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. 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing, I will bookmark and be back again