Monday, 28 February 2011

Hole Lot Of Trouble Going On - How Potholes Are Hitting The UK's Transport Fleets Hard

Potholes on a road in Banbury, UK.
It will come as no surprise to anyone who is out on the road on a day-to-day basis - but councils in England have today admitted that they don't have enough money to fix the potholes that are blighting the country's highways. 

Last Winter's bad weather once more created millions of dangerous craters on our roads. Councils say they have increased spending to deal with it and the Department of Transport has pledged £3 billion to fill in the mess.

But even this isn't enough. 

The Local Government Association (LGA) told the BBC that they would face a "huge struggle" to repair holes after the coldest December in 100 years.
Potholes form when water seeps into road cracks and freezes, breaking up the tarmac. The association estimated councils had filled in more than two million potholes following the winter of 2009-10 and faced a similar task this year. 

The problem has huge implications for the transport industry, not least because councils are increasingly facing compensation claims from road users who are affected by badly damaged roads. 

One council, Hampshire County Council, admitted to the BBC that payouts for damage to vehicles caused by potholes almost doubled in a year. The authority paid out about £111,000 in 2009/10 - compared to about £60,000 the year before.
If you are a fleet manager worried about the damage bad roads are causing your vehicles, telematics can play a vital role in monitoring the problem - and making claims. 

Detailed 'snail trails' of vehicle's routes and timings along with readings on harsh-breaking patterns and speeds can be used to build up a comprehensive picture of how a vehicle's progress has been disrupted by potholes. 

Contact us to find out more about how iBox technology's mates can help you chart the damage potholes cause your vehicles.

Friday, 18 February 2011

How To Stop Forklifts Being Lifted! The Genius Of Geo-Fencing

Fleet managers and vehicle owners are always facing new challenges. And we, as suppliers of tracking equipment, have to move with them.

An important recent development has been the addition of 'geo-fencing' to our vehicle tracking equipment.

Geo-fencing very simply allows users to set the geographical parameters within which a vehicle or piece of equipment should be operating. On the one hand it can show that vehicles have reached designated delivery locations. On the other hand, it can reveal that a vehicle or piece of equipment has strayed out of a designated zone, ensuring the fleet manager knows about it immediately.

At iBox technology we've seen this technology applied in a variety of ways. In the haulage and logistics business, for instance, it allows transport companies to detect - and if necessary, prove - that a delivery has arrived at the correct destination.

One example of the usefulness of this came when a delivery firm was charged a heavy penalty by a major supermarket chain for not having delivered a consignment on time. After talking to its driver, the delivery firm challenged this. They argued that he had been on the supermarket's premises, but had been held back from emptying his load by the warehouse manager's decision to give another, later delivery priority because of its perishable load. They were able to prove the driver was on the premises by showing them the geo-fencing data which showed that the lorry had arrived ahead of rather than behind schedule. The penalty was refunded.

Another example came when we fitted geo-fencing to a fleet of forklifts being operated by a warehouse company on a large, industrial estate. They had suffered a series of disappearances of their forklifts. One or two had been stolen and subsequently recovered. But others had simply gone astray. Within a week of having our geo-fencing equipment fitted, the company had discovered the cause of these mysterious disappearances.

They found that workers were using the forklifts to travel around the estate, far from where they should have been working. The new geo-fencing kept showing them leaving the designated operation zones, often to do 'private work' or even make social calls. Workers were often simply abandoning the forklift trucks at the end of the working day.

When they discovered this practice they launched a search of the industrial estate and quickly found the remaining 'lost' forklifts. Needless to say they didn't go missing in that way again - and staff didn't go wandering from their workplace as much either.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Lorry Drivers To Be Hit By Tough, New EU Pollution Laws

The importance of managing a fuel efficient - and environmentally responsible - fleet is going to increase still further if new EU laws come into force. A report in today's edition of European Voice reveals that a new Europe-wide law that could mean lorry drivers are required to pay for the environmental harm caused by their vehicles moved a step closer today.

The law on the taxation of heavy vehicles was approved by ministers this morning (February 14th) and will now go on for approval in the Euro Parliament. 
The proposal would allow EU countries to charge lorry drivers for noise and air pollution caused by their vehicles. This will come on top of new arrangements, which we reported last week, that will allow countries to charge tolls to vehicles from other EU countries that use their road system. 
The new rules would apply to any motorway in the EU, a significant point as national governments have previously objected to attempts to extend the law beyond the ‘Trans-European Network' of EU priority roads. The proposals were not unanimously approved. Italy and Spain voted against the law, while Ireland, the Netherlands and Portugal abstained.
All MEPs are due to vote on the issue in June. 
If the law comes into effect, it will make it even more imperative that fleet managers control their vehicle's emissions. And this will make devices like iBox's technology's eco-mate even more effective and useful. 
The eco-mate allows fleet managers to monitor a wide range of fuel-related data. 

