This page contains a fleet strategy article archive
This page contains a fleet strategy article archive
Wait… Yes, this is the fleet strategy website and I am talking about the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide. Why?… It was the catalyst this started by drive across the Nullarbor by Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) allowing me to demonstrate the capabilities of new EV’s. Anyway, read on:
It was always going to be one of the most anticipated keynote presentations of the 2017 International Astronautical Congress. During the final 24 hours, organisers had started sending updates to delegates regarding restricted venue access, the message loud and clear, this was the big event.
Elon Musk was in town and for the 4200 plus at the Congress, it appeared to be the equivalent of a rock star or head of state visit. Delegates were advised not to queue until an hour before the 2pm session, nevertheless by 1pm a good percentage of attendees had already formed a snaking, informal and orderly queue outside the venue. Lines of good natured government, corporate, academic, student and space enthusiast attendees shared conversation in anticipation of the doors opening. When the doors did finally open, those orderly lines instantly collapsed into a single (albeit well behaved) crowd that funnelled inwards, enthusiastically holding their lanyards high to ensure venue access.
Inside and a little after 2pm with the venue packed, the house lights went down and after a brief introduction, Elon strode on stage to thunderous applause.
With trademark informality and unpolished speaking style, he commanded the room and proceeded to unveil the latest iteration of his plans (first outlined in 2016) to make humanity a multi-planetary species. Building on the successes of the Falcon series rockets, Elon outlined details of new and revised hardware and showed highlights from the previous twelve months of development work.
The crux of his presentation, a new fully reusable rocket Elon referred to as the “BFR” (you work that out), a plan to pay the way, a range of new missions and an aggressive timeline.
By Elon’s acknowledgement, this is a smaller and more practical machine than last year’s vision, even so it’s a Behemoth, bigger and more capable than the Saturn V moon rocket.
This is a rocket capable of Mars return, missions to the Moon or to low Earth orbit. With construction commencing next year and first cargo flights to Mars by 2022, it’s the intent of Spacex to move resources and future focus to the development and manufacturing of the BFR.
Elon has been known to slip with the occasional deadline and stretches the boundaries of the achievable. When the slide showing 2022 appeared, he stated it was not a typo… but also pointed out that the timeline was aspirational. He’s doubled down on this new iteration and presented an outstanding set of technical credentials with his Falcon 9 achievements. New methane engines and composite tank structures are being tested for BFR and if Crew Dragon, Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy perform to expectation, Spacex will be able to shift their focus.
It’s difficult to reconcile the enormity of the vision with the timeline, five years to construct, test and fly the first two BFR cargo missions to Mars (2022). But as Elon poignantly reflected in his presentation, five years seems so far away and it was only nine years ago (to the day) that Spacex successfully launched their first Falcon 1.
For the last week, IAC2017 in Adelaide has showcased the best and brightest in space science and none of the papers, presenters or exhibitors are in any way eclipsed by one final presentation, it was humbling to be amongst such talent and passion. I for one found the event superbly informative and thoroughly enjoyable.
Yet, evidence indicates that this was the session that delegates had been anticipating and it was certainly worth that wait.
There’s no way I’d have set off across country if I wasn’t going to be confident and comfortable in the vehicle I’m driving. Those of you reading who are involved in the automotive industry already know the Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV is a capable vehicle and that the criteria I was expecting was always going to be met. Quite frankly i’ve seen many older and far less impressive vehicles traversing the country over the last couple of days and I wouldn’t swap places.
This is the main highway across our country and thousands upon thousands traverse it every year, it’s one of the great road trips but honestly, I’m not beating a path through virgin scrub. Nevertheless, it’s not without risk or potential discomfort.
I’m not a professional driver or automotive technician, I’m a fleet manager working to deliver the best mobile workplace possible. I’m also an average driver, with my own preferences, capabilities and shortcomings, likes and dislikes. I know when I feel confident and secure on the road and I know what concerns me.
