Thursday, 31 March 2011

R.I.P Eddie Stobart - UK Transport's First Superstar

Eddie Stobart, right. Pic: BBC
Like everyone in the transport business, we were saddened to hear the news today that Eddie Stobart has died at the age of just 56. 

As most of you will know, Eddie built up his father's lorry empire and ran it for more than 30 years before selling the business to his brother William and his partner Andrew Tinkler in 2004. He died earlier today after developing heart problems yesterday and being rushed to hospital in Coventry.

Transport, haulage and trucking aren't exactly glamorous industries. But Eddie somehow managed to sprinkle a little stardust on our business, transforming it in ways you couldn't have imagined. 

Who would have thought that people would become obsessed with spotting Eddie Stobart trucks on the M1 or M4  in the same way that others spot trains coming in and out of Waterloo Station? Who would have imagined a television documentary series about a trucking company? But that's what Eddie's energy and vision  achieved. After selling his company, he should have been able to enjoy a long and happy retirement. It's tragic that he's been taken from us so soon. 

So we extend our deepest and most sincere condolences to Eddie's family. Rest In Peace Eddie. And thank you for brightening up our industry. 

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Tanks For Nothing: Soaring Fuel Thefts Making Life Even Tougher For UK Transport Firms

As if the UK's transport and haulage industries haven't got enough to cope with, they now face a serious and costly new threat - fuel theft. 
Siphoning diesel from lorries is rife at the moment, with the number of reported crimes soaring. 
A survey by the RHA, Road Haulage Association, found that almost 60 per cent of those polled had been victims of fuel theft in the past 12 months. 
Chrys Rampley, RHA security and infrastructure manager, told "Fuel thefts in the road haulage industry have always been a big issue, but the spike in diesel costs will make operators' margins suffer even more than usual."
Rampley said that while some thieves were stealing diesel for personal use, an increasing number were selling large amounts of fuel on the black market. The RHA survey backed this up, revealing a hike in the number of thefts in the region of 1,000-1,500litres, compared to the average 100-600litres that had been stolen in the past. 
More than half of victims in the poll said diesel had been siphoned directly from lorry tanks, while the rest had been taken from storage tanks in yards and compounds. 
Perhaps not suprisingly the most vulnerable locations and times are lay-bys at night and in the late afternoon. 
One leading haulier, David McMurray, MD of Accrington, Lancashire company McMurrays Haulage told "We have been targeted a handful of times so far in 2011. It has been a problem for the industry for a long time, but fuel is becoming like liquid gold-dust, so I'm not surprised to hear the number of incidents has risen again."
McMurrays has fitted its fleet with anti-siphoning products, but there are doubts over whether this is effective. The RHA said that some anti-siphoning security was proving counterproductive because thieves went well-equipped and tore the fuel cap off the tank, which left the whole tank in need of replacing at even greater expense. 
This is where telematics can play its part. Of course, you can never stop a determined criminal, especially when they operate in well organised - and potentially dangerous - gangs. But devices like iBox's 'Check-Mate' and 'Eco-Mate' can help fleet managers keep abreast of what's happening remotely by helping them monitor variables, from fuel levels to the security of vehicles in lay-bys. If drivers are targeted by gangs, the 'Tele-mate' also allows two way communication between driver and fleet office and, if necessary, the police. 
On the subject of which, we would expect the police to help combat this alarming rise. And, to be fair, the specialist lorry crime unit TruckPol has re-introduced the reporting of fuel thefts under 1,000 litres after stopping the service back in July 2009. 
But as we reported in a previous blog, TruckPol now faces severe funding cutbacks. It all means that hard-pressed hauliers are going to feel more embattled - and abandoned - than ever. 

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Euro-Trash - Why The UK Transport Industry Needs To Wake Up To Europe's Future, And Why Telematics Will Be Crucial

Europe's roads will change dramatically between now and 2050. 

