By Andrew Tavener, Head of Marketing, Descartes Systems UK
As the population rises local authorities continue to rely on thousands of vehicles to keep a variety of processes running smoothly across the nation, including recycling, waste management, routine maintenance and roadside services – they are critical in the everyday function. However, burdened with budget constraints and the ever-growing demands from housing and infrastructure buildings, local authorities are under more pressure than ever to maximise the efficiency of their fleet operations. For some, this has led to outsourcing services to private sector companies. However, the private sector has to deal with the same challenge of maximising fleet efficiency so what can local authorities learn from best in class models to further maximise efficiencies within their own fleets?
In order to achieve more with the same resourcing, councils are already looking into how technology can leverage better fleet utilisation. Compliance is of course of upmost importance and, from digital tachograph data to managing drivers’ hours and ensuring drivers hold a valid driving licence, there is growing recognition that technology can help reduce cost and improve efficiency of mandatory compliance procedures.
However, there is also potential to drive even greater value within other areas of fleet management operations by moving beyond siloed technology deployments to joined-up paperless operations.
Technology in silos
The logistics industry across the board is experiencing uncertainties in today’s economic and political climate with emissions charges, escalating security concerns and rising congestion all playing a role in increasingly more complex fleet management operations. Road transport operators are also reporting driver shortages and difficulties in recruiting new drivers, which could become an increasingly more prominent issue in the forthcoming years with Brexit looming.
For local authorities, budget cuts for services that need to stretch further to accommodate a growing population is a constant challenge, and this combination of pressures is driving considerable change in how local authorities are becoming more open to adapting their fleet management operations in order to gain greater efficiencies.
Telematics and route optimisation solutions, for example, are now already largely considered intrinsic tools of fleet management. Telematics data has been available to local authorities to provide insight on a vehicle’s location, status and how long a journey has taken for a number of years now. The data has been useful in keeping track of vehicles and, to an extent, for keeping drivers in check too. But this is only scratching the surface of its capabilities today. Time and technology has moved on, and as fleet managers see the benefits of going paperless with more and more of their processes, the opportunities to mine data from their combined insight could be transformational.
One such area where automation can save a significant amount of time when compared to managing this via traditional, paper-based means, is compliance. Compliance management technology can help operators achieve Earned Recognition with the DVSA by proactively managing their drivers and transport operation and taking all reasonable steps to prevent infringements and breaches of complicated tachograph, drivers’ hours regulations and the Working Time Directive.
From tracking drivers’ hours to driving licence verification and ensuring pre-journey vehicle inspections are undertaken, this technology can help transport managers look at all aspects that impact compliance, and focus their corrective action on the drivers that need it. These processes should be embedded within day-to-day operations to make such essential aspects of compliance business-as-usual.
With up-to-date, accurate information on drivers, local authorities can rapidly assess the level of risk it is carrying based on driver endorsements and entitlements and take appropriate action to mitigate the risk and potential impact on insurance. For those drivers with more points and therefore a greater risk profile, the operator can instigate more frequent checks and address the issues that have led to the endorsements, ensuring compliance is maintained at all times and the risk is being managed.
If utilised correctly, the benefits of using compliance management software do not have to stop at compliance. Replacing paper documents with electronic saves time and money and it creates visibility and therefore accountability. What’s more, electronic compliance solutions are no longer simply a nice to have, and are increasingly being mandated by government departments and standards bodies. Take the current Earned Recognition scheme launched by the DVSA at the Commercial Vehicle Show on 24 April 2018 as an example. The DVSA will reward compliant road transport operators with fewer roadside checks in return for access to their compliance data, in order to help focus resources on the seriously and serially non-compliant.
Tachograph analysis and compliance management software deliver measurable and proven benefits to help operators meet their compliance obligations. However, there is potential to drive greater value by moving beyond siloed technology deployments to joined up paperless operations – only achievable if organisations embrace a strategic approach to paperless technologies and proactively extend real time information and electronic processing across the entire operation.
For example, digital tachograph data is also valuable outside the traditional transport managers’ compliance remit – it should form an essential component when optimising operational efficiency using automated route optimisation and scheduling processes for vehicles. Using telematics with a routing and scheduling system, for example, not only allows the fleet manager to see where a vehicle is, it enables them to compare this to where it should be. New jobs can be added in real time or corrective action can then be taken to re-route a vehicle to avoid traffic.
Streamlining fleet operations with route planning software will also minimise costs by reducing the miles driven, the fuel consumed, and the vehicle servicing and maintenance necessary as a result. Combined with telematics data, it can be used for continuous background route optimisation. Rather than relying on manual updates of drivers’ hours information, a direct feed from the electronic driver hours solution into the paperless route planning software ensures this key criterion is included within the planning process by default.
With this aspect of the process automatically taken into account, the schedule can be planned far more efficiently – by simply extending the mandated requirement for compliance with drivers’ hours law across the rest of the business, an operator can gain significant incremental value. While the key is to start with a compliance first approach, the goal is a tangible opportunity for operators to move beyond siloed paperless implementations to create a joined up model for effective, end-to-end information sharing that can truly transform transport operations.
Now is the time for local authorities to embrace intelligent technology to leverage measurable business benefits and optimise their fleet management operations. After all, tachograph analysis and compliance management technology is becoming less of an added convenience for road transport operators and more of a fundamental necessity.
Government departments and standards bodies are increasingly advocating the use of electronic solutions for compliance and ease, but also to aid in the creation of a joined-up model for end-to-end information sharing that can transform transport operations. By moving beyond a siloed, paperless approach and stepping into the modern technological age in this way, efficiency gains and reduced costs are an easy reach for stretched local authorities.