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Webfleet finds hidden efficiencies for bus operators

Telematics solutions like Bridgestone’s Webfleet have proven to be a core business tool for many bus and coach operators, yet operators are continually finding new ways to use telematics to further improve operations

Telematics devices have evolved substantially over the years. Going beyond simple vehicle tracking or navigation assistance, the features and data within telematics devices has grown to provide insights on a wide variety of things, including utilisation, fuel efficiency, maintenance scheduling, vehicle inspections, safety checks and much more. It’s in this wealth of data that smart operators are finding the most value in telematics technology.

“The magic of telematics is that it’s always been a business improvement tool,” Webfleet Australia and New Zealand marketing manager Scott Elkington told ABC.

“At the start, just the surety of tracking your assets changed the mindset of how fleets operated. Now, with so much data available, we’re constantly uncovering new ways for fleets to improve operations.

“You can’t measure what you don’t track, and if you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

It’s this mindset that is motivating operators to use Webfleet in new ways to further improve operations. From paperwork digitisation to driver empowerment or encouraging better driving behaviour, these new capabilities are proving telematics as one of the best ROI tools available.

“We’ve all worked with pen and paper records, but we know that those methods aren’t perfect. It’s more paperwork, and numbers can get fudged, it’s easy to enter something wrong,” Elkington says.

“A paper record can also be a time-intensive and slow process – if there are multiple people involved, such as payroll, then they must wait for the paper logbook to be completed and handed over before they can do their work and then have to rush to get people paid on time.

“What we’re starting to see is a shift in how data is used. Telematics can collect and report on this low-level busy work; hours worked, hours driven and vehicle odometer readings can all be automatically done. Telematics is going beyond the centralised, top-down, day-after reporting of business operations – we’re able to make improvements and manage in real time.”

Elkington says this real-time feedback and data of bus and coach drivers continues into the training space.

“We’re starting to see the positive effects of giving drivers visibility and ownership of their driving data, empowering them to take self-corrective actions. Alerting drivers to speeding events the day after doesn’t help prevent speeding there and then, but an immediate alert results in immediate action,” Elkington says.

“We’ve also seen some operators gamify their data to further improve safety scores, offering rewards for the highest-performing drivers. Recognition is a huge motivator for continuous improvement—people like knowing they’re doing a good job, and improving their safety score easily demonstrates that.

“By recognising good driver behaviour and validating it, people are encouraged to continue doing the right thing. The carrot is better than the stick.”

While telematics data is helping drivers improve their safety scores, Elkington has also seen how new telematics data can play a vital role in training new skills.

“Electric vehicles require new ways to think about how we drive. Many vehicles have regenerative braking, which allows them to charge while being driven,” he says.

“Webfleet can measure which drivers gain the most energy through regenerative braking, further recognising efficient driving.”

Outside of improving driving behaviours, Webfleet has also found that its telematics solution can provide further benefits in the driver fatigue management space. Nowadays, telematics data is so precise that operators know which driver is operating a vehicle at any time, meaning they can review driven and rest periods live.

“Telematics has such massive and unrecognised benefits on the fatigue management side of fleet operations,” Elkington says.

“Professional drivers are on the road for almost the entirety of their working day, so it’s imperative drivers have adequate rest times throughout their day to decrease fatigue risk and incidents. Knowing their hours of operation and when they need to take their breaks is necessary and helps ensure everyone is staying safe.”

With real-time oversight, in the event of a crisis, such as a breakdown or replacement vehicle, Webfleet operators can scroll through their list of drivers to determine who has had adequate rest and redirect them to pick up that emergency shift.

Improved maintenance scheduling is also a hidden benefit coming from modern telematics. Previously, paper logbooks were the only way for fleet owners to track the distance travelled by assets and determine when certain vehicles or parts needed servicing. These logbooks might’ve only returned to the depot once a week or be reviewed monthly. Now, telematics can automatically report this information, providing operators with alerts ahead of time so they can easily schedule in maintenance without disturbing timetables.

“If you know that a certain bus part has a 100,000km lifespan, then you can track how many kilometres it’s travelled, and know precisely when it’ll be due for replacement – giving you much more flexibility around servicing and preventing unplanned disruptions,” Elkington says.

“Time is the biggest benefit of telematics. It’s crazy how much time is lost chasing up the little things – no one enjoys following up things like timesheets, or calling multiple drivers to find out where they are.  It’s such a nightmare when all these headaches can be easily removed and done with a couple of clicks.”

The streamlining and digitisation of multiple paper-based systems is one of the biggest and first advantages that Webfleet brings to many operators within the industry. Whether its logbooks, utilisation, fuel usage or odometer readings, Bridgestone’s Webfleet quickly becomes a one-stop shop for operators to handle the finer details of businesses.

“What we’re finding is that there are many different data points within Webfleet that operators use to improve their fleet – Webfleet can track a lot of things, which gives them the ability to target, measure and improve,” Elkington says.

While Elkington acknowledges that operators are often initially hesitant to spend money for the extras of telematics, Elkington says many operators quickly find substantial savings and the data to improve their operations.

“Webfleet has a huge backend system that many don’t think about, but it can have far-reaching benefits for operators,” he says.

“The hard facts within telematics data can help operators in so many ways to see the whole picture of their fleet’s operation.”

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