THE adoption of telematics across a vehicle fleet of 1130 cars has cut annual running costs by $2.4 million, slashed high-risk driver behavior and greatly improved fleet utilisation for social services delivery group, Life Without Barriers (LWB).
LWB asset services manager Nathan Reynolds said the system sends real-time alerts to the drivers – and the head-office staff – when a vehicle exceeds the speed limit.
Addressing a forum presented by the Australasian Fleet Managers Association (AMFA), Mr Reynolds said the adoption of telematics from 2014 had transformed what had been a poorly organised fleet.
“When I came on board … we had no policy, no understanding of how our vehicles were used, no allocation policy, no data to help make decisions,” he said.
“We had 38 makes and models and 76 four-whee drives and many were nowhere near fit for purpose. We did not have a national deal for procurement and not-for-profit stamp duty concessions were not being claimed.”
Life Without Barriers operates social services contracts awarded under various federal government programs, including the National Disability Insurance Scheme. Its annual turnover of more than $400 million is made of many government contracts.
Mr Reynolds said LWB had also been running a higher than necessary degree of risk under the workplace health and safety regulations as more than 400 of the vehicles were overdue for a service.
“It took us quite a few months to reconstruct that data and work out how big that problem was.
“Telematics can help you work out how to save yourself from having to stand up in front of a coroner.”
He added that the LWB insurance record did not make for happy reading, either.
“We had a poor insurance record, with one accident every 55,000km. In the Northern Territory we were recording one accident every 17,000km.”
The organisation also had trouble keeping track of the locations of its vehicles.
“Cars were being misplaced. When I started, we found 12 cars sitting in the backyard of a house. The program had finished and we forgot we had put them there.
“We would forget they were at the smash repairers because someone would leave and they were the last person to see that car.
“Vehicles would also get stolen. We work in some tough communities and the damage was fairly extensive.”
But the adoption of telematics at LWB hit a big hurdle when it came to driver behaviour, Mr Reynolds said.
“Originally we were having 1663 speeding events per month greater than 120km/h, so it was quite a problem. We had no idea that was the size of the problem.
“We had to make the threshold 120km/h because if we had made it 110km/h there were 12,000 speeding events per month.”
He said the problem was not limited to rural areas or the fault of young drivers.
“It was our typical worker. Our highest speed – for those who want to know how fast a VW Golf can go – was 205km/h and it was a 65 year-old lady in Queensland. We were seeing quite regularly drivers doing 180, 170km/h.”
Mr Reynolds said LWB could not tackle the problem by rewarding good drivers because the problem was too deeply entrenched.
“We had such a big problem we went for four strikes (and you’re out) and I can tell you now there are a lot of people who are no longer with our organisation. It was going to be our next fatality and that sort of behaviour just wasn’t on.”
The stricter policy has had a big effect on the number of speeding events, he said.
“Let’s just see how much behaviour has changed. We were having 1600 speeding events a month. This year we had 272 in January, the lowest monthly tally ever.
“I’m pretty stoked as a result. Two hundred and seventy-two is still a big number and we keep working with the HR (human relations) guys to knock it down.”
Mr Reynolds said LWB and its supplier, Teletrac Navman, developed a system that harnesses the telematics system to a smartphone.
“How do we reduce the frequency of speeding events? It’s pretty simple. Whenever a car goes over 110km/h and then over 120km/h, we send a message to the car driver to say ‘Hey, slow down’.
This vehicle tracking ability also helped eliminate private after-hours use of the vehicles.
“You can understand with some of the clients we support and the areas we work in, that the cars tend to go for a bit of a drive by themselves through the night.
“So what we did here was simple. We said that, between 10pm and 6am, if the car moves it sends us an SMS. It goes to the manager in the region, to myself and my project manager.
“If a car moves, we then get straight onto the police. By tracking the car, we talk the police and make sure the driver is safe and return the asset. This used to be a regular occurrence. It’s not any more.”
This has also helped reduce LWB’s fringe benefit tax (FBT) liabilities. Mr Reynolds said LWB was paying $1.5 million in FBT when he started in 2014. Since then LWB’s FBT taxable value has been almost halved from $4.6 million to $2.8 million.
Mr Reynolds said the data generated by the telematics system allows him to rationalise the fleet because the data showed which vehicles were being used optimally and which were underused.
“I had to come up with a tool to show the regions how they were using their cars because time and time again I would argue with the location, pointing out they had too many cars.
“For the Hunter region I came up with a system that showed how the various cars were being used. The chart showed that half of the 26 cars in that region were not fully utilised. So I got rid of 13 cars. I’m a numbers person and they couldn’t argue with the numbers, so I got rid of the cars.”
Mr Reynolds said the adoption of telematics underpinned some impressive improvements in the operation of the LWB fleet.
While new procurement policies cut the diversity from 38 different makes and models to just five models, the telematics data showed that the vehicles rarely left the road. As a result the number of 4WDs was cut from 76 to four.
Telematics also eliminated fuel theft by enabling the cross-check of the location of the vehicle at service stations whenever a fuel card was used.
The average use of the vehicles has risen from 18,500km to 21,500km and no vehicles are overdue for a service. In addition, log book compliance has risen from 23 per cent to 100 per cent.
“We think we have around a $2.4m per annum reduction and the telematic system is definitely the backbone of that success.”
But Mr Reynolds stressed that data itself was not enough.
“You must have a good data analyst or accountant. You can’t just set and forget.
“You have to take the data, read the data, understand the data, challenge the data and then work out what you are going to do with it.”
By Ian Porter