Investment in tracking units can be costly until the promised cost savings come with improved behaviours but did you know that you could download an app and get a ‘taste’ of what a tracking device could bring to your business? One app could even cut insurance costs.
The installation of van tracking devices is a massive and fast growing market in the UK but for one man bands with just one van and firms with small fleets, what are the alternatives?
The answer could be quite easy: use a mobile phone app.
Unlike some of the hefty costs involved in installing telematic tracking devices in vans – as well as the monthly bill for monitoring and evaluating the driver and their behaviour – the option of a smartphone application opens up a new world of improving productivity without spending a lot of money.
Almost like dipping your toe into the world of tracking and telematics, if you will.
There are now a number of viable mobile phone applications that some employees could use effectively to monitor their van usage and performance.
Technology and telematics will boost productivity
Indeed, O2 revealed that it had given a fleet of ice cream vans a ‘technology makeover’ which would enable customers to see where the vans were to buy an ice cream.
However, the real opportunity isn’t for those ice-cream hungry customers – it’s for the business to monitor where the vans are and what they are doing. Productivity will inevitably be boosted as a result.
The fleet of 19 vans belong to Tony Fresko Ltd and the technology can be used in a wide range of other vehciles, including for those firms with just one van.
With the help of O2, the Guildford-based firm now has 4G enabled smartphones as well as tablets and everything is linked together by using the Microsoft Office 365 suite of software which utilises Microsoft’s cloud-based service.
In simple terms, the new technology means that drivers can map their routes digitally, manage any costs ‘in the cloud’ and help plan for future events away from the office.
Turn a van into a true mobile office
This is essentially a true mobile office on the move but the real attraction for small firms is the ability to monitor a van’s progress and its real-time location.
So while the O2 story was something of a public relations gimmick, it also flagged up the real possibility of using the technology available for smartphones for a wider purpose.
The managing director of the ice cream van company, Andy Newland, said: “The ice cream van tracker is great for customers to come to me rather than the other way around.
“It also means I can see where my vans are at any time.”
Paul Lawton is O2’s small business manager and he says that by using the latest technology, many small businesses can work faster, smarter and more efficiently.
He added: “We are encouraging businesses to fulfil their potential by embracing the latest technology.”
Telematics on laptops and tablet computers
This also means firms will be switching from paper-based systems and utilising tablets and laptop computers to enable better communication.
Research from O2 Business reveals that half of business owners worry that by not embracing technology that their performance will suffer.
This is despite 84% of those responding to the survey saying that digital technology could make them more productive.
It’s this new technology that’s behind a number of smartphone applications such as the DrivePlus Van app from Direct Line.
In addition to offering up to 15% off their van insurance, it will effectively record driving behaviours while on the road which could be useful to a small business.
Save money on van insurance with an app
The app uses the GPS function on the phone and it operates similarly to ‘black box’ type devices which monitor things like speed, braking and cornering in a vehicle to help lower insurance premiums.
It also goes without saying that the new phone apps also improve responsible and better driving.
As a market, this element is growing at a phenomenal rate and research firm ABI Research says that by 2018 more than 107 million insurance policies will be using such telematics to monitor driver behaviours.
But by using a mobile phone app, a van driver or owner does not need to introduce a black box into their vehicle.
Direct Line’s Jasvinder Gakhal said: “Telematics encourages responsible driving and we are bringing technology to the owners of single vans with an easy-to-use app.
“Commercial van owners are concerned about the risks and costs of operating their vehicle and this will earn drivers a discount on their insurance.”
In this particular instance, the Direct Line for Business app will monitor the van driver’s behaviour for 300 miles and then score them out of 100. The perfect score is full marks and those who do well will be sent a discount code to be redeemed against a policy from the firm.
FleetManager smartphone app is coming
Interestingly, commercial insurer NIG, which is owned by Direct Line, is piloting a new telematics smartphone for small fleets with a view to launching the product in the coming months.
Called the FleetManager, the app will upload data to a portal to allow business owners to monitor driver performance, fuel mileage, route tracking as well as track the vehicle itself.
Jon Greenwood is the firm’s managing director and he said that the benefits of telematics have been seen in large fleets which have fitted ‘black boxes’ but those businesses with smaller fleets will find the app ‘extraordinarily useful’.
He added: “The FleetManager app will be provided free of charge to small commercial fleet owners.”
As well as potentially offering discounts on van insurance for a small business owner, the app will also monitor driving behaviours including speed, cornering and braking.
Use a mobile phone for telematics
There’s no doubt that the market for telematics on mobile phones will explode in the coming years and we are at the very beginning of what is an interesting phase for new technology.
The trend towards this smartphone know-how has not gone unnoticed by the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) which has produced a white paper on the subject.
In it, the organisation states that telematics is no longer a vital tool for large fleet operators and with the costs of introducing telematics dropping it is growing in popularity.
The report points out: “Telematics was once associated with bespoke, expensive hardware and is increasingly moving to web based apps which are available on smart phones and other mobile devices.”
One reason for the growing popularity is that drivers are increasingly accepting them as a way to improve driving habits rather than being a ‘Big Brother’ device which is spying on them.
The BVRLA says the van leasing and rental sector is aware of the potential smartphone developments.
However, the biggest boon is not for large fleets but rather for one-man operations and firms with a small number of vans to monitor because they can now do so easily and effectively with some of the business tools being made available from the likes of O2 Business and soon Vodaphone who are investing in the sector.