I have to praise the PHEV for it’s performance on the highway, putting aside the frugal fuel consumption, the vehicle really impresses with its passing power. It also feels rocksteady even on less than pristine sections of highway and handles well on the occasional bend (we are talking the Nullarbor). I’ve already talked about the adaptive cruise, AEB and lane departure features on top of 5 Star ANCAP, as a whole package the car just leaves you feeling confident, comfortable and safe in the drivers seat.
Given it also has plenty of carrying capacity for my luxury rollout swag, coffee machine, milk frother and soft pillow, I’m really quite impressed… and comfortable outside the car as well.
As I approached Caiguna, it occurred to me how mind-blowingly vast this country is. After 1150kms, I still hadn’t reached the South Australian border.
Originally, I planned to continue to Cocklebiddy, however by 5pm the shadows were lengthening and I sighted my first emu sauntering along the roadside. Enough travel for one day and time to rest up for another big drive tomorrow.
My plan has always been to drive the Outlander PHEV just like any other vehicle and I put together a journey management plan before I started.
When I documented that plan, I conceived rest stops at least once every two hours and built plenty of contingency time into the trip. I’m glad I did, as you would expect, there are always factors you can’t control. Foul weather has followed me across the state, Haul-packs astride low-loaders were testing the strength of bridges near Northam and work crews tackled great stretches of roadworks further along the way. Then of course there’s the obvious sightseeing opportunity that inevitably delays a holidaying traveller.
What I didn’t consider is the inevitable variations in sunrise and sunset times across WA. That Perth and Caiguna share the same time-zone is significant, in Caiguna (1000km east), sunset is full 40 minutes earlier than in Perth… that caught me out today. Even so, the journey management plan has been working, plenty of good rest stops… hydration (not just caffeination) and a reasonably healthy diet.
As I pulled into Caiguna, I felt that I had plenty left in the tank to continue (sunset aside), but was that really the case? I recently saw two superb presentations on fatigue management at the NRSPP Utilities forum. In particular, Dr Carmel Harrington’s presentation on sleep quality and deficit left a lasting impression. The combination of how well and how long we sleep is critical and as many travellers will attest, long and rested sleep is often difficult to come by. Worse still, habitually short-changing our 7-9 genuine hours of rested sleep can be masked by our conscious selves… in short, I could have convinced myself that I was good to continue, even if I wasn’t.
So I did stop at the right time. The shadows were lengthening, I’d covered a good distance, sunrise will be earlier and I need to adjust to a new timezone. Here’s to a good nights sleep.
Put group of fleet managers in a room and ask them to list their top three challenges and cost reduction is likely to be front and centre. Indeed, the last time that AfMA comprehensively surveyed its members in 2013 Cost Reduction was the number one concern for fleet managers, closely followed by safety related issues.
This outcome is hardly surprising as every aspect of fleet management activity has an accompanying cost that is affected by the operation of the fleet. It’s no secret that good practice will deliver optimal fleet performance and conversely poor practices likely lead to higher costs.
From the perspective of a fleet manager, cost reduction is an output of focused activity based on continuous improvement. For instance a focus on safety may be aimed at reducing road trauma, meeting COR and duty of care obligations, but the business benefits will be less downtime, lower maintenance costs, reduced insurance premiums and more. The introduction of telematics may be based around the concept of monitoring the mobile workplace (here again we see safety), however the benefits once again result in efficiencies that translate back to cost reductions.
Apply any fleet management discipline and the same issues rise to the surface, cost reduction, safety and efficiency, three indivisible fundamentals well understood and embraced by the professional fleet manager.
Organisational cost reduction can be quite different. Corporate directives to reduce overheads may (with an understanding of fleet issues) be effective, however when directed at fleet with little understanding is less likely to be so. Fleet and the staff involved in its management can be low hanging fruit and, reducing numbers (read costs) by divesting vehicles and internal capabilities can on the surface appear attractive. Caution is required, cut too deep and the responsibility for maintaining capabilities and managing mobile workplace risk becomes difficult. Where an organisation loses the ability to understand the subtleties of fleet management, workplace risk will rise (as will cost) over time.
Cost reduction may be the number one concern for fleet managers, but influence and effective communication at senior level must be the number one priority.
