are identified and corrective measures are taken, costly repairs, above those incurred at scheduled service and maintenance intervals, can be avoided. Also, the cost of downtime when vehicles are out of commission is avoided,” he concludes.

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Focus on Transport

FOCUS on Transport and Logistics is one of the oldest and most respected transport and logistics publications in southern Africa.
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