Transport groups and UK politicians have been trashing the European Commission's newest plans to rid cities of petrol-fueled vehicles by the year 2050. 
The plans were revealed in a white paper published yesterday in which the EC called for  €1.5 billion in infrastructure investments to create a 'Single European Transport Area' over the next two decades. The white paper also calls for a swathe of  pro-green measures to ensure the EU cuts its transport emissions by 60 percent by 2050.
Suggested moves include laws requiring road freight transport travelling in excess of 300km to be shifted to rail or waterborne transport.
UK politicians dismissed the document - basically telling Brussels to keep its nose out of British roads and town centres. "We will not be banning cars from city centres any more than we will be having rectangular bananas," said UK transport minister Norman Baker.
And Ivan Hodac, secretary general of the automobile industry's trade association (ACEA), called the proposal to shift long distance haulage from the roads to rail and water "a mistake". 
But there's no question that the EC is serious about introducing measures to slash emissions and rid its cities of heavy vehicles. And quite frankly, companies have got to face up to the fact that they are going to have to be more careful about planning long distance travel - and not just because of ever-spiralling fuel costs. 
All of which is going to mean that telematics and vehicle tracking devices are going to play an increasingly important part in fleet management. And technology like iBox's popular 'Eco-Mate', 'Trac-Mate' and 'Tele-Mate' will be crucial in this new, more heavily regulated environment, allowing managers to locate their drivers and vehicles, monitor their emissions and fuel efficiency and communicate with them as they travel around Europe's more tightly-controlled road networks. 
For details about how we can help you navigate your way around the Europe of the future, contact iBox or visit our website 

Rip Off Van Winkle - Fuel Crisis Forces 60-Year-Old Builder To Sleep In His Van

Pic: Daily Mail
We told you so! 

Just days after chancellor George Osborne's 'too little, too late' cut to fuel duty, an ordinary builder has illustrated the desperate impact petrol prices are having on British business. 

Dennis Stapleton is sleeping in his cramped van four nights a week instead of travelling the 63 miles from his current workplace in Hertfordshire to his three-bedroom home in Cambridgeshire at the end of each day.

He leaves his house on a Monday morning with a week's worth of clothes and returns home after work on a Friday. He showers at a nearby service station and parks his van on an industrial estate at night.

Stapleton, who is 62, reckons he saves £600 a month by crashing out amidst his tools. 

"It's uncomfortable, but at the moment I have to find a means to survive," he told the Daily Mail. 'It's very cold. I get changed as quickly as possible in the morning and jump into my sleeping bag as quickly as I can at night.'

As we wrote last week, Osborne's cut of 1p off petrol and freezing of future changes until next year, was immediately wiped out by the garages who simply squeezed forecourt prices up. And it means that stories like that of Mr Stapleton, will become more and more common.

Of course, even he could benefit from a device like iBox's 'Eco-mate'. The tracking device can save businesses thousands of pounds in fuel bills each year by providing live and downloadable reports on fuel usage, efficiency, idling time and harsh braking patterns.

We might send him a free unit to see if it can shave something off his bill and allow him to sleep in a decent bed more often.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Caution - Dangerous Road Ahead. Why Osborne's Petrol Price Cut Won't Save Fleet Managers From Fuel Crisis.

So the chancellor, George Osborne, had been listening to the transport industry after all.

The big business headline in yesterday's Budget was Osborne's surprise decision to cut 1p off fuel duty with immediate effect and freeze the proposed inflation rise in tax for this year, putting it back to January 2012.

The nine month breathing space was greeted with cautious optimism by the transport industry. But prices on the forecourt are still going to be influenced by oil companies and the evidence is that they are going to be climbing  further because of the situation in the Middle East and the greed of the petrol companies.  

As the BBC reported today, that greed was in evidence again yesterday as petrol stations all over the country apparently increased their prices by between 1p and 2p in advance of the budget, wiping out the benefits of the 1p cut at a stroke.

In other words, Osborne's cut is a step in the right direction, but it's hardly a turning point. And when you look at the way fuel prices have been rising during March, you can see that the relief from the tax cut and freeze may not be the life-saver that some people are calling it.

oil prices

So what do we make of all this? Well, one thing is for certain, with fuel prices forcing more and more haulage and logistics companies out of business and oil prices (above) jumping around all over the place and unlikely to become setttled this year, fuel efficiency is going to remain a make-or-break issue for fleet managers. 
All of which means that telematics devices like iBox technology's popular Eco-mate, which monitors everything from fuel usage to harsh braking and idling time, are going to become even more essential if firms are going to protect their bottom lines.  
For more details about the Eco-mate or our other range of innovative tracking devices, contact iBox technology today. 

Friday, 18 March 2011

Crimestoppers - How Telematics Can Plug The Gap Left By The Scrapping Of TruckPol