Fleet Managers have always made safety a high priority. In recent years this focus has expanded to a more holistic and systems based approach to risk management.
Motivation to improve safety needs little more than the knowledge that every step forward results in a reduction of road trauma. If that motivation is insufficient, then there are practical cost benefits, duty of care and chain of responsibility obligations.
Trauma reduction is driven by continuous improvement, which is in turn underpinned by knowledge, opportunity and action.
When knowledge is gained and opportunity provided, action will be the element that fulfils the essence of ‘reasonable steps’ as applied to chain of responsibility. The outcomes of an action should ideally be beneficial, however there are times when a plateau may be reached and a new viewpoint required, although it’s difficult to argue that within a holistic system approach that there are practical limits for improvement.
The benefit of managing road safety under a holistic systems based model is that it produces outcomes where ‘the whole is greater than the sum of its parts’. For instance the introduction of safer vehicles or new technology in a complex environment may be insufficient without understanding the capabilities and limitations of the user interacting with those complex systems. Human beings make errors, and drivers retain critical responsibilities that can’t be avoided.
Human Factors is a term widely used in safety critical industries and may provide fleet managers with a fresh viewpoint. For a transport analogue, look no further than the Civil Aviation and Safety Authority (CASA) to find resources on Human Factors (aviation contextualised). By CASA definition Human Factors means optimising the relationship within systems between people, activities and equipment. CASA note that ‘worldwide statistics indicate that about 75% of aircraft accidents are caused by Human Factors’. Their documentation refers to experience, stress, lack of knowledge, situational awareness, fatigue and many more familiar fleet management terms. The similarities to fleet management driver issues are striking.
Aviation maintains an exceptional focus on safety, if a plateau is reached within your fleet, that perspective may be beneficial.
 CAAP 5.59-1(0) casa.gov.au
Over the last two decades, fleet management has undergone a quiet revolution from a relatively low technology, labour intensive and reactive process, to a sophisticated and near real time management environment.
Improved systems and vehicles have provided capacity, efficiency, process and outcome improvements. The changes have also provided greater organisational visibility on the key fleet management basics of Fit for Purpose vehicles and Whole of Life Costs.
Contemporary fleet management continues to focus on these elements, however progressive fleet policy is now shifting to a wider recognition that fleet vehicles are an extension of the traditional office and workplace environment. This has resulted in a growing organisational awareness of the need to eliminate (or at least minimise) transport risk and introduce greater controls in the mobile workplace.
Fleet managers consider reducing costs, fleet safety and driver education to be amongst their highest priorities along with regulatory workplace obligations. Today, these priorities can be addressed to a significant extent through structured implementation of telematics, thereby delivering better access and understanding of operational data, real-time monitoring of the mobile workplace and visibility of risk taking behaviour.
Telematics are an effective tool in Road Transport Safety and delivery of the globally widely accepted ‘Safe Systems’ model that focuses on;
Even so, non-technical barriers to successful implementation still exist, particularly in engaging and communicating benefits to drivers and internal stakeholders.
The mobile workplace is the most hazardous environment many employees will be placed into, installing a system that includes features like crash or panic alerts, monitors vehicle position, speed, driver behaviour and vehicle performance delivers a safer working environment. Importantly, it also provides comfort to the occupants of the vehicle that; should something go wrong, assistance will soon be at hand.
The outcome should be champions of the cause, not detractors. The installation of telematics is about monitoring the mobile workplace and ensuring employee wellbeing whilst they go about their business activities. An employee has a right to work in a safe environment and an employer has an obligation to ensure that this is so.
In the broader context, telematics represents just one component of the intelligent transport system and the nascent development of a truly connected fleet. Current discussions and initiatives to connect vehicles to other vehicles (V2V) and vehicles to Infrastructure (V2I) show the path forward.
Being safe is good for business, take the Safe Systems model and substitute the word ‘safe’ with ‘efficient’ the model still holds true, what applies to safety applies to business efficiency. As surely as vehicle technology and specifications have provided a safer and more efficient mobile workplace, connecting the fleet will also play its part.
