Industry spotlight: TomTom Business Solutions

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TomTom’s Giles Margerison on how to gain buy-in for a telematics system

Fleet Van: How long have you been in your present job?
Giles Margerison: I joined TomTom Business Solutions as sales director in October 2010.

FV: What does your job involve?
GM: In essence my job is to manage TomTom Business Solutions operations in the UK and Ireland from a strategic and sales perspective.

I am responsible for six regional managers and, in turn, the UK and Ireland network of sales partners and distributors, two corporate sales managers and the UK and Ireland-based support team.

I am also responsible for developing the sales strategy and ensuring that results for my region are delivered to TomTom.

FV: How do van operators sell the benefits of telematics to their senior boards?
GM: We know of several companies that have trialled systems but been unable to persuade the business to invest.

I feel it’s true to say any board of directors doing their job properly will want to see a bespoke and properly-calculated business case before agreeing to the implementation of any new business technology.

We often meet fleet management professionals who are not necessarily required to put such business cases together as part of their normal duties.

As a result, we are then reliant upon case studies, referrals and testimonials to position the benefits, which will not always be bespoke enough for a board decision.

Therefore, a burden falls on the technology supplier to offer an appropriate level of guidance and consultancy that will assist any fleet professional in their presentations to the senior board.

At TomTom we are engaging with our channel to help them produce these business cases in conjunction with the customer, facilitating the production of a professional proposal that will justify the investment.

FV: Telematics systems can do many things – manage driver performance, help with routing and utilisation, etc – what are the main reasons why van fleets are investing?

GM: The main reason for investment is for businesses to gain control of fuel spend by evaluating driver behaviour, operational efficiency and private vehicle usage.

In addition, businesses want to manage how effectively time is spent remotely from the office to demonstrate compliance of SLAs and KPIs to customers.

This helps them to protect existing contracts and win new ones, while maximising utilisation.
In short, for companies with a mobile workforce the two biggest expenses are fuel and wages. These are the things we can help them control.

FV: What is the typical return on investment period a van fleet operator could expect to achieve?

GM: We see a wide range of answers to this but the typical answer is 10 to 12 months for a lifetime return.

However, we do have case studies where customers state three months or less.

For example, an independent study commissioned by Vodafone showed Zenith Hygiene Systems could expect to save £268,070 over the course of a year after implementing tracking, navigation and driver behaviour monitoring across its mixed fleet of trucks, cars and vans.

Carried out over a five-month period, the survey exhibited an average monthly fuel saving of £18,555 and a projected yearly saving of £50,000 in maintenance costs. It meant they were able to realise ROI within three months of installation.

FV: How might telematics systems further integrate and ‘speak’ to the car in the future?

GM: We are already extracting data from the OBD (on-board diagnostics) port of a vehicle, giving us a view on fuel consumption, engine idle, engine revs and gear selection.
There is still much more to be had in relation to the operation of a vehicle and I expect to see this technology evolve over time. With larger vehicles this may be delivered via FMS.

FV: Do you have any evidence that shows the benefits of using sat-nav when planning your journeys?

GM: Two separate studies commissioned by TomTom have found the use of satellite navigation systems not only has a positive effect on journey times but also road safety and driver stress.

Research carried out by Dutch research institute TNO, in co-operation with key figures from the insurance and vehicle leasing industries, discovered drivers who used a TomTom navigation system travelled 16% fewer kilometres than those who did not. This allowed them to reduce journey times by an average of 18%.

The navigation system was also found to reduce workload on the driver, increasing alertness and reducing stress behind the wheel.

Furthermore, it was revealed drivers who do not use a navigation device make 12% more claims for damage and claim 5% more in damage costs.

These results were supported by further research carried out by TUV/DLR in Germany and Virginia Tech Transportation Institute in the USA and conducted in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and the USA.

This study found the use of satellite navigation devices heightened awareness and reduced stress levels, while reducing the driver’s workload.

Results from the UK revealed 74% of drivers felt more in control when using a navigation device and 59% found it easier to keep their attention on the road.

Again, distance travelled, journey time and fuel expenditure were all reduced through use of a satellite navigation device compared to traditional navigation methods.

FV: Some critics suggest that telematics will be superseded by eCall, which uses similar technology and could be adapted to do similar things. What’s TomTom’s take on this?

GM: eCall is a facility that, at present, can notify emergency services after the event of a collision and I welcome any advance that promotes driver safety and could save lives.

This is entirely different from the services we can provide, so we are always happy to work with OEMs to provide services to fleets.

eCall functionality can indeed develop over time but there is no consistency of platform across the sector that can give customers what they need from a fleet management perspective.

You only have to look at OEM factory-fitted sat nav devices to conclude that we may be better served focusing on what we are good at.

Let the manufacturers produce amazing vehicles and we can deliver the telematics technology that fleets want to use.

FV: What should you look out for when first choosing a telematics/fleet management system and what are the possible downfalls in choosing the wrong system?

GM: As with all types of business, trusted brands that are tried and tested with a record for stability are the safest place for your financial investment. Before investing in a fleet management system, find out how long a supplier has been in the market and do some research into their reputation for customer service.

In the past, the industry has been blighted by fly-by-night suppliers, who end up leaving customers high and dry without the ongoing support needed to successfully realise the full benefits available through telematics. As such, strong customer support is essential and it is important to choose a supplier who will be on hand to deal with problems and offer consultancy skills if and when the need arises.

FV: There is so much information available from these systems that a fleet operator could drown in it. Is there a danger that with so much available a fleet manager just won’t have time to process it all? And if there is, what can be done to avoid this?

GM: A carefully-selected fleet management system should ensure fleet managers are not bombarded with a host of information they don’t need or will never use. A one-size-fits-all approach is rarely appropriate, so it is important to select a system which allows you to simply customise the reports you receive and display information in a way that is easy to understand at a glance. The TomTom dashboard can be customised with up to 19 different KPIs so you can be assured it provides an appropriate level of data to fit specific needs and goals.

While one business may see their number one concern as duty of care and working hours, another will be concerned with fuel savings and encouraging a more efficient driving style among employees.

The best systems will allow users to select reporting requirements during the set-up process and receive only the data appropriate to them at a glance in their fleet management dashboard.

FV: We notice that some vans (such as the Renault Master) now come with a TomTom unit built in as part of the standard package. Which manufacturers are you currently working with? Are there plans for working with more manufacturers?

GM: We work with Renault, Fiat, Mazda, Alfa Romeo, Toyota, Ford, Iveco, Subaru, BMW, Mini and many others and this is an area of the business that TomTom is looking to develop.

FV: If you could look into the future, how do you see telematics/fleet management systems evolving and what new features could we see?

GM: I think the telematics-based fleet risk and insurance market is only at an embryonic stage and this will develop in a huge way in the near future. There will also be much more integration to back office to deliver as much automation as possible throughout fleet management systems.

Name: Giles Margerison
Job title: Sales director UK and Ireland
Brief career history: Began fleet career in the mid-1990s working for Dawson Rentals and Ryder Trucks as a depot manager, both in Heathrow. Entered the telematics arena as a sales manager in 2003 and, prior to joining TomTom, the majority of this time had been spent at Cybit.
Favourite book: Boys At War. This is because my grandad wrote it and he would not be amused if I said anything else!
Favourite holiday destination:
What three records would you take to a desert island? To satisfy the secret rocker in me – ‘Young Lust’ by Aerosmith, for the amazing voice – ‘The Essential Alison Krauss’ and, because I listen to it loads, ‘Up To Now’ by Snow Patrol.

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