Paul Barker grabs a cuppa and a chat with one of fleet’s most influential figures – Webfleet Solutions Sales Director for the UK & Ireland, Beverley Wise.
Webfleet Solutions was formerly known as TomTom Telematics, prior to its acquisition by tyre giant Bridgestone early last year and name change late in 2019. Beverley Wise has been with the company since leaving Lex Autolease in 2016.
QYou’ve been at the forefront of the moves towards electric. Could you explain how that came about?
Sustainability is critical to us. We are a services company, so 93% of our carbon footprint is down to our fleet. Our belief as a business is you have to look at how you improve your sustainability performance and clearly the biggest area for us to focus on is our vehicle fleet.
Webfleet Solutions claims to be the biggest telematics provider in Europe, with around 870,000 users through 50,000 customers. It covers everything from owner operators to larger fleets and even some manufacturers that want an aftermarket product inserted into their vehicles. The best example of this is the PSA Group, where Webfleet telematics is integrated into the light commercial vehicles.
“In terms of scale we cover everything from passenger car to HGV of any size and we have just recently launched an asset tracker – plant and equipment– so anything with a motor,” explains UK boss Beverley Wise.
She claims benefits of telematics systems include a variety of cost savings. “There may well be an up-front investment, but with the ability to integrate into existing systems, create efficiencies for the business, protect the driver workforce, reduce fuel costs and improve accident rates, it should pay for itself over time,” she tells Company Car Today.
QHow have things been since the acquisition and name change?
We are very excited to be part of Bridgestone. Bridgestone acquired us because it wants to become much more of a mobility-as-a-service provider rather than just a tyre provider. They have seen the strength of data and are looking at how
to use it. They very clearly have a good strategy and we are an integral part of that.
QHow do you explain the benefits of Webfleet to a customer?
The most important thing for us is to understand what the customer is looking for, what their objectives are. What’s the thing they want a solution to deliver? It is understanding the pain points and what keeps them up at night and looking to take that away.
QIs the health and safety aspect becoming more prevalent in terms of taking care of employees out on the road?
Companies are looking at driver wellbeing, and we can help the drivers have a less stressful day by providing a solution that allows them to see how they are driving through what we call Optidrive. It’s a number of key measures around harsh braking, harsh steering, speeding, idling, with the core task of educating drivers to drive consistently and showing them there can be benefits to them around reducing stress levels.
QIs the driver wellbeing messaging becoming more prevalent?
Mental health and wellbeing has been very well trailed for employees if you’re in an office environment or a warehouse or in a set location, but very little has been looked at in respect of your mobile or remote workforce. And they are as important because they’re driving potentially a one-, two-, 7.5-, 35-tonne vehicle on our very congested roads. And generally, they are on their own, whereas in an office there’s generally other people around that can help.
Stress manifests itself in many ways, and one of those may well be in the way in which somebody is driving. Maybe somebody that has always been a really good driver has had not many accidents, doesn’t get speeding tickets etc, suddenly becomes a bit more erratic. If you as a manager are able to see that, it maybe allows you to ask those caring questions to try and understand why suddenly their driving behaviour has changed.
QWhat about the more tangible business reasons for taking telematics products?
I think you’re looking at efficiency, you’re looking at fuel-cost savings, maybe a reduction in insurance premiums. For example, one HGV company where we’ve put a solution in has managed to save £1.2m on insurance payouts where they have been able to contest claims made against them.
And then one of the companies that has taken a car solution, it’s been taken specifically on the health and safety aspect to look at how they can educate their drivers to drive more consistently.
QHow does the system help to educate drivers?
It’s about giving them ease of view of what they’re doing. So, we have an app that gives them their Optidrive scores, broken down by the different KPIs. They get a score for each trip, a score for each day, each week, each month, so they can see how they are improving and how changing their driving style can affect their score. But also by how their mpg goes up, which means they pay less in fuel.
We believe that as there is more of a growing trend to offering car allowance, it’s equally as important to use the solution with the light grey or the dark grey (car allowance or true grey) fleet, and it also gives the company the ability to monitor their carbon footprint across their fleet.
QHow have you found employees react when you explain that it’s not a big brother-type monitoring system?
If you look at the HGV and LCV base, that area is much more regulated. And therefore, there is more of an acceptance of a solution in their vehicles. But I think when you get to a company car, there is a belief that they maybe shouldn’t be monitored. What people don’t realise is that you can, prior to every journey, change to private mode, which will monitor the number of miles you do but won’t monitor the route or the driving style.
And then if you don’t even want to do that if you just want it to be able to give you some driving style tips, you can from a company perspective, put it into a sort of stealth mode at a company level. You can also anonymise the data, you could just give them an employee number.
QDoes that help convince drivers they are not being judged?
It does help, especially if you are concerned about drivers feeling their privacy is being impinged, which it isn’t. And the other benefit is that through the app, you can do your HMRC-compliant mileage reporting as an individual. But if you’ve got the app, you go on and select what you’re doing for that journey before you start, and mark it private. You can do that after the journey, and then it never appears on your business mileage report.
QSo is there a formula for the costs argument? Can you tell drivers they’ll save a certain percentage on fuel?
You can, but I think you have to understand where that customer is in the first place. I would not go into any customer and say putting this in will save you 10%, because I don’t know what they’re doing. If they have no telematics at all and they’re not monitoring anything and they have no idea, then yes, you probably could say this will save you between 10 and 20% on your fuel bill. If they’ve already got telematics, it’s understanding what they’re doing with that, because a lot of times people are looking for another solution because they think the solution they have is not delivering what they need. A solution is not a panacea, it has to be managed.
You could actually geo-fence as well, with alerts if that vehicle goes into an area that you don’t want it to go into, which is probably even more important with things like ultra-low emission zones and congestion charging zones.
It can’t stop them going in, but at least you can be notified they have gone in, and therefore there’s potentially going to be a charge. Or it allows you to monitor and say, actually, this guy’s going in a lot. Do we need to transfer to an electric vehicle?
It’s about looking at your fleet and making informed decisions, not gut feel decisions, because you’ve got the data.
QWhat is the next big step for in-car technology and telematics?
For me, the next thing really that will become more prevalent is proactive maintenance. Being able to understand very early on what a potential issue may be. And I think more so as well for leasing companies to have that pre-notification of a potential issue in a vehicle. That’s where the industry will change, probably over the next two-to-five years; from waiting for somebody to call me because their vehicle has stopped, to we need to get your vehicle in, this is when it’s being booked in, this is where it’s being booked in based on where you’ve used before, because XYZ is happening to your vehicle. So being much more proactive rather than reactive around the maintenance of fleets. I think that is in its infancy but will gain in desire and need.
QHow will that progress in the near future?
One of the key things we already have but want to take to another level is the tyre pressure-monitoring system. We want to advance that down the line to give it the ability to predetermine when a vehicle needs a service or tyres, then arrange for that to be done seamlessly for the driver. It could be scheduled in so it becomes part of a driver’s task within a day, and when the driver arrives at the garage the parts or tyres are there, checks are done and the authorisation is complete.
Getting the most from telematics systems
We’re in a transitional stage. There are a lot of companies who are still, shall I say, not fully digitised. And so they’re probably not taking the full advantage of the solution that they have; it’s so much more than just an individual device because of how it connects, how it can connect to other business systems.