There was widespread disappointment in the UK transport industry this week when the Home Office announced its plans to cut funding for TruckPol, the specialist police unit set up to fight crime in the haulage industry.
The Government has decided that it can no longer provide the mere £50,000 a year it takes to run the service - despite that fact that recent statistics revealed a massive 59 per cent rise in lorry thefts.
The unit will now have to rely on private donations. TruckPol head, DC Sue Coutts, told the unit has enough private capital to survive for at least 12 months, but that more money will be needed if it wants to continue fighting freight crime from April 2012. "Revenue raised from our private sector sponsors and EU project money continues to provide enough funding for TruckPol to continue. We are not losing any staff in the unit and, if anything, the unit is working well. Obviously though, now, more than ever we need more sponsors."
The cut seems pretty small-minded and couldn't be more badly timed. But it does present an opportunity for the telematics industry to step in and help combat the rise in lorry crime by producing tracking equipment that protects hauliers and their cargo.
At iBox technology our 'Check-mate' device has proven a popular and effective tool in helping fleet managers and drivers. system. Our system uses barcode or RFID technology to monitor stock movements on or off the vehicle at the POD. It can also be used to check on board inventories, such as plant and equipment, and allows drivers to conduct vehicle checks which generate exception reports that are sent directly via email to the fleet manager.
With private industry left to police the growing problem of lorry crime for itself, devices like the 'Check mate' seem certain to play a vital role. To find out more about the 'Check mate' and our other devices, contact iBox.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Introducing the iBox vehicle tracking 'Mates' Part 2 - the fuel-saving 'Eco-mate'

It's an interesting reflection on the current economic conditions, that one of our most popular tracking devices is now the innovative 'Eco-mate'.

With fuel prices rising seemingly every day- and the threat of an oil crisis brewing in the Middle East - many transport and logistics companies are finding that this device is an invaluable asset when it comes to managing fuel and vehicle efficiency.

The Eco-mate combines a live, web-based Canbus interface with our Trac-mate technology and features an impressive range of functions which allow managers to monitor variables from fuel consumption to driving and braking habits, harsh acceleration and excessive idling.

In a cost-conscious business environment, it's little wonder it is attracting so much attention. Contact us if you would like more information.

Features include:
Live Canbus which includes :
Harsh acceleration
Harsh Braking
Use of cruise control
Fuel used idling
Total fuel used
Engine hours
Distance to next service
Live web based .
Snail trail
Full auto reports in csv , pdf and excel
Compatible with standard Garmin Sat nav.
Able to monitor vehicle ancillary equipment ( cranes, lifts etc)
Geo-fencing including polygon
Auto alerts in sms or e mail format
Find nearest vehicle function

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Snow Coach : Five Things Last Winter's Big Freeze Taught Fleet Managers About The Role Of Vehicle Tracking And Telematics

A lorry battles with snow and ice at Glenfin,
 Scotland, last Winter. Pic: Highland Radio. 
Spring is in the air, and memories of one of the hardest Winters in living memory are finally receding. The cost of December and January's severe snow and ice to the British economy ran into the billions of pounds. From the High Street to the industrial estates and, in particular, on the roads, UK businesses took a heavy hit. 

So now seems like as good a time as any to take stock of what happened - and the lessons we can learn from last Winter. 

One clear lesson we learned at iBox technology was that modern telematics and vehicle tracking devices can make an enormous contribution to vehicle and driver safety and security during cold snaps and Arctic weather. In some instances, sophisticated tracking technology can even save lives. 

Here are 5 key lessons we learned - and some tips on how to help transport companies and fleet managers  deal with the next big freeze. 

1. Location 

There's no question. All vehicles should be fitted with basic tracking that allows the fleet manager to pinpoint all his drivers’ locations. By integrating this with weather and traffic information monitored in the office, this can help the fleet manager efficiently manage his or her fleet's progress and safety during bad weather. 

"All vehicles should be equipped with basic telematics which enable you to track the exact position where your driver is located. In Arctic conditions you can also look at the weather and road conditions in that area and keep your driver up to date on changing local, situations. You can then take decisive action, either to re-route or even cancel your driver’s assignment,” says iBox director Steve Green. 

2. Duty of Care 

As a fleet manager, you have a duty of care to your drivers. Telematics help managers fulfil this responsibility during bad weather. “Telematics devices ensure you are always aware of your driver’s location, but more importantly that you can interpret what is going on at that location. If you see that your vehicle isn't moving or you detect that it has had some kind of accident you can alert the emergency services. Engine monitoring and temperature sensing within the vehicle cab can also allow the fleet manager to monitor the safety and security of a driver overnight,” explains Green. 

3. Communication with Customer 

Bad weather causes chaos for customers, as many logistics and haulage companies learned to their cost again last Winter. Delivery times can be disrupted or - even worse - cancelled. Telematics can help ease the prolems that arise. “At iBox we have a Timeline function which shows the progress of all vehicles within the fleet on a single screen. This allows managers to keep their clients up to date with the progress of deliveries,” Green explains. “Customers are always sympathetic to problems during bad weather, provided they are kept up to date with the situation. This helps ensure that always happens.” 