The elements are all readily available, telematics, fleet management, and mobile business communication, what’s a little tougher is pulling these capabilities together in a cost effective manner. How will these systems converge and, who’s likely to lead the charge?
Throw all the available technology in a blender and you have the perfect mix; a system that monitors vehicle and driver behavior, provides interactive communications with the driver for business requirements and merges live information into a database containing the full spectrum of fleet management services. Ultimately, the data would be sorted into meaningful and graphically represented information delivered onto your mobile communications device as alerts or customised reports.
Each element is becoming increasingly sophisticated, reliable, capable and arguably less expensive, the capabilities overlap, but critically so do deployment and operational costs. For instance, using an IVMS (In Vehicle Monitoring System) requires hardware installation and monitoring charges. The data is live and the capabilities powerful. IVMS telematics can provide route planning and monitoring, geo-fencing, driver behavior, fatigue and vehicle health management data in real-time. Some of this vehicle data overlaps traditional fleet systems (asset based management), however fleet management software also captures a myriad of additional information from various sources not related to IVMS such as purchasing, finance, insurance, fuel transactions and infringement data. Two overlapping data subsets and two sets of associated costs.
Mike Sandilands is the Business Development Manager for Barbaro Group, a land transport consultancy. He believes there are great benefits in telematics.
“IVMS is becoming increasingly integrated with general business systems, for instance allowing the driver to login and update activities such as time allocations whilst on the job”.
The greatest uptake of sophisticated telematics has been in the resource and construction industries where mega projects with an enormous focus on safety, mandate complete control of the mobile work environment. Other early adopters have been the transport and logistics groups where the scope for telematics includes improved safety & fatigue management, cost control and integration with general fleet and business operations. However, there are still roadblocks for many fleet users. Organisations such as BHP, Chevron, Thiess and John Holland might be considered leaders in the introduction of high specification telematics, but they also have the budgets to accommodate it.
What about general fleet users?
Ed Stanistreet – General Manager of Toyota Fleet Management sees value in telematics for mainstream fleets, subject to users assessment of cost benefit. “At the moment it may not be considered a high priority, but as it (the technology) gets cheaper that may change”. Ed also indicated that increasing emphasis on matters such as OH&S, compliance and security is likely to elevate telematics higher up the priority list. In his view, fleet management service providers and vehicle manufacturers will ultimately move down the path of incorporating greater telematics capabilities into their general fleet offering.
Software developers also see the convergence of these elements into a complete package. Mark Brown, Global Director of Sales and Marketing for Figtree Systems sees a fusion of the key elements with “tablet and mobile data delivery to the fore”. Inevitably “The Cloud” features in the thinking of fleet software developers, as does the concept of “big data”, which is the massive amount of information that can be captured through multiple input sources. Collecting the data is one challenge, sorting, filtering and reporting back to fleet operators in a concise and meaningful way is another.
Perhaps the integrated solution will come from outside the fleet and transport professions, whilst fleet managers diligently go about their business, the digital revolution continues unabated. It was recently reported that the Carlos III University of Madrid had developed a system that improved GPS performance by 90% by using a sensor fusion of traditional GPS, accelerometers and gyroscopes. The researchers now intend to investigate the possibility of using smartphones (that contain more than ten sensors) to deliver the same GPS performance improvements. We are rapidly approaching a point where there are as many smartphones in Australia as there are people. This means every driver is potentially linked to GPS and data networks; If we create one additional interface directly with the vehicle, the pieces fit neatly together.
Inevitably it’s all going to come together in a package that is capable, complete and relatively inexpensive, the question remains who will lead the charge? It may be the telematics, fleet management, software developers or vehicle manufacturers… or a combination of all. Equally it might be a left field solution, as can be evidenced with a quick internet search, Google Fleet Management anybody?
Consider the smartphone in your pocket, little more than seven years ago it (or it’s digitally superseded ancestors) didn’t exist, even less time has passed since the first commercially successful tablet hit the market, and yet today these devices form the centerpiece of our personal communication networks. We take for granted the connectivity that they provide, the data they process and the capabilities they possess.
