In-cab technology has been an age in the gestation, but suddenly systems are becoming widely available that offer real benefits and, perhaps most importantly, offer realistic returns on investment.
Darrell Taylor, marketing manager for Scania OnBoard, points out that: “The simple track and trace market is now reaching saturation, with more than a third of operators now using simple vehicle tracking systems according to a variety of industry sources. Also, many are now enjoying improved fuel consumption through the use of onboard systems which monitor the performance of their drivers.
“Therefore, the ‘must-haves’ for companies looking to further leverage the benefits that can be derived, are those value-added systems that integrate vehicles and drivers more closely into the business.”
Matt Hague from Microlise says use of in-cab systems often starts with schedule adherence and grows from there. Tracking and monitoring in real time is growing rapidly as it enables customers to be pre-advised in real-time. He points out that once you link the system with information from a vehicle’s telematics, you get a powerful tool for cost reduction as it allows drivers to be trained to drive more frugally resulting in big savings in fuel consumption.
Doing this requires an FMS adapter which connects to the vehicle’s CanBus enabling data to be extracted. This is generally supplied by the vehicle manufacturer.
However, Hague points out that an organisation has to have a change management process in place to get the full benefits of out of the system.
Larry Klimczyk, managing director of Blackbay, reckons there are a number of must-have functions including satellite navigation and geo fencing, integration of the mobile device with CAN and SAE buses, vehicle telemetry and mobile work applications.
Terran Churcher, managing director of Codegate, points out that many sectors of the market will consider electronic proof of delivery equally essential with a web based customer portal enabling SLAs to be proven.
Applications have gone well beyond placing dots on a map, according to Masternaut Three X. Managers want a lot more from their systems and this includes both real-time and historical information. For TT Express, the Working Time Directive was an issue.
Peter Shepherd, general manager, says: “The absolute deal clincher for us was the ability [of Masternaut] to interface the HourTrak function with the vehicle’s tachograph. This gives us a superb level of detail for each vehicle and driver, enabling us to accurately monitor actual driver hours in real time as well as providing historic data for each and every journey. This information has simplified scheduling for future jobs and ensures that we are fully compliant to the directive as we have full details of each driver, whether on route, resting or even on holiday.”
Darrell Taylor of Scania OnBoard says: “Operators are now demanding centralised interfaces to their systems. Jumping from one screen or window to another to source a bit of information from here and another bit from there is the technological equivalent to spending half the day on the phone chasing people.”
Blackbay’s Larry Klimczyk says: “The general acceptance is that mobile computing has come of age and is now a mature stable platform. However, I believe the trend to more ‘in-cab’ solutions is not being driven by technology but more by the changes in the society in which we live. We now buy more products and services remotely (online) from the retailer. As a consequence our intimate relationship with that brand or retailer is through the person delivering that product or service. Therefore many organisations now realise in order for that driver to live the brand values, they need to provide him with the tools to ensure the customer experience is positive and brand enhancing.”
There are particular benefits from the technology for industry sectors that involve high risk, high value, perishable items, says Klimczyk. “It is now possible to deploy systems that measure whether an ‘environment’ is safe – alerts are given if the temperature changes, if the doors are opened in a location where they should not be opened, if a vehicle stops for any length of time in a non-allocated location.”
He also highlights sectors that operate in high density traffic.
Taylor says: “We are seeing a specific sector emerging now, the 30-100 vehicle fleets. These are the medium-sized operators who can see the benefits now being realised by the large fleets, who were the early adopters.
“These smaller companies understand that to remain competitive they now need to equip with improved information systems.”
Ensuring you get the right return on investment from an in-cab system is a key issue. Taylor says: “Fleet management systems expose weaknesses within a business. Therefore, to ensure their return on investment is maximised, operators should act upon the information they gain by reviewing their established practices and asking the question, ‘how could we do this better?'”
Ensuring that in-cab tehnology gives the required return on investment starts with getting the driver/operators involved with device selection process, says Terran Churcher.
“With increasing fuel costs, the need to reduce the CO2 footprint and competitive drive towards meeting challenging SLA criteria it’s essential to embrace this type of solution. Proper cost benefit analysis will prove a return on investment of twelve months or less where the system has been correctly matched to the requirement.”
According to Masternaut Three X, operators should look at the big picture so that they can be sure that the system they choose will allow for scalability so that they can future proof their purchase.