4. Two Way Communication

In dangerous conditions, communication between cab and office is vital. Drivers need to know what is happening back at base, and the fleet manager needs to know what is happening on the ground. It needs to be a two way conversation. 

The iBox Telemate device combines a standard Garmin Sat-Nav, Can-bus with a mobile phone and remotely updated phone book which answers automatically when called. It also allows drivers to speed dial any one of up to fifty numbers that are remotely input to the box. “In Wintry weather, the manager can forward the driver with emergency numbers. Equally, if a family member needs to make an urgent private call to the driver, they can do so,” says Green. IBox‘s ‘Task Manager’ function also allows the fleet manager to remotely update the Telemate with new or amended job or route details. “Sometimes it’s important that the driver focuses entirely on his vehicle. This allows us to send important data direct to the Sat Nav. The driver will then get a message from his Sat Nav directing him to the nearest service area or fuelling location, without having to talk directly to the office,” says Green.  

5. Remote Fuel Monitoring 

As we saw last Winter, fuel supply lines can be severely disrupted by heavy snow and ice. A telematics device can also relay fuel level information back to the fleet manager. The office is then able to compare the vehicle’s fuel needs with the location of re-fuelling locations that are stocked and open for business so as to ensure the safe completion of the driver’s journey. “If a driver is running low on fuel but is heading towards a station that has run out of fuel supply, that driver needs to know about it - and fast,” says Green. “Again the two-way nature of our communications devices mean that this information is relayed between the office and the vehicle smoothly and safely.” 

Severe Winter weather can create extreme problems for drivers and fleet managers. The kind of heavy snow and ice we saw back in December and January can cause accidents, delays, road closures and serious disruption to a transport business. Deliveries can be disrupted, drivers can get stranded - or even worse. 

That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that with intelligent use of modern technology, fleet managers can minimize the financial - and human - cost of the big freezes. Give us a call if you want to start preparing for the next one. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Meet The iBox Technology ‘Mates’ Vehicle Tracking Range: No 1 - The Trac-Mate

The iBox ‘Mates’ range provides innovative fleet management solutions designed to increase productivity, reduce costs and improve customer service. Here’s the first part of our guide to the six most popular devices currently on offer:


Our hugely popular, entry-level tracking device provides a range of key functions that enable the fleet manager to efficiently track and analyse vehicle movements. It also allows the tracking of anciliary equipment, such as cranes or lifts.

Auto-reporting makes it easy to produce detailed breakdowns of vehicle performance and efficiency, enabling managers to plan and budget their fleet’s activity.

Trac-Mate can also be combined with a Garmin SatNav which includes free two way messaging .

Features include: 

Live web based .
Snail trail
Full auto reports in csv , pdf and excel
Self-sufficient power so doesn’t drain vehicle battery
Compatible with standard Garmin Sat nav.
Able to monitor vehicle ancillary equipment ( cranes, lifts etc)
Geo-fencing including polygon
Auto alerts in sms or e mail format
Find nearest vehicle function

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Running On Empty: Spiralling Fuel Costs Are Killing UK Transport Firms

Barely a week goes by now without news of yet another transport company being brought to its knees by rising fuel prices. The latest casualty is one of Britain's oldest haulage firms, Joseph Rice & Sons, who have ceased trading after 161 years. 
As reports the Gloucester-based hauliers said  the "soaring cost of fuel" was the biggest reason for the collapse of the firm, which employed 33 staff.
The story highlights a couple of things. Firstly, it underlines the need for Government action to protect the transport industry from spiralling prices, which are likely to get even higher because of the political instability in the Middle East. 
Last week the FairFuelUK campaign handed in a petition with more than 120,000 signatures to 10 Downing Street. 
But the story is also a reminder of the important role telematics can play in helping companies control their fuel costs. 
iBox technology's popular eco-mate tracking device is an invaluable asset for fleet managers looking to manage fuel and vehicle efficiency. The device combines a live, web-based Canbus interface with our Trac-mate technology and features an impressive range of functions which allow managers to monitor variables from fuel consumption to driving and braking habits, harsh acceleration and excessive idling. 
"With so many companies struggling to cope with rising prices, fleet managers need every bit of help they can get in monitoring how much fuel their drivers are consuming. The eco-mate has been successful in helping some of our customers make significant savings in their fuel bills," said iBox director Steve Green. 
"In a world where every penny counts, it can make the difference between survival and becoming yet another name in the list of failed transport companies." 

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Vehicle Telematics Key To Keeping Track of Fleet Staff Safety

The first conviction in the UK under new corporate manslaughter legislation has given fleet managers a sharp reminder of the importance of keeping their staff, vehicles and equipment safe.

