Fleet managers have a diverse range of regulatory standards to adhere to. Vehicle and driver safety checks, goods declarations and environmental impact reports are just some of the everyday tasks that require precise attention to detail.

While essential, these can easily become a headache, especially when working against the clock. In fact, Verizon Connect research found  that almost a quarter (24%) of fleet managers report compliance as their biggest source of concern. Worryingly, nearly a third (31%) also admit they are non-compliant with digital tachograph regulations due to their failure to download driver data every 28 days, or for storing the data for less time than they are supposed to (29%).

It’s important to get compliance right, not least to protect driver health and safety but also to identify any issues that may cause disruption to operations if left unnoticed. With the UK government having issued advice for drivers on road laws in the instance of a no-deal Brexit last January, and the introduction of new legislation impacting road users (such as the introduction of the ULEZ in London), fleet managers are urgently looking for ways to make regulatory compliance easier. Often, this can be as simple as identifying which processes are the most time-consuming and matching them to the right digital solutions.

The benefits of going paper-free

For organisations executing a ‘digital first’ strategy, an important milestone along the way is eliminating the need for paper records. This can be particularly beneficial in the context of conducting all-important but time-consuming government-recommended daily walkaround checks for LCVs. Going paper-free not only empowers drivers to record checks at the vehicle side using mobile applications, but also avoids them spending time further down the line correcting inconsistent or duplicated data records. 

Going one step further, certain administrative processes can be removed from a commercial vehicle operator’s to-do list entirely by leveraging the power of automation. For example, a crucial part of ensuring road safety comes from proving drivers are taking legally prescribed rest breaks every 4.5 hours. For long-haul journeys with multiple stops along the way however, recording every break can be easily forgotten. Digital tachographs can help drivers stay compliant by recording and sending data relating to vehicle use in near-real time to a centralised database, where the information needed to prove compliance can easily be accessed at any time, even while the driver is still en route. These fleet management systems also carry the benefit of immediately flagging dangerous driving behaviour (such as speeding, harsh braking or driving uneconomically) straight to fleet managers via text message, so they can act to eradicate it accordingly. 

Giving drivers everything they need to know at the touch of a button

One of commercial fleet drivers’ biggest bugbears is that sinking feeling at the end of the day, week or month when expenses forms need to be submitted and mileage needs to be calculated. While this process previously required lengthy searches through diaries, looking up distances online and distinguishing between private and business trips, software platforms are now putting this data in the palm of the driver’s hand thanks to in-vehicle sensor technology and easily accessible mobile apps.

With all trips and mileage logged automatically, mileage and expenses can now be calculated in seconds, divided between personal and business, or if desired, into pre-set outcomes, all in an HMRC compliant format.

Logbooks are becoming fully digitalised, and the data they contain can be easily accessed and updated either remotely or from a centralised hub. It’s a process that can generate significant benefits for fleets of all sizes. If drivers express concern over being tracked on personal trips, there’s an alternative too. Fleet managers can fit privacy buttons in their drivers’ vehicles so their staff can decide which trips are visible to their fleet managers and which aren’t. 

Take a proactive approach to maintenance

One of the big benefits to in-vehicle technology is increased access to information on vehicle health and, by extension, more proactive vehicle maintenance. Well-maintained fleets have a number of financial and safety benefits compared to fleets where maintenance is less streamlined. Mechanical failures can cause vehicle downtime, while a vehicle off the road can also mean wasted staff time, creating a two-fold impact on a company’s bottom line. Better uptime also supports greater consistency in sales and service calls, leading to happier customers, and improves overall staff utilisation and motivation.

With many manufacturers now providing vehicle health information as standard in new vehicles, it is also common sense to use this additional information to practice preventative or proactive maintenance. This can help lower the chance of failure in the first place, and in doing so helps to bring down overall service maintenance repair budgets. It also helps deliver safety benefits with data from other in-vehicle sensors such as those recording seatbelt usage, so any seemingly harmless short trips where seatbelt usage is forgotten can be flagged just minutes down the road. Likewise, it’s imperative to identify any faults with an airbag or, even more importantly, an event where it has been deployed. Having this information means you can assist your driver straight away, letting them know that their safety is a priority for the business.

The benefits of a joined-up system

Fleets need intelligent tools at their disposal to remove the friction of paperwork and provide peace of mind when maintaining compliance. But these systems must also talk to one another. After all, individual pieces of technology may help make certain processes easier, but to eliminate the burden of administration and promote regulatory compliance, a digital-first approach is needed so that investments in technology have a positive impact on productivity. For this reason, fleet managers looking to modernise operations must consider comprehensive software platforms that have the ability to join-up the benefits of individual pieces of in-vehicle tech. Doing so will empower them to reap the benefits of a fully-integrated system greater than the sum of its parts.

Derek Bryan, VP EMEA, Verizon Connect