In short, they have revolutionised personal and business communications and yet we really don’t give that a second thought. At the heart of these devices accelerometers, GPS electronics and transceivers combine in everything from sending a simple text message to tracking your latest cycle, run or workout, tagging into your favorite restaurant, or navigating your way around unfamiliar territory.
The revolution has also ensured that we rarely disconnect, and in a very real sense the world knows far more about where and who we are, and how we behave.
We recognise the pitfalls of such power in our pockets and yet we widely accept the benefits that the technology provides.
This technology is also available to the fleet industry as the core of a ‘connected fleet’ and part of a nascent ‘Intelligent Transport System’.
The term Intelligent Transport System (ITS) has been used for a number of years and is finding traction in road networks and infrastructure throughout the world. Many practitioners in Australia and globally have been developing the technologies that will enhance the safety, efficiency and reliability of travel. ITS will in turn support the Safe Systems road safety model assisting with:
Connecting vehicles initially as part of a fleet management process and ultimately to other vehicles and the road infrastructure itself, takes fleet down the connectivity path that we as individuals have already become accustomed to in our personal and business lives.
In the fleet industry, we refer to GPS tracking, the acronym IVMS (In Vehicle Monitoring System) or simply Telematics. These names fail to illustrate the broad range of features and benefits, or the true rationale for installing systems into a fleet. Vehicle connectivity is an incredibly powerful fleet management tool that can deliver significant improvements to fleet safety, data management and business operations. By connecting a GPS device to a vehicle and the mobile and/or satellite network, critical data can be received (in near realtime) relating to the position and condition of the vehicle and information passed in both directions. This information can be filtered and customised into a powerful and pertinent on-line dashboard that doesn’t result in the recipients suffering death by ‘big data’.
As of mid 2014, the uptake of IVMS by fleets lagged well behind our personal adoption of mobile technology, with cost, capability and workplace barriers limiting widespread installation. This is rapidly changing with hardware and systems providers proliferating, capabilities improving and costs decreasing. The barriers to connectivity now lie less in the technology and more in understanding the benefits, communicating with stakeholders (including the drivers) and providing support and training. Defining the requirement on genuine business needs, providing adequate explanations and training before and during the implementation phase and working through the inevitable teething issues with all stakeholders is essential for a successful rollout.
Businesses are installing IVMS in fleets operating in many diverse environments and without exception safety is always at the top of the priority list.
A fleet vehicle is simply an extension of the workplace and national legislation (harmonsied to a greater or lesser degree throughout the states) places responsibility on the employer to provide a safe working environment. Legislation requires businesses to take all reasonable steps to ensure that a safe working environment is maintained, that knowledge and practices remain up to date and, affirms that responsibility for the workplace and the actions of employees cannot be outsourced.
The mobile workplace is the most hazardous environment many employees will be placed into, installing a system that includes features like crash or panic alerts, monitors vehicle position, speed, driver behavior and vehicle performance delivers a safer working environment. Importantly, it also provides comfort to the occupants of the vehicle that; should something go wrong, assistance will soon be at hand.
Data received from the vehicle provides utilisation information assisting in wider fleet management areas such as maintenance management and replacement planning. Using the system to enter driver and job details delivers administrative benefits and providing trip purpose (business or private) reduces FBT management substantially.
The benefits are many, however resistance to the introduction of these systems still lingers in some workplaces often fuelled by perceptions of loss of privacy. Yet, we don’t blink when a search engine customises our on-line advertising, a bank holds a database of our spending habits or a phone provider sees where we roam 24 hours a day. The privacy concerns of IVMS in the workplace don’t outweigh the benefits to, or obligations of the business and its employees. The employer has a reasonable expectation that work vehicles are used within the terms of employment and that the driver upholds the rules of the road. In turn employees have a reasonable expectation that any information captured is not used in a manner that breaches their own rights to privacy.