As Fleet News this week reported, a company called Cotswold Geotechnical Holdings was found guilty of the death of a 27-year-old geologist named Alex Wright, who died in September 2008 when a trench in which he was working collapsed. The firm was fined  £385,000 - 116% of its annual turnover - for the crime. 

The conviction is being viewed as a real warning shot to companies who are lax in meeting their health and safety obligations.  
“This conviction and the penalty handed down by the court should make less safety conscious firms – both large and small – sit up and think,” said Roger Bibbings, RoSPA’s occupational safety adviser in the wake of the ruling. "Those who can reassure themselves that their health and safety management systems are effective have nothing to fear.”
David Faithful, lawyer for Essential Risk Consultancy, told Fleet News: “Despite years of warnings, many companies are still woefully under-protected when it comes to managing driver risk.

All this goes to underline the important duty of care all transport and logistics company's face. And it reinforces the role that telematics can play in helping them achieve this. 

At ibox technology, our range of 'mates' can help fleet managers track key pieces of data, from drivers' working patterns to break times while also monitoring their driving behaviour via analytics such as harsh braking patterns. It all adds to the fleet manager's toolbox of controls when it comes to exercising a duty of care over his or her drivers.  

"Every transport company, no matter how big or small, has a legal responsibility to its staff and this new legislation makes that duty an even greater one," said ibox technology's director, Steve Green. 

"So the more information our tracking devices can provide them in terms of where their staff are located, how long they have been at work, whether they are taking proper breaks and driving responsibly, the more chance fleet managers have to fulfil that responsibility properly." 

Contact iBox for more details about how our 'mates' can help you improve and monitor health and safety in your company.  

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Shark Tale - Jaws Has GPS too!

Here's some jaw-dropping news. It seems like we humans aren't the only creatures with GPS and other high-tech devices to help us navigate our way around the world.

Sharks, apparently, have some kind of in-built navigation system that helps them get from A to B. According to a new, scientific report released today, some species of sharks make 'mental maps' that help them to spot destinations up to 50 kilometres (30 miles) away. 

According to the BBC, American scientists tagged tiger sharks with acoustic transmitters and found that they took directed paths from one location to another. Interestingly other types of sharks, such as blacktip reef sharks didn't display the same behaviour. 

Writing in the Journal of Animal Ecology, the researchers suggest this shows a capacity to store maps of key sites and that this is further evidence that the great fish can navigate, possibly using the Earth's magnetic field.
Previous studies in Hawaii have shown tiger sharks can swim across deep channels to find food-rich shallow banks 50km away.
"Our research shows that, at times, tiger sharks and thresher sharks don't swim randomly but swim to specific locations," said research leader Yannis Papastamatiou from the Florida Museum of Natural History in Gainesville.
"Simply put, they know where they are going." 

Sharks aren't alone in doing this, of course. Tuna, turtles, ducks and geese are reckoned to be able to navigate using the earth's magnetic fields. 

As we say, it seems like GPS devices were around a long time before ibox and the 'tracmate'. 

Long Distance Love - How Vehicle Tracking Can Care For Your Bottom Line

Keeping fleet costs down is more essential than ever in the current economic climate - especially for small and medium-sized companies that are running their businesses on ultra-tight margins. Every penny saved helps the bottom line.

Telematics and vehicle tracking can play an absolutely vital role in keeping transport costs under control. And, as we've discovered, they often highlight savings that would not have otherwise occurred to fleet managers.

We saw a recent example of this when a large service company conducted a detailed analysis of their van fleet's activities.

The company, which transports industrial equipment across the length and breadth of the UK, were using iBox technology's hugely popular 'Trac-mate' device. 'Trac-mate' allows fleet managers not just to efficiently track and analyse vehicle movements 'live', but to produce detailed, printed reports as well.

During a review of the travel patterns of one van driver, the fleet management team noticed that he was making a round trip of exactly 400 miles between Stafford and Weymouth in Dorset three times a week.

When they asked the driver to explain the trips, he revealed he was travelling 200 miles each way to see his girlfriend. The driver wasn't actually breaking any rules. Private use of vehicles was allowed - and declared to the tax man.

This, however, was another story. The driver was racking up no less than 1,200 miles each week - and costing the company a small fortune in fuel.

As a result, the company revised their private mileage rules so that employees were only allowed to use vehicle's for 100 miles of private mileage per week.

The story had a happy ending for both sides. The path of true love still ran smoothly and the driver carried on visiting his girlfriend, using his own vehicle or taking advantage of his private mileage quota when on deliveries in the southwest of England.

And the company were able to shave thousands of pounds off their weekly fuel bill. All thanks to their telematics.