Microlise managing compliance web

The Microlise conference took place on the third day (1 October) of the virtual Commercial Motor Show and covered a range of topics designed to help operators improve their operational efficiency.

Lee Oliver, head of sales at Microlise’s recent acquisition TruTac, spoke about improving levels of compliance with drivers’ hours legisation using the latest technology. “It is moving a rapid pace and unless your operation changes at the same pace you risk falling behind,” he said. “Telematics gives you the knowledge and understanding of where drivers go wrong and that reduces your risk.”

Telematics can also improve performance through reduced fuel consumption, fewer accidents and by maximising the use of drivers’ available hours without infrigements.

He said the best technology was now web-based, giving a 24/7, 360 degree view of the operation from anywhere, enabling managers to take a proactive rather than reactive approch to compliance and efficiency.

TruTac’s TruControl platform now puts all a company’s compliance products under one roof, making it a true one stop shop that was both integrated and automated.

“The days of waiting for monthly reports are gone,” said Oliver. “Management dashboards keep you updated constantly with automated alerts.”

TruTac’s Trufleet has now been accredited for Earned Recognition and it too provides a dashboard updating the operator on how compliance with the KPIs is going so action can be taken ahead of the four-weekly email to the DVSA.

Neil Selby, senior business transformation manager at Microlise, agreed that having the latest technology was important but said achieving the full benefits of telematics was all about the process.

He warned that telematics “is not a magic wand” and a successful implementation required excellent communications with the driver workforce before, during and after the roll out.

“Make sure all stakeholders are involved – communication is key,” Selby said. “If done right the benefits are not just better business performance but also more motivated drivers.”

As well as explaining the benefits the business was expecting from telematics – such as improved fuel efficiency, fewer accidents and better compliance – managers should consider sharing those benefits by setting up an incentive scheme for drivers who perform well or improve the most.

“Debriefs with the drivers are essential and they should be a two-way process as suggestions for improvements from drivers can really benefit the business,” Selby said. “When debriefing, don’t miss those who have done well.”

Introducing telematics can increase motivation and drive continuous improvement through targeted coaching and well-structured incentive schemes – and even lead to higher self esteem and a better team ethic among drivers who feel their performance is being recognised.

Bernie Warner, senior pre-sales consultant at Microlise, went on to look at how the latest technology had helped operators during the Covid-19 pandemic.

He said Covid-19 had “sorely tested” the logistics industry’s systems for forecasting demand for essential products, and there had been “massive unpredictability” in the routes and volumes needed.

“The challenges of 2020 are an opportunity to re-engineer what we do in the future,” Warner said. “Systems need to have capacity for greater volumes to cope better with unpredictable demand.”

These future systems will be cloud based or software as a service (SaaS) to enable staff to work from anywhere rather than be office based and enable more flexible planning to cope with more dynamic demand and more variable resources as drivers self-isolate, for example.

The drivers will also need the right tools for the job, including fit for purpose sat-nav so they can handle different routes which they are not familiar with and to allow temporary drivers to take over existing routes.

Drivers should also use a single rugged handheld electronic device for as many of their daily tasks as possible, as that can be kept clean and sanitised more easily than sheaves of paperwork.

“Electronic documents can provide all the information they need on the sites they visit and safe working practices,” Warner said. “Flexible planning is not then such a headache.”

Handheld devices can also enable contactless collections and deliveries, with electronic proof of delivery or photos to show when deliveries are complete rather than signatures on paperwork.

Such devices can even be used for remote driver debriefs and feedback on performance via Teams or Zoom, again avoiding the need for face to face contact with office staff. “A simple device enables drivers to manage their working day,” said Warner. “They can get all the manifests, routes and job information paperlessly.”

Stephen Watson, product director of Microlise, then gazed into his crystal ball to look at how technology would change transport in the next decade.

One new technology that he did not expect to have a big impact on road transport any time soon was 5G, as the cost of devices and airtime remained prohibitive. “4G will remain the established long term mobile network for many years to come,” he predicted.

There is however another mobile data network that many operators may not be aware of that could play a greater role – Category M1. This is a low power wide area network that is ideal for connecting objects that do not have power sources such as roll cages or fork lift trucks to the “internet of things” (IoT) to enable their location and state of health to be monitored remotely.

O2 will have completed the roll out of its LTE-M (Long Term Evolution, Category M1) network across the UK by the end of 2020, opening up, the network says, new possibilities for “widespread uptake of long-life IoT battery devices out in the field to help encourage massive scale future IoT deployment in the UK”.

Although connected autonomous vehicles (CAVs) have not appeared on our street as quickly as some predicted, Watson said that with an investment of $80bn and rising in the technology it would still have a role in the next decade.

While the phrase “it isn’t rocket science” is often quoted, developing a level 5 fully autonomous self-driving vehicle is actually harder than sending an unmanned rocket into space and landing it safely.

“Level 5 is likened to sending an unmanned mission to Mars,” said Watson. “Maybe Elon Musk is going to achieve both simultaneously.”

One relatively new technology that might ultimately reduce demand for home deliveries is 3D printing, where products can be “downloaded” and printed in the home.

But while drivers and physical transport are still needed, Watson predicted that technology will increasingly be “at the heart” of transport operations for the next 10 years.

Faster broadband available to everyone will enable drivers to be more closely integrated into office IT systems, giving them better visibility of their future shift patterns.

Alternative fuels will also start to replace diesel and this too will require better technology to make best use of the available refuelling infrastructure.

The ability to connect vehicles via onboard telematics to extract data on their state of health has been hampered, Watson said, by the “wide variations” in approaches taken by the major OEMs. “This means the focus remains on vehicle location and performance,” he said. “Operators need more data on the vehicle activity and status and the closed OEM platforms do not provide this. So operators, especially those with mixed fleets, need to blend in third party systems to get a helicopter view of their fleet.”

While the driver is often the only person in a transport operation who meets the customer, Covid-19 had forced a reduction in driver engagement, with contactless deliveries becoming the norm. This looks set to increase with technology being tested in the US allowing consumers to give delivery drivers remote access to a safe place to leave their parcels.

Drones are also being tested by Tesco in Co Galway in Ireland while trials of small autonomous delivery buggies continues in Milton Keynes.

Connected technology came under the spotlight in a presentation by Microlise OEM & channel director David Midgley who showed operators how to build an industrial IoT programme across the supply chain to reduce costs and improve service.

“There's a real return on investment case in connecting expensive assets,” he said. “Fuel economy is a big part of the cost base of running a fleet and the ability to improve it drives a big case in connecting HGVs in particular.”

Full truck connectivity is now possible, he continued, whether in terms of the packaging, the roll cages or the product in the trailer: “It’s about seeing where your products are in the supply chain,” he said. “But we can even offer connectivity in terms of tyre pressure, mounting systems and smart filers. A lot more of the sub-systems of vehicles are being connected, which drives more information back to improve safety.”

Microlise is also helping producers install connectivity in farm machinery. “You’ve then got a connected supply chain literally going from farm to fork,” Midgley said. “It helps your customers manage their businesses more efficiently - you have the data to help them do that.”

The drive towards connectivity has been driven by the consumer, he revealed, who now expect the technology in products like washing machines. However, he warned operators not to be left with “an enormous amount of data that can’t be used in an effective way”.

“The big data journey will develop over time,” he said. “Our level of sophistication will improve but we’re moving into a phase where we can offer optimum solutions based on the data collected on your fleet and your operation.”