Friday, 11 February 2011

Inspector Gadget! - How Telematics Can Help Track Down The Truth

Modern telematics and tracking devices offer much more than simple messages about a vehicle’s location, speed and travel routes. They can also act as digital detectives, as Steve Green explains:

“A while back we fitted some of our Eco-mate devices to a fleet of 7.5 ton trucks available for rental with one of the country’s biggest fleet operators. Some of the trucks were rented out to a well known transport company that distributes fruit and vegetables to pubs and restaurants all over the UK. The owners signed the contract, sent out the lorries and left the delivery company to get on with their business. As far as they were concerned, they were doing just that.

“As part of our service, we routinely monitor the data that is streaming from all our clients’ vehicles. One day, whilst monitoring this particular fleet of trucks, we noticed something odd.

“One of the trucks had stopped and remained parked at a location in East Sussex. It remained there with its ignition off for several hours. Using the map function that we have built in, we were able to zoom into the location and saw that the lorry was parked up in a lay by. We assumed it was some kind of problem, perhaps with the driver.

“When we looked again the following day, the data stream showed that the vehicle had changed location and was now in Leighton Buzzard. From the fuel readings we could see that it had done this without using any fuel. Quite obviously, it had for some reason been towed or transported there. It remained in Leighton Buzzard for three days.

“Now it just so happened that we knew that the company which had hired these trucks had a service garage in Leighton Buzzard. So it was then that we started to put two and two together. There had clearly been some kind of accident and the lorry had been towed or transported to the company’s garage to fix it.

“In a routine conversation with the client who owned the trucks, we mentioned that we thought one of their trucks had been in an accident or broken down.

“As far as they were concerned the truck was travelling around the country making deliveries as normal.”

“No, we’ve not heard anything about that,” they replied. “If there was  an accident, the client has to inform us automatically. It’s in the contract. You must be mistaken.”

“In the end, however, we were proven right. It turned out that the truck had been involved in an accident in East Sussex and had been transported back to Leighton Buzzard where it was fixed up.

“It highlighted an aspect of telematics that we hadn’t until then considered. By interpreting and analysing data properly, we can highlight areas that wouldn’t ordinarily be identified. In this case, the company that had hired the trucks from our client had been keeping them in the dark, in breach of their contractual obligations to inform them of any problems or accidents.

“In a way, tracking devices are digital detectives. I’m sure that won’t be the last time we use them to solve a mystery.”

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Lorry Drivers To Be Charged £9 A Day To Drive Britain's Roads

As if spiralling fuel costs, rampant insurance hikes and other factors aren't making it hard enough for transport companies, the Government is now planning to force drivers to pay £9 a day to travel on the UK's road system. 

According to the Daily Telegraph the plan will be rolled out in the Summer with a view to being introduced - via new legislation - by April 2014. 

Now Ministers are promising that lorry drivers won't be worse off because of the scheme. They claim other taxes will be reduced to compensate for the £9 charge. For instance, annual road tax could be trimmed to reflect the difference. 

The aim of the exercise, apparently, is to make foreign drivers pay for the use of UK roads for the first time. They would be charged via a 'vignette' system. According to the Telegraph the haulage industry is behind the idea: 
"We are for it," said a spokesman for the Freight Transport Association. "It's a charge which will apply to foreign hauliers, who should pay for their road use. "But we wouldn't want to be hit over the head twice with road user charging and existing taxes."
The only detail that's unclear is what system would be used to calculate when a lorry was on or off the road. The Government has ruled out a "spy in the sky" system involving compulsory black boxes. 
Sounds like an opportunity for telematics and vehicle tracking specialists. 

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Telematics Key To Australian Road Safety Says Report

Fleet managers 'Down Under' face legislation that will require them to use more telematics and vehicle tracking devices. 

Australian publication Supply Chain Review reports that the country's National Road Safety Strategy 2011 – 2020 recommends sweeping changes to the trucking industry to reduce the national road toll by 30 percent over a 10-year period. 

The report, which is currently open for consultation, wants an increase in point-to-point speed cameras and a greater role for telematics to monitor speed, mass limits, road damage and braking and handling.