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Supply demands: Why fleets should research their suppliers

By / 5 years ago / Comment / No Comments

The integrity of your suppliers is fundamental in running a successful fleet, says The Insider.

The availability of robust independent data quantifying the return on investment from driver training and telematics is a major barrier to uptake, according to a report commissioned by the Department for Transport. The report suggests evidence can be “patchy, of variable quality and occasionally ambiguous”, and claims “most of the research has been produced by companies with a commercial interest in the fleet sector, meaning there is some potential for bias.” I say, steady on chaps.

As fleet managers, we can only make decisions based on the information available. And we do have to trust that that information is accurate. But I think we are intelligent and intuitive enough to decide when something is being sold to us in someone else’s best interests.

So I really liked the sound of a gadget I heard about recently which aids a fleet decision based on your own real world experience. Designed to accurately predict whether you could successfully switch some of the fleet to electric and make fuel savings, you simply plug this gadget into an existing standard fuelled car and drive as normal. At the end of the trial, which I’m guessing needs to be one to three months long to take into account all your regular driving routes and behaviours, you download a report which tells you whether electric would have been a better bet.

How refreshing to have a practical solution laid at one’s feet. I’m often torn between taking a chance on a saving now and running with it while it lasts, or ‘wait and see’. More often than not I take a view based on pension company projections – you know the one, interest rates of 5% and 10% . Is there anyone out there as old as me who remembers when we last saw those percentages as actual? But I take the seller’s best and worst projections, halve them, and make a decision based on the lesser figures. And in the area of accident reduction, where safety is at least as big a selling point as cost reduction, I apply the same logic.

Case studies from a product’s satisfied customers can be helpful, but only if you know they are operating from the same starting point as you. If a company has had nothing in place previously, then one would expect major savings to be available from a newly-installed telematics system as it targets fuel-efficiency, driving behaviours and accident reduction. Potentially, the demonstrated results need to be from a similar type of organisation too.

For me, the integrity of the supplier is the most important factor. What is its track record, will it still be around in ten years’ time; will it continue to invest to develop the product further? I don’t want to get left with a load of redundant hardware if the provider fails, especially if that’s before I start to see a return on my investment.

And finally, having invested in our systems, can the provider help us glean maximum benefit, or provide adequate training for us to do so? Too often I hear people are swamped with data and haven’t the resource to interrogate it efficiently. Maybe the “patchy” evidence referred to in DfT’s report resulted from the manner of its interpretation, and is that down to the provider or the end user?

Talking of results interpretation, recently I was asked to provide a report on the cost per mile per vehicle/driver combination, averaged over the course of one year. I was moderately alarmed to discover the worst performing vehicle on fleet is actually a Toyota Prius! Further investigation required but I predict it’s due to the driver relocating to the shires from London mid-contract, probably not something he foresaw when calculating his choices.

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