IVMS systems and the connected fleet will be immensely powerful in a safe system investigation, for instance multiple data sources identifying issues at a common location. With this data, a fleet manager or road safety expert would have accurate, detailed and objective information that may identify matters beyond ‘driver at fault’. For example, issues of line of sight at an intersection, heavy traffic congestion, blind spots or sun glare could be assessed and fleet operations adjusted accordingly. IVMS data is a risk management tool that can be applied far beyond monitoring drivers, it’s an additional and valuable resource for organisations to use in their overall operations and assists fleet managers in moving from lag to lead in proactive risk management.
In the broader context, IVMS represents just one component of the intelligent transport system and the nascent development of a truly connected fleet. Current discussions and initiatives to connect vehicles to other vehicles (V2V) and vehicles to Infrastructure (V2I) show the path forward. Features and benefits such as active collision avoidance on the road, updated weather and traffic conditions broadcast throughout the transport network, road works or flood updates streamed live to the vehicle are a sample of the possibilities.
Being safe is good for business, take the Safe Systems model and substitute the word ‘safe’ with ‘efficient’ the model still holds true, what applies to safety applies to business efficiency. As surely as vehicle technology and specifications have provided an increasingly safer and efficient mobile workplace, connecting the fleet will also play a major part.
The pace and ease with which consumers adopt new communications technology contrasts starkly against the longer development and implementation cycles of road infrastructure and vehicle manufacturing. However, mainstream fleets throughout the country are now beginning to connect, driven by those very same providers and technologies that have so profoundly influenced our personal lives in the last seven years.
The fleet industry refers to GPS tracking, the acronym IVMS (In Vehicle Monitoring System) or simply Telematics. These names fail to illustrate the broad range of features and benefits, or the true rationale for installing these systems into a fleet.
Fleet managers consider reducing costs, fleet safety and driver education to be amongst their highest priorities along with regulatory workplace obligations. These priorities can all be addressed to significant extent through structured implementation of in-vehicle GPS systems delivering better access and understanding of operational data, real-time monitoring of the mobile workplace and a review of risk taking behavior.
GPS based tracking is a highly effective tool in Road Transport safety and delivery of the widely accepted ‘Safe Systems’ model that focuses on;
A common barrier in the effective implementation of GPS systems in vehicles is a perception that the system infringes on employee privacy. This is not the intent and ideally it is a perception that should be resolved prior to rollout by direct discussion and training of drivers and operational employees; the outcome should be champions of the cause, not detractors. The installation of GPS systems is not about infringing an individual’s personal privacy, but about monitoring their wellbeing whilst they are going about their business activities. An employee has a right to work in a safe environment and an employer has an obligation to ensure that this is so. An employee has the right to protection of their privacy and an employer has an obligation to ensure that an employee meets their reasonable care obligations in the workplace.
National legislation (harmonsied to a greater or lesser degree throughout the states and territories) places responsibility on the employer to provide a safe working environment. There is a requirement for businesses to take all reasonably practicable steps to ensure a that a safe working environment is maintained, that knowledge and practices remain up to date and, a responsibility in the mobile workplace and for the actions of its employees.
Whilst the aspiration of most organisatons is to ensure the welfare of employees going about their business in company vehicles, officers of those entities should be mindful that they might be exposed to action in the event that they fail to manage workplace risk.
Chain of Responsibility and Duty of Care are hot topics for fleet managers (as they are for business generally), although the extent of responsibilities and obligations are not always apparent or understood. Fleet vehicles are an extension of the workplace and for many employees the most hazardous working environment they face is driving in a company vehicle. Risk minimisation (or elimination) in the fleet is not only desirable, but also essential. Driving a vehicle is a leading cause of death in the workplace and it has been estimated that work related road crashes in Australia account for about half of all occupational fatalities and 15% of national road deaths.
By installing GPS systems in the fleet, an organisation is demonstrating that it is taking reasonable practical steps to ensure that a safe working environment is maintained and that knowledge and practices remain up to date. When systems are implemented, it is highly recommended that the full functionality and reporting options are utilised for the benefit of the organisation and it’s employees. If an organisation determines that it will limit reporting functionality and thereby overlooks critical safety data it may not only reduce the effectiveness of the installation, but potentially increase its corporate exposure to prevailing OH&S and duty of care legislation.
 RACV Research report 14/01