Is the future already here?

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Apart from being set to assist the move into the digital era, meeting current legislation – such as Driver’s Hours legislation and the Working Time Directive (WTD) – is already a fundamental requirement which must be addressed. This is equally as important to small scale hauliers, perhaps operating just a handful of light vehicles, as it is to genuine multinational operations with fleet movements extending across Europe. The need to control and monitor vehicles and drivers as effectively as possible, is vital.

However, if the paper tachograph can be used to record individual vehicle and driver movements, the further use of the information it contains has always been limited by the time and complexity associated with translating this detail into anything more than an historic summary – invariably several days out of date.

To date, operators have had little choice other than to dedicate significant time and resources to analysis procedures if they needed tachograph information to realise its full potential. Clearly the larger the organisation, the more significant this consideration becomes.

Now, the introduction of smartanalysis has opened up new opportunities in this context. The online system provides a totally managed solution which not only speeds up the entire process of tachograph analysis but has also introduced a degree of reporting versatility and detail which was simply unheard of beforehand.

Steve Fisher, director of Exentra Transport Solutions, explains: “The operator or analysis bureau enters information from individual tachograph charts as raw data into a PC for uploading onto the smartanalysis website via the Internet. These details are completely secure – with access limited only to the company concerned – and, importantly, are immediately useable thereby eliminating previous delays of perhaps several days. Information can be readily shaped to meet specific management needs and, if required, access assigned to specific individuals only. Reports can even be generated and e-mailed automatically to appropriate personnel and at pre-determined times – delivering the right information to the right person at the right time.”

Legislation compliance

The benefits of being able to access precise details, such as those relating to use of a specific vehicle, optimisation of a given driver’s available man hours or an assessment of overall fleet efficiency, are seen as significant and impact on several areas central to the successful logistics operation.

Legislation compliance, both Europe-wide and regulations applicable to individual countries, is a good example. The Road Transport Directive element of the WTD specifies an average of 48 hours work per week with a maximum of no more than 60. However break periods and periods of availability, such as loading and unloading time or accompanying a vehicle on a ferry crossing, can be set against these figures. Additionally, night workers are limited to ten hours’ work within any 24-hour period.

Fisher says: “These factors are accommodated automatically by smartanalysis, and provides full Driver’s Hours analysis for EU and UK domestic regulations to cover all aspects including double-manning, ferry operations and PCV regulations. Additionally, ‘non- driving’ work days and calculations relating to daily and weekly rest compensation, including any reduction in either, are also monitored. This goes as far as indicating the amount of rest that has to be repaid and the date by which it has to be compensated.”

He emphasises that this can be a significant aid in identifying drivers who may not be meeting their WTD obligations. “Activities which contravene the requirements of the WTD can be readily identified with the smartanalysis software. By helping both the driver and the operator remain within regulatory obligations, the risk of not only significant penalties but even loss of operating licences can be avoided.”

These are statutory requirements which, of course, are taken very seriously by all responsible transport operators. With a current potential fine of £2,500 for a breach of the Driver’s Hours rules, £5,000 for not installing or using a tachograph and even two years’ imprisonment for tachograph chart falsification, attention to these requirements has become central to an industry that sets great store on correct practices and safety.

Yet with smartanalysis already playing an important role today, with a growing list of operators who now regard the software as a highly valuable management tool, its use as a means of easing the imminent transition to digital tachographs is equally undeniable.

Chris Lewis, co-director at Exentra, explains: “For companies who are now becoming familiar with the procedures associated with smartanalysis and the opportunities it presents, the advent of the digital smart card will present few difficulties. Users will find that once the driver’s smart card is located into a reader, the speed of the recording and analysis procedures will be even quicker – in certain circumstances, real time will be achievable.”

Add this to Exentra’s commitment to linking smartanalysis to broader business management software, and the opportunities become even more marked.

With no ‘upfront’ costs and operation on a fixed ‘pay as you go’ basis, the arguments in favour of adopting the smartanalysis concept are already seen as compelling. Widespread familiarity with Internet use, both in terms of entering and generating information, has significantly helped to single it out as a highly valuable tool.

For logistics operations of all sizes both in the UK and across Europe it also represents a firm platform for maximising both operational efficiency and regulatory compliance both now and in the future. From these twin perspectives, it seems, the new era for the tachograph has already begun.

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